March 1, 2015


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Lot 154: Agustin Ubeda

Lot 154: Agustin Ubeda

Composition au Christ

c. 1958
Oil on canvas
Signed "A. Ubeda" lower right; signed "A. Ubeda" verso
Canvas: 18" x 25.5"; Frame: 19.375" x 26.75"
Provenance: Galerie Drouant-David, Paris, France;
Private Collection, Beverly Hills, California (acquired directly from the above, 1958)
Estimate: $2,500 - $3,500
Price Realized: $1,250
Inventory Id: 18053

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"The School of Paris" does not indicate a singular style, but rather an outstanding era in history, wherein Paris became the epicenter of artistic dialogue and creative activity. Styles and mediums were varied, spanning Fauvism, Futurism, Cubism, Expressionism, and Symbolism across categories of painting and sculpture, but what tied these artists together was the continual, free-flowing exchange and application of ideas.

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) moved to Paris in 1904 at the age of 23, leading the influx of foreign artists immigrating to the cosmopolitan and avant-garde City of Lights, which would include Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani, Russian artist Marc Chagall, and Tokyo-born Léonard-Tsuguharu Foujita, among many others. This was roughly the beginning of a period in history and a loose affiliation of artists that would come to be known as the School of Paris, taking a cue from French art critic André Warnod, who stated confidently in 1925: "L'Ecole de Paris exists." Between 1900 and 1940, the diversity of identities and ideas in the Paris art world encouraged an invigorating environment of expression and experimentation. The label 'School of Paris' indicated immediate geography as well as a renewed nationalism rooted in an artistic, creative rebirth. As Chagall poignantly proclaimed in 1925: "I was born in Vitebsk, but I was also born in Paris." The last wave of artists affiliated with the School of Paris, often termed "the Internationals" for their diverse nationalities, included Jun Dobashi, Bernard Dufour, Antoni Clavé, and Massimo Campigli.

Antoni Clavé (1913–2005) moved to Paris from Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War in 1939, met Picasso in 1944, and worked as a designer for the opera and the ballet from 1946–1954. The painting on offer was created shortly after Clavé left set design to concentrate solely on painting. Entitled Nature Morte Pastéque Blanche (1955), which translates to "White Watermelon Still Life," the work is a prime example of the multiple influences and innovative mix of aesthetics and styles that the School of Paris fostered. The imagery has the flatness of Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard, as well as a slight nod to the cubist still-lifes of Georges Braque and Picasso. The white watermelon radiates against the backdrop of deep scarlet, while a mysterious shape evoking a fish skeleton is a variation on the traditional skull in memento mori still-lifes.

Picasso was also a major influence upon Italian artist Massimo Campigli (1895–1971), a resident of Paris from 1919–1933. In addition, Campigli was immensely impacted by his viewing of ancient Etruscan frescoes while visiting Rome in 1928. Untitled (Figures) (1960) is an exceptional example of the artist's mature style and his use of flat, totemic figures, a diluted color palette (in mimicry of faded frescoes), and the female form as subject.

Abstract painter and lithographer Jun Dobashi (1910–1975) was born in Tokyo and lived in Paris from 1953–1969. His work, as well as that of French painter Bernard Dufour (b. 1922), is closely related to Art Informel, a close cousin to the Abstract Expressionist movement in the United States. As a reaction against the dominant Cubist tradition, Art Informel touted intuition and spontaneity, and, as in the work of Dobashi and Dufour, resulted in lyrical canvases swathed in velvety paint strokes. Indeed, the style is at times referred to as Lyrical Abstraction.

The American interest in the global character of the School of Paris took hold early on. In 1959, the Museum of Modern Art drew up a press release announcing itself as having "the finest collection of the School of Paris outside of France." More recently, the Solomon R. Guggenheim mounted Paris and the Avant-Garde, with a focus on the School of Paris, as part of a spate of exhibitions celebrating the museum's 50th anniversary in 2010.

Riding, Alan. "Arts Abroad: A Close-Up of Artists Who Made Paris Sizzle." The New York Times, 11 Jan. 2001: n.pag. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. Voorhies, James. "School of Paris." Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. The Museum of Modern Art. The Museum of Modern Art and France. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 18 Nov. 1959. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.