Mordecai Ardon: Transcendent Landscapes

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Sotheby’s Israeli & International Art sale, to be held this 20 December in our New York sales room is rich in masterworks by Mordecai Ardon. Ardon’s luminous landscapes, infused with symbolism, evoke the transcendent power of the land. In his signature style, Ardon illustrates the heat of the desert and the cool evening air in these four lyrical explorations of heaven and earth, the real and the symbolic.   

Israeli & International Art
20 December | New York

Mordecai Ardon: Transcendent Landscapes

  • Mordecai Ardon, Sinai 1967. Estimate $500,000–700,000.
    Sinai 1967 , like its earlier version, Steppes of the Negev, 1953, in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, illustrates themes from the book of Exodus. Ardon's masterpiece, also referred to as Sinai Golden Calf and Serpent, juxtaposes symbols of the story of the Israelites departure from Egypt, as they wandered the Sinai desert to the Holy Land - the golden calf, the cult idol erected by Aaron when Moses was away on Mount Sinai receiving the commandments and the bronze serpent, constructed by Moses to protect the people from attack by poisonous snakes.   



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Mordecai Ardon, Sinai 1967 (detail). Estimate $500,000–700,000.
    "In the highly colorful and luminous Sinai 1967  (the title was probably inspired by the Six-Day War, during which Israel reconquered the Sinai) equal importance is given to the Golden Calf and the Bronze Serpent, as both these elements occupy... almost the whole height of the desert, alight with gem-like touches under a full red sun blazing from the usual narrow strip of sky.” (Arturo Schwartz, Mordecai Ardon: The Colors of Time, p.53)  



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Mordecai Ardon, Sinai 1967. Estimate $500,000–700,000.
    Three of the important works by Mordecai Ardon coming to auction this season are from the collection of the Late Yehuda Assia. Successful banker and businessman, dedicated philanthropist, and devoted husband and father, Yehuda Assia collected art that reflects his passions and the traditions in which he was raised. Masterworks from Israel’s leading artists filled the walls of his home, alongside examples from international modern masters, with deeply personal associations for the collector. Carmela Rubin describes a visit to Assia’s home where she toured his collection in preparation for exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, “Assia paused by every one of Mordecai Ardon and Abel Pann’s paintings, and quoted the biblical phrase to which each of the abstract or figurative compositions relates…he quoted each phrase in full from memory…How important it seemed to him… that none of his guests remain oblivious to the details of these biblical stories.” (Yehuda Assia – Art Collector, Highlights from the Yehuda Assia Collection, p. 197) 



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Mordecai Ardon,In Twilight (...du soir). Estimate $250,000–350,000.
    In this work and in other evening or dusk views, Ardon confronted the task of capturing the nocturnal atmosphere and impregnating it with metaphysical and mystical meaning. “Ardon gives pictorial form to dawn and twilight, to the nocturnal, shadowy and lunar. Through his use of colour and abstract forms he suggests a higher, more mysterious order of nature than the eye perceives. It is the image of the sky which concerns him…. The feeling of a clear night, a vast cosmic creation, which is evoked by the pictorial construction itself” (Avram Kampf, Chagall to Kitaj, Jewish Experience in the 20th Century Art, London, 1990, p. 154).  



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Mordecai Ardon,In Twilight (...du soir) (detail). Estimate $250,000–350,000.
    Ardon mixed his own colors in order to achieve a mix of opaque and transparent hues, laying them down on the canvas with varied techniques and densities, from delicate brushwork to thick application with a palette knife. Complex, lustrous jewel-tones imbue his works with a light that appears to come from within the work of art and not just reflect off it. “For me, the paint is really a revealer of secrets and there is no wonder that I grind and mix the pigments and oil myself. I do it, not because I want to follow the Old Masters, I believe that we painters should adhere to our times. But I do it because I always felt that the dual system of opaque and penetrated colors has much greater possibilities. I am reluctant to give up these possibilities, that most contemporary painters abandon.” (Ora Ardon interview, ca. 1988, tape transcription p. 2-3)



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Mordecai Ardon in his Studio.
    Photographer unknown, Courtesy of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Ardon - A Retrospective, 1985.



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Mordecai Ardon, Landscape. Estimate $250,000–350,000.
    The land of Israel plays a primary role in Ardon’s body of work since the 1930s, a subject initially treated figuratively, that grew more abstract over the decades of his career. In Landscape , mystical celestial bodies float in the sky above the deeply layered surface of the earth. “[Assia’s] collection includes… landscapes, whose mysterious quality is brought to light by means of rhythmic, multilayered brushstrokes – and is based on an attempt to give expression not only to the impressive views, but also to encompass the traces of the archaic past embedded in them.” (Carmela Rubin, Yehuda Assia – Art Collector, Highlights from the Yehuda Assia Collection, p. 196)  



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Mordecai Ardon, Judean Hills. Estimate $250,000–350,000.
    Ardon’s landscapes from the 1960s verge on the abstract; his work is an exploration of light, color, texture and temperature. With palette knives and a special brush, Ardon created a dynamic surface where colors glow with an internal light. (Ruth Apter-Gabriel, Mordecai Ardon: Landscapes of Infinity, 2003)  Judean Hills , in the same private collection since the year it was painted, revisits the subject of one of Ardon’s first paintings after moving to Israel, In the Hills of Judea, c. 1935, with the mature style and brighter color palette of the 1960s. Ardon was deeply moved by the landscapes of his new homeland. “Ardon recollects that he experienced a mystical attachment to the ancient soil. His canvas is not so much the portrait of a place as it is a revelation of the mysterious union he felt with the earth.” (Michele Vishny, Mordecai Ardon, p. 28)  



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

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