DescriptionBEN BENN (Russian, 1884-1983)
Turk's Cap, 1918
Oil on canvas
36 x 20 inches (91.4 x 50.8 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: Ben Benn '18
Signed, titled and dated verso: Ben Benn / 1918 / Title / Turks' Cap
PROPERTY FROM THE KING COLLECTION, TEXAS
Michael Sinclair, owner of Babock Galleries, New York, acquired from the above, 1965;
Babock Galleries, New York, acquired from the above, 1998;
Acquired by the present owner from the above, December 1998.
Babcock Galleries, New York, "American Masterworks: 1845-1945," May-August 1996;
Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Brattleboro, Vermont, "America's First Modern Painters," September 4-November 1, 1988;
El Paso Museum of Fine Art, El Paso, Texas, "Round Up: Selected Works from Friends of the El Paso Museum of Art," January 26-April 8, 2001;
El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, Texas, "Modern American Painting 1907-1936: The Maria and Barry King Collection," September 8, 2013-January 8, 2014, no. 68.
W. Thompson, Roundup: Selected Works from Friends of the El Paso Museum of Art, exhibition catalogue, El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, Texas, January 2001, p. 13, illustrated;
P.S. Cable, Modern American Painting 1907-1936: The Maria and Barry King Collection, exhibition catalogue, El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, Texas, 2013, pp. 169-70, no. 68, illustrated.
"This large handsome still life of a tall vase of Turk's cap lilies combines a confident Cézannesque facture with an iconic presentation recalling the 1913-15 German paintings of Ben Benn's colleague Marsden Hartley, whom Benn portrayed in a 1924 oil. With the apparent--and successful--intent to create a significant decorative statement, the painter focused in his vertical composition upon fundamental colors and forms, and suggested ascendancy through the tilted triangle of the table and the backdrop of dense, slender blue arch forms surmounted by looser white rings appearing to radiate upward from them. Condensing the contrasts of orange with green and blue toward the core of his composition, Benn opened the picture out to the viewer through the lighter, more neutral sections of white and beige above and below. Turk's Cap encapsulates the following declaration of the artist, which reveals his affinity with the serious decorative concerns of the modernist master [Henri] Matisse: 'As a painter my aim is to organize my ideas into a unified plastic form, so that the whole will create a sense of joy and relaxation in the onlooker.'
"Born in Russia in 1884 as Benjamin Rosenberg, Ben Benn died in New York at almost one hundred years of age. While he was a child his parents immigrated to New York, settling on the Lower East Side. From 1904 to 1908 the artist trained at the National Academy of Design and studied the Old Masters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His visit to the 1913 Armory Show introduced him to Cézanne, Matisse and Cubism, while two years later an exhibition at Knoedler's of the sixteenth-century Spanish master El Greco introduced him to the additional, 'proto-modern' source of inspiration. In 1916 Benn was one of the sixteen painters invited to exhibit in the important Forum Exhibition co-organized by Alfred Stieglitz, who had photographed the painter two years earlier. In 1925 the artist had his first solo show at J.B. Neumann's modernist New York gallery. Along with figure painting and landscape, still life remained a significant subject for Ben Benn, who shifted between abstract and representational modes through the course of his career. The King still life remained in the artist's possession until 1965, when he relinquished it as a debt payment to his friend and dealer, Michael St. Clair, owner of the Babcock Galleries in Manhattan; in turn, St. Clair kept the painting in his private collection for over thirty years before selling it through Babcock" (P.S. Cable, Modern American Painting 1907-1936: The Maria and Barry King Collection, exhibition catalogue, El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, Texas, 2013, p. 169).
Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000.
This painting is framed using Optium (museum acrylic glazing), which provides clear legibility for examination with both white light and black light. In order to maintain the integrity and airtight sealing of the housing, the painting was not viewed out of the frame for the condition report. Should you wish to have a more extensive report, we recommend firsthand inspection by a professional conservator. For assistance, please contact the department.
*Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.
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