April 28, 1928 – Yves Klein is born in Nice, France to artist parents Fred Klein and Marie Raymond.
Today, June 6, 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Yves Klein, one of the greatest artistic pioneers of the 20th century. Klein died from a heart attack at the age of 34. Click through this time capsule of his life and work to gain insight into one of the most influential artists of our time.
1947 – Klein registers to join the judo club where he meets Claude Pascal and Armand Fernandez. While on the beach the three friends ‘divided the world’ between themselves. Klein claims the sky and its infiniteness. He famously once said, “The sky is my first artwork.”
1950-1952 – Klein travels to Spain and Japan. In Japan he registers at the Kodokan Institute, the country’s most prestigious judo center.
1957 – Klein meets Rotraut Uecker, a young German artist who becomes his assistant and subsequently his wife. Photograph: Shunk-Kender. © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
Klein and the Lighting Director of the City of Paris experimentally light up the Obelisk at the Place de la Concorde in blue to inaugurate an upcoming show at Iris Clert Gallery.
April 1958 – Klein exhibits, The Void at Iris Clert Gallery.
Klein experiments with the ‘Living Brushes’ technique in which he covers the naked body of a woman who leaves bodily prints on a piece of paper.
December 1959 – The Gelsenkirchen Opera House, which Klein was commissioned to create artwork for, opens. ©BPK/Charles Wilp
May 1960 – Klein registers the formula for the blue pigment he created under the name International Klein Blue (IKB) and obtains a patent.
October 1960 – Klein performs an art performance called ‘Leap into the Void’ at 5, Rue Gentil-Bernard, Fontenay-aux-Roses. Photograph: Shunk-Kender. ©Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
January 1961 – At the exhibition of Yves Klein: Monochrome und Feuer, Klein shows the Mur de Feu, which was made up of fifty burners aligned in five rows of ten.
March 1961 – Klein does his first large fire painting at the Gaz de France. Photograph by: Joly-Cardot.
March 1961 – Klein travels to the United States and presents an exhibition at Virginia Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles.
January 1961 – Klein and Rotraut marry in Paris.
Spring 1961 – Klein creates FC1, which was recently sold at Christie’s for $36.4 million, breaking the artist’s previous auction record.
June 6, 1962 – Klein dies suddenly of a heart attack in Paris.
Yves Klein (1928-1962), Rélief éponge bleu (RE 51). Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012
signed and dated 'Yves Klein 59' (on the reverse); dry pigment in synthetic resin, natural sponges and pebbles on board, 40 3/8 x 41 3/8in. (102.5 x 105 x 10cm.). Executed in 1959. Lot 12. Estimate £6,000,000 - £9,000,000
his work is registered with the Yves Klein Archives, Paris under number RE 51.
Provenance: Galerie Iris Clert, Paris.
Lucio Fontana Collection, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the previous owner in 1959 and thence by descent to the present owner.
Literature; Yves Klein 1928-1962. A Retrospective, exh. cat., Houston, Rice Museum, 1982 (installation view, illustrated, p. 311).
Yves Klein, exh. cat., Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1983 (installation view, illustrated, p. 347).
Yves Klein, exh. cat., Tokyo, The Museum of Modern Art, 1986 (installation view, illustrated, p. 122).
Ives Klein, exh. cat., Cologne, Museum Ludwig, 1994 (installation view, illustrated, p. 161).
Yves Klein. Long Live the Immaterial, exh. cat., Nice, Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, 2000 (installation view, illustrated, p. 225).
Yves Klein, exh. cat., Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2005 (installation view, illustrated, p. 220).
Yves Klein: A Career Survey, exh. cat., New York, L&M Arts, 2005 (installation view, illustrated, p. 98).
D. Riout, Yves Klein. L'aventure monochrome, Paris 2006 (installation view, illustrated, p. 49).
Yves Klein. Corps, couleur, immateriel, exh. cat., Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, 2007 (installation view, illustrated, p. 296).
R. Klein-Moquay and R. Pincus-Witten, Yves Klein USA, Paris 2009 (installation view, illustrated, unpaged).
Exhibited; Paris, Galerie Iris Clert, Bas-reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges, 1959.
Lissone, XV Premio Lissone internazionale di pittura, 1967.
Rome, Galleria l'Obelisco, Yves Klein, le monochrome, 1970, no. 7.
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Metamorfosi dell'oggetto, 1972, p. 4 (illustrated, unpaged).
Milan, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, Azimuth & Azimuth. 1959: Castellani, Manzoni e..., 1984 (illustrated, p. 40).
Parma, Galleria d'Arte Niccoli, Un probabile umore dell'idea, 1989 (illustrated in colour, cover and p. 21).
Venice, XLV Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte. La Biennale di Venezia , 1993.
