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    Description

    Mel Ramos (1935-2018)
    The Daredevil, 1962
    Oil on canvas
    30-1/2 x 18-5/8 inches (77.5 x 47.3 cm)
    Signed and annotated on the reverse: The Daredevil / By Mel Ramos / 4608 Wyman Dr. / Sacramento, / Calif.

    PROVENANCE:
    Collection of the artist;
    Private collection, Sacramento, California;
    Gift to the present owners in January 1970.

    LITERATURE:
    T. Levy, ed., Mel Ramos: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings 1953-2015, Berlin, 2017, p. 174, no. 62-20.

    From Andy Warhol's Superman to Jeff Koons's Hulk and SEEN's Wonder Woman, comic book
    superheroes have been an enduring theme in painting of the twentieth and twenty-first
    centuries. The Marvel franchise has turned the fascination with such characters, endowed with
    superhuman abilities, into a cornerstone of pop culture on the grandest scale possible, ensuring
    the place of icons like Iron Man and Spider-Man in the popular consciousness, likely for
    decades to come.

    California artist Mel Ramos (1935-2018) was one of the first Pop artists, included in the Los
    Angeles County Museum of Art's version of the trailblazing exhibition "Six Painters and the
    Object," curated by Lawrence Alloway at New York's Guggenheim Museum, as Pop was about
    to burst into the global consciousness. The show included Warhol as well as Jim Dine, Jasper
    Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Rosenquist. Ramos's 1962 painting
    The Daredevil is among the very first examples of fine artists' appropriations of characters like
    Superman and Wonder Woman-both of whom he painted contemporaneously, in a moment
    when Ramos made the momentous shift from abstract painting to Pop art. Realizing he was in
    thrall to the Abstract Expressionist master Willem de Kooning, he made a startling change: "I
    painted Superman ," he said in a magazine profile, speaking of the piece he painted at age 27.
    "No, Batman was the first one," he corrected himself, referring to A Sinister Figure Lurks in the
    Shadows , sold at Heritage Auctions in 2015 for $173,000, well above its $120,000 high
    estimate.

    The Daredevil has never before come to auction, and is one of just a handful of Ramos's superhero
    canvases to come to market since the 1990s; the consignors received the work as a gift and
    have preserved it in very good condition. The painting shows its title character from the side,
    dynamically poised on one foot, in black and white tights with spiked belt and bracelets. He
    appears against a thickly painted mustard yellow background, his shadow drawn in a single line
    in vivid green, the underside of his raised foot a shining purple and pink combination. His
    muscular figure is painted with an equally muscular paint application, with Ramos's masterful
    brushwork especially evident in the figure's flexed right shoulder and tensed left leg.
    Though less well known than Batman or Superman, Daredevil, who appeared in comics
    published by Lev Gleason Publications from the early 1940s to the mid-1950s, is an equally
    intriguing character. Left mute after seeing his father murdered and being branded with an iron,
    Bart Hill, now an orphan, adopted the boomerang as his weapon of choice, echoing the shape
    of the scar on his chest, and donned the costume seen in the Ramos painting. In July 1941, he
    appeared as one of the stars of the comic Daredevil Battles Hitler, the premiere issue of
    Daredevil comics. Daredevil is unrelated to the Marvel character of the same name, who
    appeared only in 1964.

    "I decided to just go, 'The hell with it. I'm going to be an artist. I'll paint whatever the hell I want,'"
    said Ramos of his epochal shift from abstraction to figuration. His artistic sense brought together
    what might be thought of as high and low culture (distinctions that have been relentlessly
    questioned in the modern era). "I started paying attention to the comics I had-the guys who
    drew those comics were really incredible," he said; he has named C.C. Beck, who worked at
    Fawcett Comics and DC Comics, as his favorite. "I did a celebration of comic book heroes, in a
    heraldic way, the way Gainsborough would do a portrait," he said, referring to the 18th-century
    English master Thomas Gainsborough.

    The comic book paintings have earned a place of pride in some of America's prominent
    institutions. Timothy Anglin Burgard, curator of American art at the Fine Arts Museums of San
    Francisco, referred to Superman , also from 1962, as "the most historically significant Pop Art
    painting in our permanent collection," which is considerable praise since the museums also own
    works by Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Warhol. His canvas Dr. Midnight , from
    that same year, is in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
    Ramos is well known for his paintings of nude women posed provocatively with consumer
    products from spark plugs to ketchup bottles, seeming to at once celebrate and satirize the
    American id and consumerism, summing up the classic mantra, "Sex sells." Ramos found his
    way to this trademark subject matter by first painting male comic book superheroes and then
    moving on to scantily clad female icons like Wonder Woman and Phantom Lady, forming an
    essential bridge to his famous advertising imagery.

    Ramos's works also appear in museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art and
    the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington,
    D.C., and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and have been collected by worthies such as
    Oscar-winning actress Eva Marie Saint ( North by Northwest and On the Waterfront ), Guess
    Jeans co-founder Georges Marciano and Sir Paul McCartney.

    Daredevil appears in "Mel Ramos: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings 1953-2015," published
    in 2017 by Kerber Verlag, edited by Thomas Levy. Written on the verso is a street address,
    which is, according to the artist's daughter, that of the artist's first house, where he painted in
    the garage.

    "Though it was sourced from a comic book, whose colors are often flat, this painting shows my
    father's commitment to visible brushwork and texture," says his daughter, Rochelle Leininger.
    "The thick application of paint is a classic example of the way he approached painting at this
    point in his career." She adds, "My father was incredibly fond of comic books. He often traded
    paintings that are now very valuable for just a handful of them, and even late in life, he would say
    that those were fair trades."


    More information about Mel Ramos, also known as Ramos, Mel, Ramos, Melvin John, Mel Ramos.

    Condition Report*: The painting was recently cleaned by an expert conservator who notes the condition as follows: The paint is in excellent condition. It is physically sound, well adhered to the canvas and the colors remain strong. A few super fine hairline mechanical cracks appear in the outer yellow background. These occur adjacent to where the canvas meets the wood strainer. The original frame is in fair to good condition. Please contact for more detailed information.
    Framed Dimensions 31.5 X 19.5 Inches
    *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. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. 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. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2020
    19th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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