20th Century Art in 20 Unforgettable Works: Mark Tansey’s ‘Triumph Over Mastery II’


Emily Fisher Landau was, simply put, one of the greatest collectors and patrons of the twentieth century. Her legacy is set apart for her deep and longstanding involvement with leading institutions, in particular the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as her profound engagement with the art and artists of her time and her unerring instinct as a collector at the highest level. Fisher Landau assembled one of the greatest collections of modern and contemporary art – over 100 works of which are coming to auction at Sotheby’s on 8–9 November.

Join us over the next 20 days leading up to the Emily Fisher Landau Evening Auction on 8 November as our specialists spotlight 20 key works from the Collection, celebrating their impact on twentieth-century art. Here, David Galperin reflects on the significance of Mark Tansey’s Triumph Over Mastery II as part of our series The Emily Fisher Landau Collection: Twentieth Century Art in Twenty Unforgettable Works.

In this captivating painting, Triumph Over Mastery II, Mark Tansey emerges as a larger-than-life figure, engulfing viewers and imparting a sense of smallness. His masterful balance between honoring art history and challenging tradition is striking. The artwork portrays Tansey confronting Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, representing the contemporary painter's struggle to respect the past while forging new paths. It’s almost a self-portrait, with Tansey climbing a ladder to face Michelangelo’s masterpiece, erasing himself in the process, yielding a thought-provoking piece. This monumental work, with its signature monochrome red palette, encapsulates Tansey’s artistic essence and defines his practice. Revered by collector Emily Fischer Landau, Mark Tansey embodies her knack for recognizing pivotal artists of her era. Triumph Over Mastery II will be a highlight of The Emily Fisher Landau Collection: An Era Defined Evening Auction on 8 November 2023.

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