Milan, Fonte d'Abisso Arte, Nouveaux Réalistes anni'60: La memoria viva di Milano, 1997, no. 29 (illustrated in colour, p. 53).
'I seek to put the spectator in front of the fact that colour is an individual, a character, a personality. I solicit a receptivity from the observer placed before my works. This permits him to consider everything that effectively surrounds the monochrome painting. Thus he can impregnate himself with colour and colour impregnates itself in him. Thus, perhaps, he can enter into the world of colour.' (Y. Klein quoted in S. Stich, Yves Klein, Cologne, 1994, p. 66)
'Klein is the one who understands the problem of space with his blue dimension... He is really abstract, one of the artists who have done something important' (Lucio Fontana, quoted in T. Trini, 'The last interview given by Fontana', pp.34-36, W. Beeren & N. Serota (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Amsterdam 1988, p. 34).
Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) is one of the very first of Yves Klein's sponge-reliefs. Rarely seen in public since it was first acquired in 1959, by friend and fellow pioneering explorer of the void, the Spatialist artist Lucio Fontana, it is a magnificent, large, resonant and imposing blue sponge-relief made at the very pinnacle of Klein's involvement with the medium. Comprising of a forty-inch square rectangle heavily laden with sponges and small stones in a way that both disrupts the geometry of its borders and the flat plane of its blue surface, it is a radiant, intriguing and distinctly three-dimensional entity, which belongs to a rare group of outstanding early reliefs that dominated Klein's defining exhibition of these works held at the Galerie Iris Clert in Paris in June 1959.
Entitled Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges (Bas-Reliefs in a forest of sponges) Klein's exhibition at Iris Clert's was the last of a radical series of extraordinarily original shows and events held at this small gallery throughout the mid-1950s, in which Klein progressively widened and enlarged the domain of painting and its conceptual role in the function of art. Taking place in the midst of Klein's epic work on the creation of a vast monochrome blue interior for the Gelsenkirchen Opera House, for which he first devised the concept of the sponge-relief, it was Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges that was to provide the definitive expression of the sponge in his oeuvre. Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) formed a centrepiece of Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges, operating as the focal point behind Klein's carefully constructed 'forest of sponges' - the installation that he set at the heart of the exhibition.
As at Gelsenkirchen, but here on a more intimate and personal scale, Klein once again aimed to transform the entire exhibition space of the gallery into a complete environment. Invoking the notion of an entirely new nature, the exhibition at Iris Clert's was intended to open up the idea of Klein's 'blue monochrome adventure' to the whole world, creating a completely new landscape of 'the immaterial', and taking the form of an entire world populated by blue sponges.
Partially a landscape reminiscent of the seabed or the surface of another planet, and partially a sculptural object infused with Klein's trademark IKB pigment (the resonant ultramarine colour he used to indicate the pervasive presence of immaterial energy), Relief éponge bleu (RE 51)signifies within itself, the conceptual extension of his immaterial blue into a new spatial dimension. Indeed it signifies and anticipates Klein's later extension of his aesthetic into actions and the subsequent adoption of other living elements and beings also impregnated with 'immaterial' blue pigment in such works as his later Anthropometries and Cosmogonies.
Klein's aim with the main installation of sponges was to create an ambiguous spatial play of seemingly floating forms, functioning like spectators, and entering into a dialogue with the picture-like reliefs that aligned the walls and possibly, as an early sketch for the exhibition shows, the ceiling. Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) was set into the very centre of this seemingly dimensionless sponge-world. Its resonant square, blue format functioning somewhat like Kasimir Malevich's famous painting the Black Square at the 0.10 exhibition of 1915, as a kind of icon or cornerstone anchoring the floating forms all around it, and the implied multidimensional nature of the exhibition as a whole.
In Europe in the 1950s, Lucio Fontana and Yves Klein were the two artists most responsible for establishing this conceptual direction in art: the direction upon which much of the later Minimalist and Conceptual work of the late 1960s was subsequently built. Made very much within the context of the space age, it was in such works as Fontana's punctured canvases, infusing the picture plane with the infinity of space, and Klein's sponge-reliefs, that the traditional, two-dimensional realm of painting was first irrevocably opened up. As one of the first, great examples of Klein's pioneering series of sponge-reliefs, therefore, it is both fitting and significant that it was Fontana who first acquired Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) from Klein at this inaugural exhibition of these works.
