May 21, 2017


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Lot 184: Paul Jenkins

Lot 184: Paul Jenkins

Phenomena Wind at the Foot of the Anvil

Acrylic on canvas
Signed, titled, and dated in felt-tip marker canvas stretcher verso; retains Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery label verso
Canvas: 77" x 66"; Frame: 78" x 67.25"
Provenance: Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York, New York; Private Collection, United States (acquired directly from the above, 1975); Thence by descent
Estimate: $35,000 - $45,000
Price Realized: $75,000
Inventory Id: 25183

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Paul Jenkins (1923—2012) was one of the foremost American abstract painters of the postwar era. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, the artist moved to New York in 1948 where, enabled by the GI Bill, he studied at the Art Students League under painter and printmaker Yasuo Kuniyoshi. He quickly established himself in the New York art scene, befriending Mark Rothko in 1951 and becoming affiliated with the Abstract Expressionists. In 1953, Jenkins relocated to Paris, though he continued to maintain a studio in New York throughout the rest of his life. He had many famous patrons including the former First Lady of France, Danielle Mitterrand and fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who commissioned his work for one of his boutiques. By the late 1960s, Jenkins had found international acclaim and was exhibiting in galleries worldwide.

Phenomena Wind at the Foot of the Anvil (1975) was painted during a high point in the artist’s career when retrospectives of his work were presented at prominent international institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; San Francisco Museum of Art (both 1971); and the Palais des Beaux–Arts in Charleroi (1974). This enthusiasm for the artist’s work buttressed Jenkins’ confidence, resulting in magnificent paintings of monumental scale produced during this period. This painting exemplifies Jenkins’ work from this time, with its rich plumes of translucent shades of blue and smokey grey, which he achieved by dripping and pouring paint directly onto the canvas and manipulating the flow using a tilted canvas. He was also known to employ an ivory knife to direct the movement of his paints. In this way, Jenkins’ technique can be compared to the dynamic methods of other historic abstract painters such as Jackson Pollock and Morris Louis.

In later years, Jenkins began incorporating his varied interests into his work, including Eastern religions and philosophy, as well as his studies of Carl Jung, Immanuel Kant, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It is the latter’s color theories that led to Jenkins’ titles for the “Phenomena” works. Beautiful and dramatic in equal measure, Phenomena Wind at the Foot of the Anvil emphasizes an intuitive approach to the world around us, incorporating chance wherever possible. The title’s reference to an anvil, which is a blacksmith’s striking tool, could be interpreted as the weighty source of the artist’s energetic and fluid facility with paint. The tactility of Jenkins’ experimental approach lends the painting an expressive power, evoking the sublime through a prismatic rendering of light and color. In a review for The New York Times , critic Roberta Smith summed up the appeal of his paintings when she described them as simply, “too gorgeous for their own good.”

Kennedy, Randy. “Paul Jenkins, Painter of Abstract Artwork, Dies at 88.” The New York Times . 17 June 2012. Web. “Paul Jenkins.” Paul Jenkins . N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.