Acquired from the artist circa 1935 Samuel L. Kootz, New York Sidney Janis, New York Martin Janis Gallery, Los Angeles Edward Schreiber, 1965 Acquired from Mr Schreiber’s daughter by the present owner in 2013
Head of a Boy belongs to Tchelitchew’s ‘monochromes’ of the late 1920s and early 1930s in which the artist reduced his palette to hues of the same colour. The rejection of colour in this period was in part a reaction to expressionism and its exuberance and decorativeness, but without the distraction of colour the artist was also better able to focus on the essence of the subject: ‘The true delight is breaking through the thick darkness and crawling out the other side to the light’ as he explained in 1927.
Tchelitchew’s work of this period does not just reject colour, it is also a rejection of the ‘tyranny of the rectilinear’ predominant in the visual arts for the last two decades. The characteristic ovoid shapes seen in the elongated faces and almond eyes of his sitters, as well as the many pictures of eggs and stretched-out bowls of fruit demonstrate the importance of the curved line. Tchelitchew explained his decision to ‘plunge into the curved line’ to James Thrall Soby when the latter was organising his 1942 solo exhibition in New York: ‘because of the spherical form of our planet, any line draw[n] upon its surface…must naturally form part of a circle’.
Original canvas on what appears to be the original stretcher. There is evidence of paint shrinkage throughout and fine cracks are visible in places, but these appear stable. There is a layer of surface dirt and the odd faint surface scratch. Inspection under UV light reveals spots of restoration throughout the composition. Held in a painted wooden frame with a canvas slip. Unexamined out of frame. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."