BAS-RELIEFS DANS UNE FORT D PONGES
If Kleins decision to use sponges for the Gelsenkirchen project had been to mark the transformation of Kleins 'monochrome proposition away from easel painting into the site-specific realm of space and architecture, it was the 1959 exhibition Bas-Reliefs dans une fort d ponges at Iris Clerts, with its new human-scale sponge-reliefs and floating forest of sponges, that ultimately marked its development into a new mystical realm of nature, topography and imaginary landscape. Bas-Reliefs dans une fort d ponges was the first of Kleins shows to fully mark the unique extension of his painterly-orientated art into the personal space and wider dimension of the viewers life. Constructed with great care and preparation as a complete environment, Klein transformed Iris Clerts small gallery space into a bizarre otherworldly landscape making use of a complex white-washed brieze-block architecture to display his 'floating sponges on multiple levels of height and depth from the walls. As the title of this show suggests, the exhibition also deliberately threw into direct contrast the wall-hanging sponge-reliefs and the elevated sculptural 'personages of the single sponges. A variety of different shaped and sized sponges and reliefs seemingly grew upwards from the floor and outwards from the walls, establishing a dialogue with one another that was also deeply suggestive of a field or 'forest of spectators engaging in a strange, mystical, communicative and symbiotic relationship.
Relief ponge bleu (RE 51) was positioned at the very heart of the exhibition, elevated and also apparently distant, (given such a confined space), hanging on the wall behind Kleins carefully constructed forest of sponges. Both its size and its volume were ideally suited to the space into which it was set rendering it a perspectival focal point and kind of altarpiece at the apex of the magical installation.
Like other sponge-reliefs known to have been in this exhibition such as RE 2 and RE 19 (now in the Ludwig Museum, Cologne), Relief ponge bleu (RE 51) operates simultaneously on two levels. At the same time that it dramatically asserts its own vital and dynamic three-dimensional presence within real space and outwards beyond the bounds of the picture plan, it also reveals itself pictorially as a landscape - a rectangular segment of a distinctly other-dimensional, alternate and immaterial reality of blue.
THE BLUE SPONGE
The idea of infusing the mind of man with a profound and moving sense of the vast scale, infinite dimension and immaterial nature of the universe or the 'void', as he often chose to refer to it, was one that lay at the very heart of Klein's life and work. Combining the immaterial presence of the artist's radiant but featureless monochrome blue canvases with the unique and distinctive material presence of the natural sponge, Klein's sponge-reliefs are among the most important creations in his entire oeuvre. They form an elegant pictorial synthesis of his ideas and are also among the finest plastic expressions of his deeply Romantic and transcendental aesthetic.
For Klein, the sponge, an ancient, organic, ocean-dwelling creature physically indicative of both the wonder and the mystery of nature, was, when impregnated with the deeply resonant ultramarine blue that he had himself patented, the perfect symbol of the ability of man's brain - which the sponge also resembles - to absorb and perceive a sense of the immaterial reality of the void.
Colour is immaterial sensibility. It is a powerful but intangible element able to provoke strong emotion and sensation in the viewer. For Klein, the colour blue was preeminent, being the colour of the sky and the sea and therefore, a colour 'beyond dimensions'. In this respect it was the colour most indicative of the infinite and the void.
The sponge first suggested itself to Klein as a medium for his art when he began to use it as a means of distancing his hand, the act of painting and all concept of painterliness or 'peinture' from the creation of his monochromes. 'When working on my pictures in the studio,' he recalled, 'I sometimes used sponges. Naturally they turned blue very rapidly! [and] one day I noticed how beautiful the blue in the sponge was, and the tool immediately became a raw material. The extraordinary capacity of sponges to absorb everything fluid fascinated me. Thanks to the sponges I was going to be able to make portraits of the observers (lecteurs) of my monochromes, who, after having seen, after having voyaged in the blue of my pictures, return totally impregnated in sensibility, as are the sponges' (Y. quoted in Yves Klein: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Houston 1982, p. 111).
BAS-RELIEFS DANS UNE FORÊT D'ÉPONGES
If Klein's decision to use sponges for the Gelsenkirchen project had been to mark the transformation of Klein's 'monochrome proposition' away from easel painting into the site-specific realm of space and architecture, it was the 1959 exhibition Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges at Iris Clert's, with its new human-scale sponge-reliefs and 'floating' forest of sponges, that ultimately marked its development into a new mystical realm of nature, topography and imaginary landscape.
Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges was the first of Klein's shows to fully mark the unique extension of his painterly-orientated art into the personal space and wider dimension of the viewer's life. Constructed with great care and preparation as a complete environment, Klein transformed Iris Clert's small gallery space into a bizarre otherworldly landscape making use of a complex white-washed brieze-block architecture to display his 'floating' sponges on multiple levels of height and depth from the walls. As the title of this show suggests, the exhibition also deliberately threw into direct contrast the wall-hanging sponge-reliefs and the elevated sculptural 'personages' of the single sponges. A variety of different shaped and sized sponges and reliefs seemingly grew upwards from the floor and outwards from the walls, establishing a dialogue with one another that was also deeply suggestive of a field or 'forest' of spectators engaging in a strange, mystical, communicative and symbiotic relationship.
