Painted in 1932, Constructif "La Panne"
belongs to a period of production for Joaquín Torres-García that is representative of his fully realized visual vocabulary of Universal Constructivism. Not only would this year mark the end of his residency in Paris, it was also a year when schematic icons and “concrete elements” fully materialized within Torres-García's paintings, establishing and cementing his niche both aesthetically and ideologically (Estrella de Diego, “Return to the Native Land: The Invention of an Origin” in Joaquín Torres-García: The Arcadian Modern
, New York, 2016, p. 98). The early 1930s were essential years for the artist, during which he sought to directly address the modern avant-gardes “that would become canonical in the late twentieth century—Ultraism, Cubism, Dadism, Neo-Plasticism, and others”—and find solutions for his own visual idiom that were “at once structural and compositional, foundational and rhetorical” (Luis Pérez-Oramas, “The Anonymous Rule: Joaquín Torres-García, The Schematic Impulse, and Arcadian Modernity,” ibid.,
p. 30). Executed in earth-toned blues, reds and yellows, the present work, Constructif "La Panne,"
displays the unfolding of Torres-García's iconic pictograms within a cathedral-like grid. These pictograms would function as “pictoral texts” presented in seemingly endless and impulsive variations from this point onwards to his death in 1949: “on the one hand his works were primarily structures, and on the other, in structural terms they were writing...images and symbols written into the pictorial texture permitted a contemplation of the value dimension of Torres’ aesthetic” (ibid.
, p. 34). Here, we find the façade of a building or temple of-sorts within this greater architectural grid, at the base of the painting in the lower left. Additionally, Torres-García's most emblematic signs appear here: a clock, a fish, an anchor, a boat, a ladder, a snail, a mask, an abstract figure with a heart.
Constructif "La Panne" was painted upon the occasion of Torres-García’s 58th birthday when he was vacationing in La Panne on the Belgian shore with his family and the family of the Dutch artist Otto Van Rees (who regularly would host and paint with fellow artists and friends Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Piet Mondrian and Hans Arp, among others).
Fig. 1 Theo van Doesburg, Composition XIII, 1918, oil on canvas, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam