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The Belgian artist, Georges Vantongerloo (1896-1965), was a founding member of De Stijl and then later was head of the artist group Abstraction-Création in Paris in the 1930s. Lillian met Vantongerloo in Paris, introduced by Hugo Weber her instructor at the Institute of Design, visiting the reclusive artist each year in his studio. They corresponded throughout the 1950s, discussing their works in progress, materials and process, and even the everyday events and concerns of their lives. Vantongerloo shared his more personal writings with her in this close relationship.
Lillian fondly collected several works from her good friend, including the piece offered here. Her Vantongerloo pieces were displayed prominently and proudly in her home for many years, and in January of 1963, after an exhibition of Vantongerloo’s work at Marlborough Gallery in London, Lillian wrote to him: You have received the praises from everyone in London, but you ought to know how everyone here finds your beautiful pieces in my home. They continue to give me enormous pleasure. I always thank you for having accepted me finally as a lover (amateur) of your work, not merely as a buyer (marchand).
Georges Vantongerloo's Notebook
Vantongerloo kept record of his works including the present lot which he sold to his friend Lillian Florsheim. Notice the lower left corner features a small sketch of the work.
Georges Vantongerloo is one of the unsung heroes of Abstract Modernism, as both his works and theories shaped the course of modern art. Vantongerloo was born in Antwerp in 1886. He began his formal training in art at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris until the outbreak of World War I, when he was conscripted into the Belgian Army. After he was discharged in 1914 due to injuries sustained in a mustard gas attack, Vantongerloo traveled to the Netherlands where he met Theo van Doesburg in 1916. The following year, the pair, along with Piet Mondrian and Bart van der Leck, wrote the first manifesto of the De Stijl group. In 1918, Vantongerloo moved to Menton, France, where he became close friends with the artist and designer Max Bill. In 1927, Vantongerloo moved to Paris and joined the artistic group Cercle et Carré. The first show of this avant-garde society included the work of artists Jean Arp, Wassily Kandinsky, Le Corbusier, Fernand Léger, and, of course, Vantongerloo. Moving into the fields of architecture and industrial design, Vantongerloo created models for bridges and an airport that were later shown at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in 1930. In 1936, his work was featured in the landmark exhibition of abstract art entitled Cubism and Abstract Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Later in his life, Vantongerloo expanded his sculptural output and began to experiment with the new mediums of Plexiglas and plastic. Vantongerloo died in Paris in 1965.
Though he is not well known, Vantongerloo is highly regarded and can be found in prominent museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Tate Museum, London, among many others across the globe; it is rare for any of his works to appear on the market.
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