Relief éponge bleu was positioned at the very heart of the exhibition, elevated and also apparently distant, (given such a confined space), hanging on the wall behind Klein's carefully constructed 'forest of sponges'. Both its size and its volume were ideally suited to the space into which it was set rendering it a perspectival focal point and kind of altarpiece at the apex of the magical installation.
Like other sponge-reliefs known to have been in this exhibition such as Re 2 and Re 19 (now in the Ludwig Museum, Cologne), Relief éponge bleu operates simultaneously on two levels. At the same time that it dramatically asserts its own vital and dynamic three-dimensional presence within real space and outwards beyond the bounds of the picture plan, it also reveals itself pictorially as a landscape - a rectangular segment of a distinctly other-dimensional, alternate and 'immaterial' reality of blue.
YVES KLEIN AND LUCIO FONTANA
Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) is one of five works by Klein owned by Lucio Fontana. Fontana was to own one of each of Klein's most important series of works. In addition to Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) which he acquired directly from Klein at the opening of Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges in June 1959, he owned an IKB monochrome, (IKB100), a monogold, (MG42), a sponge sculpture (Se20) (Fondazione Lucio Fontana), and an Anthropometry, (ANT 136), (Fondazione Lucio Fontana).
As mentioned above and as the most memorable photograph of Bas-Reliefs dans une forêt d'éponges attests, Relief éponge bleu (RE 51) was prominently positioned alone on a wall behind a dense collation of 'floating' sponges in a position where it asserted itself as one of the foremost and most iconic presences in the show. Fontana, in demonstrably buying this work from Klein, was knowingly acquiring one of the key components of the show. He and Klein were both friends and great admirers of each other's work. Both were believers in the ultimate triumph of the immaterial void over the material world and as such they recognised in each other a shared sense of purpose in their pioneering explorations of infinite space. 'Klein is the one who understands the problem of space with his blue dimension' Fontana declared in his last interview before his death in 1968. 'He is really abstract, one of the artists who have done something important.' (Lucio Fontana, quoted in T. Trini, 'The last interview given by Fontana', pp.34-36, W. Beeren & N. Serota (ed.), Lucio Fontana, exh. cat., Amsterdam 1988, p. 34).
Yves Klein (1928-1962), Anthropométrie (ANT 49). Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012
signed and dated 'Yves Klein 1960' (lower right), pure pigment and synthetic resin on paper laid down on canvas; 42 7/8 x 25 5/8in. (109 x 65cm.). Executed in 1960. Lot 10. Estimate £1,000,000 - £1,500,000
Provenance: Galerie Karl Flinker, Paris.
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1974).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 7 February 2007, lot 14.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature: P. Wember, Yves Klein, Cologne 1969, no. ANT 49 (illustrated, p. 105).
Exhibited: New York, The Jewish Museum, Yves Klein, 1967.
Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Yves Klein, 1968, no. 39 (illustrated in colour, p. 13).
Paris, Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs et Centre National d'Art Contemporain, Yves Klein 1928-1962, 1969 (illustrated in colour, p. 33).
Bremen, Weserburg Museum für moderne Kunst, Paint in Blue ACT Art Collection Siegfried Loch, 2007 (illustrated in colour, p. 75).
Notes. 'It was the block of the body itself, that is to say the trunk and part of the thighs, that fascinated me. The hands, the arms, the head, the legs were of no importance. Only the body is alive, all-powerful, and non-thinking...(Y. Klein quoted in S. Stich, Yves Klein, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1994, p. 175).
'I had rejected the brush long before... It was too psychological. I painted with the more anonymous roller, trying to create a distance - at the very least an intellectual, unvarying distance - between the canvas and me during the execution. Now, like a miracle, the brush returned, but this time it was alive: it was the flesh itself that applied the colour to the canvas, under my direction, with a perfect precision, allowing me to remain constantly at an exact distance x from my canvas and thus continue to dominate my creation during the entire execution. In this way I stayed clean. I no longer dirtied myself with colour, not even the tips of my fingers. The work finished itself there in front of me, under my direction, in absolute collaboration with the model. And I could salute its birth into the tangible world in a dignified manner, dressed in a tuxedo... By this determination, or rather technique, I especially wanted to tear down the temple veil of the studio. (I wanted) to keep nothing of my process hidden' (Y. Klein, Truth Becomes Reality reproduced in K. Ottmann, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, New York, 2007, pp. 186-87).
