Lot 256
  • 256

JOAQUÍN TORRES-GARCÍA | Constructif avec navire

200,000 - 300,000 USD
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  • Joaquín Torres-García
  • Constructif avec navire
  • Signed J.Torres-Garcia (lower center); dated 31 (lower left); dated 1 Juillet 1931 (on the reverse)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 18 by 15 in.
  • 43 by 38 cm
  • Painted on July 1, 1931.


Estate of the artist
Ifigenia Torres, Montevideo (by descent from the above) 
Private Collection, Buenos Aires
Adolfo M. Maslach, Caracas (acquired from the above) 
Thence by descent


New York, Sidney Janis Gallery; Zurich, Gimpel & Hanover Gallery & London, Gimpel Fils Gallery, Paintings, Reliefs & Drawings by J. Torres-García, 1977-78, no. 11
Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, La Colección de Adolfo Maslach—Visión de una Poética Constructiva, 1997, no. 21, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Bogotá, Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, Joaquín Torres-García: armonías y resonancias, 1999, n.n.


Adolfo Maslach, Joaquín Torres-García: sol y luna del arcano, Caracas, 1998, no. XLIV, illustrated in color p. 368


This work is painted on a very heavy piece of linen. The painting has not recently been cleaned or varnished. A few retouches can faintly be seen under ultraviolet light in the extreme upper left corner, near the star in the upper center, to the immediate right of the anchor in the lower left, and in a few isolated spots within the sailboat in the lower center. The work is in good condition overall.
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.

Catalogue Note

By 1931, having spent nearly a decade in Paris’ avant-garde circles, Uruguayan painter Joaquín Torres-García reached a critical tipping point in his career. Unmoved to join either of Paris’ battling schools of Surrealism and Abstraction, he instead synthesized their influences alongside myriad others to build his own distinct plastic language: Universal Constructivism.  While shaping the influential but short-lived abstraction-centric Cercle et carré movement along with Michel Seuphor just the year before, he discovered two key fonts of visual and spiritual inspiration: European Medieval art, and pre-Columbian art. He longed to rekindle the link between the human and the divine was intrinsic to the art of these periods, which he felt was lost during the shift towards rationalism that characterized the Enlightenment in Europe. Where the Surrealists also sought to recapture this ephemeral mysticism and groups like the Bauhaus and De Stijl were dedicated to pure, rational abstraction, Torres-García believed that only at the intersection of these philosophies could true, meaningful art be made.

In Torres-García’s work from 1931 onwards, the balance of spiritual and rational is made manifest in his visual vernacular of Universal Constructivism. Characteristic of this period, Constructif avec navire’s composition is constructed upon an orthogonal grid, in which a dense network of geometric figures and symbols are suspended. “By 1930-31, Torres-García’s repertory of symbols was fairly well defined and included precise references to the cosmos (the sun), the ideal pentameter (the number five), human emotions (the heart and the anchor, representing hope)…the paintings of 1931 also contain familiar references to a modern context (boats, clocks, motors, skyscrapers) and generalized symbols of the world of nature (leaves, snails, fish)” (Margit Rowell, “Order and symbol: the European and American sources of Torres-García’s constructivism” in Torres-García: Grid-Pattern-Sign (exhibition catalogue), London, Hayward Gallery, 1985, p. 16). In Constructif avec navire, symbols of the domestic world (the house, the broom, the ladder, the key) are placed in dialogue with universal icons of inspiration and emotion (the star, the heart). Perhaps here the inclusion of the ship alongside the heart and the anchor presages Torres-García’s return to his native Montevideo three years later where he would go on to found the influential Taller Torres-García, actualizing his vision for a Universal Constructivist school. 

This work is included in the Joaquín Torres García Online Catalogue Raisonné (www.torresgarcia.com) as no. 1931.06.