Marianne and Pierre Nahon, Paris
Mr and Mrs Eric Beyersdorf, Geneva
L&M Arts, New York
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2006
Basel, Musée Jean Tinguely, Tinguely's Favourites: Yves Klein, 1999-2000, p. 91, illustrated in colour
Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt; and Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Yves Klein, 2004-05, p. 175, no. 85, illustrated in colour
New York, L&M Arts, Yves Klein: A Career Survey, 2005, p. 81, illustrated in colour
Aphrodite Georgiou, 'Yves Klein: Blue like star dust everywhere', The Art Magazine, 15 February 1995, p. 36, illustrated in colour
Pascale Le Thorel, Petit dictionnaire des artistes contemporains, Paris 2000, illustrated on the cover in colour
Pierre Nahon, L'Histoire de la Galerie Beaubourg, La Différence, Paris 2009, pp. 110-11, illustrated in colour
In 1961 Klein began work on his corpus of fire paintings at a research facility owned by the French government, located near Paris at the Centre d'Essais du Gaz de France in Saint-Denis. For a few days the artist explored the possibilities of variously scorching Swedish reinforced cardboard. This magnetised surface was highly resistant and could only be combusted using the experimental laboratories’ giant coke gas burners capable of covering large areas. Yves Klein’s first major retrospective at the Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld at the beginning of 1961 also heralded, to much acclaim, the presentation of his Wall and Fountain of Fire. As a pure demonstration of fire’s artistic alchemy, this extraordinary installation burned a nonstop blue-golden-pink flame in the form of a Bunsen burner wall and butane-gas fed fountain in the museum’s park. It was here that Klein truly acknowledged the twin-fold attraction and repulsion of fire as his ultimate sublimatory medium; indeed, it was the public’s positive response to these works which confirmed for Klein the means by which his Blue Revolution would be accomplished.
By employing the alchemical potential of fire as a dually destructive and creative force, Klein executed a transcendence of his iconic and ground-breaking corpus of IKB monochromes; the deep and resonating ultramarine pigment developed by Klein in 1956 and patented in 1960 for its chromatic evocation of the indefinable and immaterial void. For Klein fire represented the elemental force par excellence of symbolic, spiritual and physical transfiguration. As expounded by Klein in his 'Chelsea Hotel Manifesto' of 1961: “In sum, my goal is twofold: first of all, to register the trace of human sentimentality in present-day civilisation; secondly to register the trace of fire which has engendered this very same civilisation. And this because the void has always been my constant preoccupation; and I hold that in the heart of the void as well as in the heart of man, fires are burning” (Yves Klein, ‘Chelsea Hotel Manifesto’ (1961) in: ibid., p. XV).
However, distinct from the pure fire paintings created via a fixed position of the fire hose, the spontaneous introduction of coloured pigment after the application of fire, affects an extraordinary degree of flamboyant gesture that recalls Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings. Forming part of what is known as the Baroque fire colour paintings; Untitled Fire Colour Painting is one of a small number of strident works that stand distinguished from the entirety of Klein’s oeuvre for their unrivalled gestural ferocity and apocalyptic exuberance. Standing at the very apogee and testament to what would become the end point of Klein’s investigation, dramatically curtailed by the artist’s death in 1962, Untitled Fire Colour Painting is a stunning coalition of colour’s pure pictorial power and fire’s spontaneous and beautiful, yet destructive alchemy central to Klein’s pictorial progression towards the dissolution of form.