With its bold ultramarine presence of thick IKB pigment rendering a radiant and dynamic trace of the trunk and thighs of a human torso in stark graphic clarity against a gently mottled, sky blue and cosmogonie-type background, ANT 49 is a quintessential example of Yves Kleins celebrated series of Anthropométries. A rare example from the series in that its clear and singular imprinted image has been proudly signed on the front of the work by the artist, ANT 49, executed in 1960, is one of the first of this dramatic series of works made at the height of Kleins involvement with them. Centred on one strong single impression of a blue-painted female torso, this work reflects the artists original concern in his Anthropométries to concentrate on the iconic nature of the body print as a vital and powerful signifier of the innate immaterial energy of human life.
Kleins model has here been instructed to create a forceful and iconic imprint of her torso by straddling the paintings sky-blue, rain-spattered cosmogonic paper ground. In order to do this, Klein has had the model crouch astride the paper sheet while it was laid over a cylindrical bolsterlike support, in the manner indicated in Harry Shunks photographs of Klein and a model creating a variety of Anthropométries in his Paris apartment in 1960.
Operating on the borderlines between abstraction and figuration as well as between the material and the immaterial realms, Kleins Anthropométries were a sequence of often surprisingly dynamic paintings made, under the artists direction, from the imprints of nude women coated in paint so as to become the artists living brushes. Usually created in Kleins own patented, intensely resonant blue pigment that he maintained to be indicative of a mystic immateriality (International Klein Blue), these works were a corporeal extension of Kleins two great earlier series of works, his monolithic and conceptual 'propositions of the void' - the IKB monochromes - and his magnificent, strangely organic and otherworldly sponge relief landscapes. Marking the dramatic reintroduction of the human figure into what was the predominantly abstract nature of the art of the time, these works with their highly painterly traces generated by the imprint of the painted models body, provided, like Pollocks drips and Fontanas slashes had before them, a new series of potent and enduring gestural signs of human interaction with the mystic immaterial void.
An extension of the field of painting into the realm of action, gesture and performance, Klein described his Anthropométries as energized marks of the moment states of the flesh and he saw in them a direct connection with the other great art that he practiced, judo. Indeed, in many respects, Kleins Anthropométries can be seen as painterly expressions of the judokas concept of the body as a physical, sensorial and spiritual centre of energy whose power resides specifically in the controlled and disciplined release of this energy to the outside. Imprints of the body left in the sand on the beach or on the judo mat for example had provided a deep inspiration for Klein and often featured in the films he made and other of his works long before he created the Anthropométries. Something of the mesmerizing and totemic nature of these corporeal traces of the human bodys inner vitality is also conveyed in the blue calligraphy-like marks of Kleins anthropometric imprints.
They are, as Kleins friend, champion and Nouveau Réaliste colleague, Pierre Restany noted, 'blue gestures' that run through 40,000 years of modern art to be reunited with the anonymous handprint - as sufficient as it was necessary in that dawn of our universe - that at Lascaux or Altamira signified the awakening of man to self-awareness and the world (P. Restany, Yves Klein, New York, 1982, p. 110).
Begun in March 1960, around the same time as the Anthropométries, and named with reference to the title of the 1949 book on Rosicrucianism, La Cosmologie des Rose-Croix by Max Heindel that had such a defining influence on Klein and his work, Kleins Cosmogonies, were a simple and direct extension of the Anthropométries into the wider realm of nature. In the same way that the Anthropométries were the mark of the moment states of the flesh, KleinsCosmogonies marked 'the moment states of nature'. Recording in monochrome blue on paper the impressions made by the vital energy of the natural world in the form of reeds blowing in the wind, or, as with the background of ANT 49, by rain falling through a blue mist of pigment, the Cosmogonies marked a translation of Kleins 'Anthropometric' processing of an image into the infinite spatial and temporal dimension of the cosmos.
Originally, Kleins concern was with the primal mark of the bodys imprint against the seemingly infinite space suggested by the blank, or as here, Cosmogonie-like background. Klein was not concerned with the outer appearance of the body in terms of its contours or pictorial resemblance to the human figure, but solely with a capturing of the bodys interactive presence as its living energy, when impregnated with his mystic, immaterial colour, left a trace in the paint onto the surface of the paper. Klein, as he later, confirmed of his 'fire' paintings wanted to convey a sense of the presence of absence in his work. 'The shape of the body, its curves, its colours between life and death, are not of interest to me, he declared, It is the pure affective atmosphere that is invaluable' (Y. Klein, quoted in S. Stich, Yves Klein, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1994, p. 171).
Taking the form of a single, imposing and cohesive imprint emblazoned like a solitary and energized calligraphic brushstroke over a shimmering, rain-spattered, blue background reminiscent of Kleins Cosmogonie series of the same period, ANT 49 is a rare and iconic work that fuses a startlingly haunting, almost totemic image of animate life from elements drawn from both these two important series of works.
