ADOLPH GOTTLIEB (1903-1974)
ProvenanceThe Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, New York
Private Collection, London
Pace Gallery, New York
The Collection of Mornton and Barbara Mandel, 1993
Sale: Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale, Featuring the Collection of Morton and Barbara Mandel, 2 Dec 2020, Lot 118
Private Collection, California
ExhibitionNew York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Adolph Gottlieb: Twelve Paintings, February-March 1966.
Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Hayden Gallery, Adolph Gottlieb, May-June 1966.
...More... The Arts Club of Chicago, Recent Works of Adolph Gottlieb, May-June 1967, p. 1 (illustrated).
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, 1967 Pittsburgh International Exhibition, October 1967-January 1968.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Washington D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art and Waltham, Rose Art Museum, Adolph Gottlieb, February-October 1968, p. 99 (illustrated).
Washington D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art; The Tampa Museum; The Toledo Museum of Art; The University of Texas at Austin, Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery; Flint Institute of Art; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery and The Tel Aviv Museum, Adolph Gottlieb: A Retrospective, April 1981-January 1983, p. 142 (illustrated).
New York, Knoedler Gallery, Adolph Gottlieb: Horizontal Paintings, January-February 1988.
LiteratureJ. Margold, "He Sees Twin Bill Part of Long Run," Newsday, 16 February 1968 (illustrated).
''You Should Pardon The Expressionism," The Daily News, 16 February 1968 (illustrated).
L. Alloway, "Melpomene and Graffiti," Art International, XII, April,1968.
C. Andreae, "Adolph Gottlieb," The Christian Science Monitor, 23 July 1968 (illustrated).
D. Fry, "IMA Hosts Show of Gottlieb Abstracts," The Indianapolis Star, 16 May 1982 (illustrated).
Having spent a major part of his life by and on the sea, Adolph Gottlieb maintained a strong connection with nature. Yet, as much as the relationship between art, nature and experience is reflected in his work, Gottlieb emphasized that he was freed from the desire or need to transcribe that experience in traditional terms: “I never use nature as a starting point. I never abstract from nature I never consciously think of nature when I paint.” Unhindered by nature as the dominant force, his principal concern was one of self-discovery and the world of highly personal reflections. It is the ability to embrace the psychological manifestations of color and form and to express inner forces rather than being a reflection of experience or ideas.
That relationship with nature and real-world experience is especially relevant when discussing Gottlieb’s oeuvre. In particular, after 1951, he shows a consistent curiosity about figure-ground relationships that suggests a horizon line. Azimuth of 1965 has been characterized as resting between his Pictograph and Bursts works, but it clearly shares a strong affinity for his Imaginary Landscapes that evince referential zones delineating sky and ground. That said, Azimuth, is not a painting comfortably categorized. As a man devoted to sailing, Gottlieb clearly recognized that the pictographic elements in the upper zone suggested navigational and astronomical references that are well known to the sport. (Azimuth, for those who do not know is the point where a vertical circle passes through a given heavenly body and intersects the horizon.)
Irving Sandler, author of the trail blazing Triumph of American Painting had a difficult time defining Gottlieb. Was he an action painter or a color field painter? Most do not think of Gottlieb as a master colorist but Azimuth — though a study in color restraint — clearly illustrates that he is. In upper zone, a single rectilinear patch and a circular painted in black upon the blank canvas and below, accompanying pictographic forms laid upon a phthalo green stain. It is a painting that demonstrates that the properties of color can rule the physical mystery of shape and that in the absence of color, forms can float untethered, and without restraint upon a vast emptiness.
Azimuth was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1968 during Gottlieb’s great retrospective, a simultaneous exhibition between the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney in their only collaborative effort.
Adolph Gottlieb at the Whitney Museum with Stewart Kranz, 1968 Shown: “Units #2”, “Azimuth”, “Units #3”
Adolph Gottlieb at work in his studio circa 1965
“Counterpoint”, 1966, oil on canvas, 48 x 72 in. Aldolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation
"Life" Magazine Cover“Life” magazine on January 15, 1951.
