Lot 129
  • 129

SEAN SCULLY | Pink Three

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Sean Scully
  • Pink Three
  • signed, titled and dated 08 on the reverse
  • oil on aluminium 
  • 71.1 by 81.3 cm. 28 by 32 in.


Galeria Carles Taché, Barcelona
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Extremely close inspection reveals a very short and fine rub mark to the lower centre left of the composition and a minute speck of loss to the centre right of the upper edge. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra violet light.
"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.

Catalogue Note

Manifesting a complete adherence to the principal tenets of abstraction, Pink Three is a superlative example of Sean Scully’s later body of work. In the present work, four couplets coalesce to define an infinite pattern captured in finite space. Presenting an elegant and enveloping structure, the lighter blocks of soft cream have a fleeting, ethereal presence whilst the inky pools of black and crimson anchor the work to create void-like absences. Within his succulently coloured paintings, the key hue, which is magisterially depicted in the present work, is black, the only colour that the artist ever uses in its pure state. To create his mesmeric, fragmented compositions, Scully uses a five-inch brush to traverse each section with multiple layers of glutinous varnish-thickened oil paint. Indeed, the lavish strata in Pink Three create a seductive and homogenous surface. It was a formative trip that Scully made to Mexico in the early 1980s that would come to shape his entire artistic output. There, the artist became preoccupied by the monumental stacked stones of the ancient Mayan walls at Yucatan and the way in which the bright light danced off them, bringing them to life. In 1998, following additional trips to Mexico and after absorbing fully the aesthetic implications of his earlier studies, Scully began to create his Wall of Light series of paintings, watercolours, pastels, and aquatints. Recalling the extent this influence had on his art, Scully remarked, “I can’t exactly explain it, but seeing the Mexican ruins, the stacking of the stones, and the way light hit those facades, had something to do with it, maybe everything to do with it” (Sean Scully cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sean Scully: Wall of Light, 2005, p. 24).

With certain perplexity, one realises that Scully’s work recapitulates an entire century of painting – at once the brooding tones of Manet and the spectacular colours and brushwork of Matisse. Scully also acknowledges the influence of Modern masters on his work stating that: “if you have Matisse, Mondrian, Rothko, then you’ve got my work” (Sean Scully cited in: David Carrier, Sean Scully, London 2004, p. 61). Scully was drawn to Rothko's melancholic affinity between light and darkness and his tangible weaving of colour that revealed the layers beneath the surface of the canvas. In Pink Three, Scully wrestles with the subject of transparency versus opacity. He combines the weighted swathes of black paint which act as the formal support to the lighter coloured pigments. The brick-like forms are tightly interwoven which belies the featherlike application of paint that is at the cornerstone of Scully's aesthetic concerns – that the brushstroke reveals the vulnerability of the artist.

Indeed, there is a compelling idealism and romanticism in Scully’s paintings, the intriguing outcome of which is a work that freely oscillates between the faculties of brushwork and colour to create a markedly unique form of abstraction.