Christie's. Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction. 27 June 2012. London, King Street
Yves Klein (1928-1962), Le Rose du bleu (RE 22). Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012
titled 'Le Rose du bleu' (on the reverse) ; dry pigment in synthetic resin, natural sponges and pebbles on board ; 78 3/8 x 60 x 6 3/8in. (199 x 153 x 16cm.) . Executed in 1960 . Lot 9. Estimate on request
Provenance: Collection Madeleine Everaert, Brussels.
François de Menil, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1980.
Literature: P. Wember, Yves Klein, Cologne 1969, no. RE 22, p. 82, no.6 (illustrated in colour, p. 19).
Yves Klein, exh. cat., Bern, Kunsthalle Bern, 1971 (illustrated in colour, p. 39).
Yves Klein, exh. cat., Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, 2004 (installation view illustrated, p. 79).
P. Restany, Fire at the Heart of the Void, Putnam 2005 (illustrated in colour, p. 94).
K. Ottmann, Yves Klein. Works/Writings, Barcelona 2010 (illustrated in colour, p. 23).
Exhibited: Krefeld, Museum Haus Lange, Yves Klein: Monochrome und Feuer, 1961.
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, La Métamorphose de l'Objet, 1971. This exhibition later travelled to Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans-van Beuningen; Berlin, Nationalgalerie; Milan, Palazzo Reale; Basel, Kunsthalle and Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
Houston, Rice Museum, Yves Klein 1928-1962: A Retrospective, 1982, no. 43 (illustrated in colour, p. 159). This exhibition later travelled to Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou.
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Yves Klein, 1983, no. 43 (illustrated in colour, p. 127).
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Painterly Visions, 1985.
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Abstraction in the Twentieth Century: Total Risk, Freedom, Discipline, 1996.
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Yves Klein: Corps, couleur, immatériel, 2006-2007 (illustrated in colour, p. 121). This exhibition later travelled to Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien. Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers, 2010-2011 (illustrated in colour, p. 141). This exhibition later travelled to Minneapolis, Walker Art Center.
Notes: 'In 1960, the initiate of the path of fire (Yves Klein) feels the need to settle on a nuance to this colour that will be personal to him. Which will he choose?...Yves chooses madder rose of which the most representative example is the sponge relief RE22, Le Rose du bleu ... Having thus acquired the third element, Yves Klein can, from now on, present the cosmological trilogy of personal transmutation of colours: ultramarine-blue IKB, gold, and pink ... The transfer to monopink in the monochrome trilogy is revealing. Madder rose represents the Holy Spirit before the gold of the Father and the blue of the Son; gold for immortality and blue for sensibility... The introduction of the monopink element in the Monochrome Painter's practice emphasizes a renewal of sensuality in the Anthropometries and Shrouds...'
(P. Restany, Fire in the Heart of the Void, New York, 2005, pp. 24-26).
'All three live in one and the same state, each impregnated in the other, all being perfectly independent from one another.'
(Yves Klein quoted in S. Stich Yves Klein, Cologne, 1995, p. 194).
'My desire was to present... an opening on the world of the colour represented, an open window on ones freedom to saturate oneself, in an infinite, unlimited way, with the immeasurable state of colour. I wanted to offer the public a possibility of the illumination of pictorial, essential colour matter, impregnated with which all physical things, stones, rocks, bottles, clouds, become a pretext for the voyage of human sensitivity'(Y. Klein quoted in Yves Klein exh. cat., Institute for the Arts, Houston, Yves Klein Retrospective, 1982, p. 223).
Le Rose du bleu (RE 22), originally part of the legendary Menil collection of Yves Klein, is one of the defining masterpieces of Yves Kleins diverse, eclectic and highly influential body of work. It has been included in every major Yves Klein exhibition that has taken place. A vast, nearly two-metre-high monochrome canvas spectacularly adorned with nine massive sea-sponges and thousands of scattered pebbles to form a magical organic and otherworldly landscape both saturated by and radiating a deep rose madder hue, it is by far the largest and most important example of the series of monochrome pink sponge-reliefs that Klein first began to make in 1960.
With its poetic and mysterious title of Le Rose du bleu (RE 22) ('The Rose of Blue') this work is also a signature example not only of the series to which it belongs but also of the unique colour theory that came to dominate and distinguish so much of the work that Klein made during the last two years of his life. From the golden tomb-like Ci-gît l'espace to the large multicolouredShrouds, Anthropometries, fire-sculptures and his final Fire-Colour paintings, almost all of Klein's most important late works make explicit reference to this spiritual concept of a blue-gold-pink trinity of colour. And, it was as an exemplar of this colour-theory that Le Rose du bleu (RE 22) was first exhibited alongside other selected masterpieces from his oeuvre at the great retrospective exhibition of Klein's work held at the Haus Lange in Krefeld in January 1961.