Irascibles Letter to Metropolitan Museum of ArtMay 20, 1950, Open letter to Metropolitan Museum of Art
As New York City became the avant-garde’s global hub in the 1940s, radical, new approaches to art, such as action painting and abstraction, took root among the informally grouped New York School painters. By 1950, Abstract Expressionism was well underway, but the movement was often overlooked by institutions. When the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced its plan to exhibit a survey of contemporary American painting, many of the New York School painters felt there was a bias against more “progressive” art in the museum’s selection process, prompting them to draft an open letter protesting the show.
The letter garnered attention, and Life magazine published an article on the protest in January 1951, “The Irascible Group of Advanced Artists Led Fight Against Show.” To accompany the article, Nina Lee photographed 15 of the 18 painters who signed the letter, including Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Jackson Pollock, Clyford Still, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko. Today, this article is considered a turning point in the prominence of Abstract Expressionism, and the artists involved are often referred to as the “Irascibles.”
- The record price for an Adolph Gottlieb painting at auction was set in 2009 when Cool Blast (1960) sold for over $6,500,000. Cool Blast is an example of Gottlieb’s iconic “Burst” imagery of circles and lines in dynamic dichotomy.
- The graph prepared by Art Market Research shows that since 1976, works by Gottlieb have increased at an 8.6% annual rate of return. 2019 is the peak of the artist’s market thus far.
- The top 4 auction records for Gottlieb are held by works from his lauded Burst series, which he began in 1957. Azimuth emerged from both his Burst and Imaginary Landscape series, especially seen in the black graphic line and circle within a cyan puddle in the lower register. This painting hones the tense symmetry of the Burst series.
- Azimuth is an exceptionally monumental painting, even for an artist who produced large paintings. The only paintings sold at auction that match it in size are: Trinity (1962) in 2011 at 80 x 185 in., Antipodes (1959) also in 2011 at 89.5 x 182.9 in., and Green turbulence (1968) in 1989 at 94 x 157 in. Antipodes and Green turbulence exceeded auction estimates.
Top Results at Auction
"Cool Blast" (1960) sold for $6,537,000.
"Bonac" (1961) sold for $4,812,500.
"Transfiguration" (1958) sold for $4,450,500.
"Green Over Black" (1960) sold for $4,062,500.
Comparable Paintings Sold at Auction
"Bastille Day" (1961) sold for $750,000.
- Sold in the same auction from the same collection (The Collection of Morton and Barbara Mandel), though half the size of Azimuth, which accounts for a lower sale price – only $60,000 less.
- Earlier date of 1961, the same year as Bonac, the second highest auction record for Gottlieb, and only one year after Cool Blast, the record.
- Uncharacteristic example as Gottlieb seldom makes obvious reference to a symbol embedded in cultural or national use. This work’s title, stripes and red, white, and blue palette suggesting the French flag.
"Green Over Black" (1960) sold for $4,062,500.
- As the fourth highest auction record for Gottlieb currently, Green Over Black exhibits Gottlieb’s most favorable composition: two figures in vertical format, a circle of color suspended over a hash of dark lines.
- The palette of cyan and black upon a white background is very similar to Azimuth.
- Green Over Black is painted the same date (1960) as Gottlieb’s auction record, Cool Blast.
- This work falls into his Burst series, which Azimuth stylistically emerges from.
"Swing" (1970) sold for $1,820,000.
- While smaller than Azimuth, Swing is a recent sale of a horizontal work. The painting achieved a higher price than Azimuth a year and a half later, at the peak of Gottlieb’s market.
- Auction records for Gottlieb date to early 1960s. This work from 1970 gives a better sense of how works later in the decade, like Azimuth, might fare.
- Swing is also on a white background.