Gimpel Fils Gallery, London (acquired by 1968)
Gimpel & Hanover Galerie, Zurich
The Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation, New York (acquired from the above in 1972)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York (acquired from the above in 1983)
Charleroi, Palais des Expositions, L'Art du XXIe siècle, 1958, no. 245, illustrated in the catalogue
Paris, Galerie Louis Carré, Fritz Glarner: Peintures 1949-1962, 1966, no. 7
Venice, XXXIV Esposizione Internazionale Biennale d'Arte. Swiss Pavilion, 1968, no. 41, illustrated in the catalogue
Bern, Kunsthalle, Fritz Glarner, 1972, no. 21
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Aspekte Konstruktiver Kunst, 1977, no. 181, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Tel Aviv, The Tel Aviv Museum, Constructivism in 20th Century Art, 1978, no. 53
Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art & Hokkaido, Museum of Modern Art, Constructivism and The Geometric Tradition: Selections from the McCrory Corporation Collection, 1984, no. 113, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Contrasts of Form: Geometric Abstract Art, 1910-1980, 1985-86, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional; Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes; São Paulo, Museu de Arte de São Paulo/Assis Chateaubriand & Caracas, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Contrasts of Form: Geometric Abstract Art 1910-1980 from The Guggenheim Museum and MoMA, New York, 1986-87, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Born in Switzerland of an Italian mother and Swiss father, Fritz Glarner spent his youth in France and Italy. Having attended art school in Naples, in 1923, at the age of 24, he settled in Paris, where he was quickly accepted in the avant-garde intellectual circles. After the initial influence of the Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters, in the late 1920s and early 1930s Glarner gradually developed an abstract pictorial style, born to a large extent from his theoretical discussions with other artists including Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Theo van Doesburg, Georges Vantongerloo, Jean Arp and Alexander Calder amongst others. However, it would be his dialogue with Piet Mondrian in the following decade that would have the most profound influence on his œuvre.
In the 1930s, as the threat of war loomed over Europe, Glarner and his wife emigrated to the United States. After initial struggles, when he had to earn additional income by working as a portrait photographer, between 1938 and 1944 Glarner's paintings - alongside those by Josef Albers and Moholy-Nagy - were included in annual group exhibitions of American Abstract Artists. Following Mondrian’s arrival in New York in October 1940, the two artists established regular contact. As Margit Staber recounts: ‘In the three years and four months that Mondrian spent in New York until his death, he was a regular guest once a week at the Glarner's though the two painters generally met at Mondrian's apartment. [...] Fritz Glarner had already been living in New York for four years when Piet Mondrian moved there from London. This fact is important to understand the relationship between the two painters. In his loyal attitude, Glarner always referred to the Dutch master of Neo-Plasticism, who was 29 years his senior, as a friend and teacher who provided him with stimulation. It would seem, however, in Mondrian's last creative phase, which coincided with Glarner's first independent period, that they stimulated each other to the same degree’ (M. Staber, Fritz Glarner, Zurich, 1976, p. 17). The excitement and vibrancy of the City are palpable in Mondrian's last compositions including his celebrated Broadway Boogie Woogie (fig. 1) as much as in Glarner's Relational Painting, No. 60.
Part of a series that dominated his mature work, the present oil perfectly illustrates the singular compositional principles of Glarner’s painting. The horizontal-vertical grid and the use of strong primary colours combined with various shades of grey certainly reflect the influence of Mondrian. In contrast to the rigid dogma of Mondrian’s abstraction, however, Glarner’s Relational Paintings modulate the strict rectangles by introducing subtly sloping diagonal lines, achieving greater dynamism throughout the canvas and creating a sense of fluidity and movement. Dore Aston wrote about this series of works: ‘Seeking an English equivalent for peinture relative, Glarner settled on the term “relational painting” towards the end of 1946, which he applied retrospectively to some of his earlier paintings and all his subsequent works. It was a term that suited the kind of abstract painting he pursued, focused on relating geometric shapes and ground through colour in ways which would make shape and ground alternate to produce what he called “pumping planes”. While acknowledging the influence of Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), with whom he was closely associated in New York, Glarner replaced the balancing of horizontality and verticality achieved in Mondrian's painting with interlocking rectangles and wedges that expand out towards the edges of the canvas’ (D. Ashton, ‘Fritz Glarner’, in Art International, vol. 7, no. 1, January 1963, p. 51).
Relational Painting, No. 60 belongs to an extraordinary group of abstract artworks that The Museum of Modern Art received in 1983 as a gift from the Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation. Starting in the early 1970s, the New York based McCrory Corporation, with the support of Meshulam Riklis, assembled what was arguably one of the world’s best collections of Constructivist art, with works ranging from Russian Constructivism, Cubism and Futurism to the Minimalist art of the 1960s. As part of this remarkable collection, the present oil by Fritz Glarner was included in exhibitions of Constructivist art in Europe, America and Asia. It has been in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art for thirty-six years.
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