Klein gave titles to only a select few of his favourite and most important works. The rare and enigmatic title of Le Rose du bleu (RE 22) with its suggestion of the rose or pink colour of the work seemingly arising into being from the 'Blue' refers to Klein's notion of 'immaterial' blue, 'immortal' gold and 'corporeal' rose or pink, collectively forming an interdependent sacred trilogy of colours. This was a theory Klein first devised around 1959, and within its context, the colour pink was seen as representative of the material resurrection of the presence of the immaterial in the body or the flesh. With their absorptive and highly material 'living' sponges affixed to a monochrome plane of colour, Klein's sponge-reliefs are the quintessential (ultramarine International Klein Blue) but within the context of Klein's spiritual trinity of colour, the corporeal, material colour of rose or pink, became, as the title of Re 22 directly suggests, as appropriate a colour, if not indeed a more fitting one, than the blue.
Looking partly like a Martian landscape and partly like a mysterious organic constellation of a new Nature, Le Rose du bleu (RE 22) is a work that magnificently reflects Klein's aim of demonstrating the resonating immaterial energy of colour almost actively in the process of materialising itself physically through the sponge and the mysterious domain of the sponge relief. With their imposing, organic elements and the strong material projection into the three-dimensional space of the viewer, the sea-sponges - creatures that Klein described as 'savage, living, breathing, forms' - are saturated with a rich immaterial essence which, in the deep and resonant hue of the rose-madder pigment chosen for Le Rose du bleu (RE 22) evokes a sense of the colour of flesh, or blood, or even Eucharistic wine. Materializing such deep, resonant but ultimately immaterial colour within the ambiguous and mysterious space established by Klein's poetic fusion of painting and sculpture, it is in this respect that Klein's monochrome pink sponge-reliefs form perhaps the highest expression of the artist's spiritually orientated concept of the material resurrection of the immaterial in all of his oeuvre. Klein's singular entitling of Le Rose du bleu (RE 22), by far his most ambitious pink sponge-relief, was also clearly intended to reinforce this transmutative aspect of these works.
Executed in 1960, Le Rose du bleu (RE 22) is the defining example from a series of twelve pink or rose-coloured sponge-reliefs that Klein seems only to have begun making in this year. 1960 was an important year for Klein and one that, in many ways, was to mark the beginnings of the last phase of his work. It was in 1960 that Klein inaugurated both his Anthropometries andCosmogonies and, in a number of exhibitions held towards the end of the year, such as Yves le Monochrome at the Galerie Rive Droite, also the concept of his holy trinity of colour - blue-gold-pink. It was also in the autumn of 1960 that Klein first began to make preparations, along with major new works, for what was to be both the landmark retrospective of his career to date and the inauguration of a new phase in his work using fire.
'MONOCHROME UND FEUER' IN KREFELD
Klein's exhibition at the Krefeld museum in January 1961 was the first and only retrospective exhibition of his work to be held during his lifetime. Organized in collaboration with the museum director Paul Wember who would later, in 1969, collate the catalogue raisonné of Kleins work and within which, incidentally, Le Rose du bleu (RE 22) was given particular prominence, the exhibition was a collation of all of Klein's most important works to date, some of which had been made specifically with this landmark show in mind.
Entitled by Klein, Monochrome and Fire, the Krefeld exhibition also marked the genesis of Klein's work with fire, culminating in an opening ceremony in which Klein's Fire Fountain and Wall of Fire were displayed for the first time. Along with this new element of fire, the predominant theme running through the Krefeld exhibition was Klein's spiritual trinity of colour: bluegold-pink.
In accordance with this theme of the colour trilogy, the Krefeld exhibition was organized into sections that included a blue room, a gold room and a pink room into which were also set various works displaying the trinity of colour such as his Concorde sculpture and Ci-gît l'espace. This trilogy of colour, reiterated but also segregated throughout much of the exhibition, was ultimately unified by the inauguration of the fire sculptures at the opening where, burning outside the exhibition rooms, the blue flames of the fire turning golden with pink sparks at the fringes generated a burning, immaterial energy symbolizing the three-inone unity of colour that Klein's work inside the gallery also articulated. All three live in one and the same state, Klein said of this union, each impregnated in the other, all being perfectly independent from one another. (Y. Klein quoted in S. Stich, Yves Klein, Cologne, 1995, p. 194).
In Krefeld, Le Rose du bleu (RE 22) took centre stage as the dominant work of the pink room at the Haus Lange exhibition where it was shown alongside the smaller sponge-relief Ho-Ho, a large monopink painting, and Klein's pink rain sculpture suspended over a pink planetary relief lying on the floor. Although Klein had employed the colour pink in his work in a variety of monochrome paintings before the Krefeld exhibition, it was not really until 1960, that the full spiritual significance of the colour pink in his work as the third element of his sacred trilogy came into being. It had been first officially inaugurated by the hanging of a trinity of monochromes (IKB 1. Monogold 16 (Resonance and Monopink 116) at an exhibition at the Galerie Rive Droite in Paris in October 1960 and was to culminate in the Fire sculptures at Krefeld and the Fire Colour paintings that Klein made between 1961 and 1962.
'LE ROSE DU BLEU' AND KLEIN'S COLOUR TRINITY:
'"The Blood of sensibility is blue", says Shelley, and this is precisely what I think. The price of blood can never be silver. It must be gold. And then, as ...in Dr Robert Desoille's analysis of the waking dream, blue, gold, and pink are that of the same nature. Only between these three states can there be a fair exchange.' Yves Klein, 'The Evolution of Art Towards the Immaterial', Lecture at the Sorbonne, 3 June 1959, quoted in K. Ottmann (trans.) Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, New York, 2007, p. 74)
For the deeply spiritual Klein, a close follower of Max Heindel's Rosicrucian Cosmogony, the mystic trilogy of blue, gold and pink united in the flames at Krefeld held especial significance. Their unity symbolized for him both the sacred trinity of Father (gold) Son (blue) and Holy Spirit (red) and also an alchemical trinity comprising of Sun (gold), Water, (blue) and Divine Blood (red).
In his book on the central importance of fire and the colour trilogy within Klein's work entitled,Fire in the Heart of the Void, Klein's friend, colleague and champion, Pierre Restany wrote of the crucial importance of the colour pink to Klein during the last two years of his life. Its re-emergence in Kleins work as a kind of culminating and completing entity to Klein's former use of blue and gold, Restany suggests was intrinsically connected to the renewal of sensuality that had returned to Kleins work with his use of the naked human body in the Shrouds andAnthropometries that he had begun in 1960. Singling out Le Rose du bleu (RE 22) as the most representative example of what the colour pink meant to Klein, Restany also demonstrated how pink, or in fact the rose-madder pigment that he chose for works such as Le Rose du bleu (RE 22), encapsulated the idea of a mystical resurrection of the immaterial spirit in the material of the flesh. It was in this way that the blue (immaterial) could, in Klein's view, give birth to the Rose (flesh) and that a work such as Le Rose du bleu (RE 22) could signify the entire passage of the elevation of the spirit (Blue) to the celestial level of the immortal (gold) and then its rebirth or re-materialisation in the living material of flesh (pink).
Like the monochrome, the sponge, is one of the key motifs and elements in Klein's unique and often profoundly spiritual aesthetic. Klein's spongereliefs not only combine the natural, organic and earthbound form of the sponge with an ethereal and essentially abstract expanse of colour, but in their very conscious materiality and three-dimensionality they also represent the dramatic expansion of Klein's monochrome paintings into the real space of the viewer.
Often, as in Le Rose du bleu (RE 22), they are vast, textural and even visceral expanses of pure radiating colour that provide a highly physical manifestation of the inherent dialogue that Klein hoped to induce between the sensibility of the viewer and the vast monochromatic expanse of intense, but immaterial colour emanating from the surface of the work. In this way, Klein's intention with the sponge-relief was that, like the monochrome, it would serve as vehicle through which the spectators of his work could, through the mysterious, dominant and all-penetrating presence of colour, become acquainted with the immaterial. He wanted the viewers of these works, he said, to become infused with a profound sense of the universal immaterial presence of colour in the same way that his sponges were saturated with his radiant pigment.
This idea of impregnating the mind of man with a sense of the vast scale, infinite dimension and for Klein, immaterial nature of the universe or the "void", as he often chose to refer to it, was the single element that lay at the core of Klein's life and work. Through their combination of the immaterial presence of the artists blank featureless monochrome canvases with the unique and material presence of the natural sponge, Klein's sponge-reliefs are in this respect, the most eloquent synthesis of
this idea as well the finest plastic expression of his deeply Romantic and transcendental aesthetic.
Christie's. Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction. 27 June 2012. London, King Street
Yves Klein (1928-1962) , Monochrome bleu (Untitled). Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012
pigment on paper ; 8 5/8 x 7 3/8in. (22 x 18.5cm.) Executed in 1959. Lot 193. Estimate £40,000 - £60,000
Provenance: Galleria del Leone, Venice.
Gimpel und Hannover Galerie, Zurich.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Christie's. Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction. 27 June 2012. London, King Street