Manoucher Yektai (Iran, born 1922) Tomato Plant, Morning
Lot 36A*
Manoucher Yektai
(Iran, born 1922)
Tomato Plant, Morning
Sold for £ 72,500 (US$ 101,110) inc. premium

Lot Details
Manoucher Yektai (Iran, born 1922)
Tomato Plant, Morning
oil on canvas
signed "Yektai" and dated "1959" in English (lower right),two stamps on the verso from the Poindexter Gallery and the Cincinnati Art Museum baring the title, date of execution and size of the artwork, executed in 1959
107 x 107cm (42 1/8 x 42 1/8in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Property from a private collection, Miami
    Property of the Cincinnati Art Museum until 1978
    Garth's Auction Inc, Ohio, August 12, 1978, lot 312
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

    Exhibited:
    New York, Poindexter Gallery, early 1960s

    AN IMPORTANT STILL LIFE BY MANOUCHER YEKTAI
    FORMERLY IN THE COLLECTION OF THE CINCINNATI MUSEUM OF ART


    "Yektai wanted to render us conscious of our existence from second to second, of the joy of breathing, of the rapid changes of things" – John Ashberry

    "Around 1958, Yektai entered his present phase, a period of immense bravura, lyricism, power, directness and of a determined abstract commitment" – Robert Pincus-Witten

    "His style, overrun by thick, torrential impastos as elegant as they are volatile, barely respects the shapes and edges of things. "nature" here suggests a movement that attracts the gestural propensities of the artist. ...there are so many exciting passages - particularly in the several tomato plants in which form and movement are as engaged as in his figures. Yektai continues to grow." - Clement Greenberg

    Bonhams have the rare honour of presenting one of the most formidable examples of Manoucher Yektai's inimitable and striking expressionist still life compositions. A painting of remarkable pedigree, "Tomato Plant, Morning" was exhibited at Poindexter Gallery in 1959, and after a period in the permanent collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum (1964-1980), the work entered a private Florida collection, and comes back to the market for the first time in nearly four decades.

    Monumental, powerful and enigmatic, "Tomato Plant, Morning" exhibits all the lyrical intensity of Yektai's dramatic technique; an artist at the creative high point of his career, Yektai's 1950's work is exemplified by exhilarating lyric flurries of paint, thick rapier like strokes, and a virtuoso handling of impasto.

    Unlike his later, more somber, paired down still life compositions Tomato Plant, like other works from the 1950's is imbued with a palpable sense of density and dynamism. Here we may notice the influence of action painting on Yektai's style with its powerful, energetic technique evident in the torrent of lush decisive strokes which surround the Tomato Plant. This painterly looseness, however, is channeled within a well-contained, tight composition – the unlikely harmony of freedom and discipline writ large in paint.

    Born in Tehran, Yektai is considered one of the unsung founders of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. After an early encounter with Iranian painter Mehdi Vishkaei, Yektai decided almost overnight to become an artist, failing to show up for his school exams one morning and proclaiming that he was destined to be a painter.

    Renowned for shunning easel painting, Yektai's habit of working his canvases from the floor stem from a painting session in the outskirts of Tehran in the 1930's, where he found himself unable to work with his canvas propped against a tree due to the wind, ending up finishing the composition on the ground, a method that would stay with him for his whole career, and one to which he attributes much of his dynamism and artistic freedom.

    Between 1945 and 1947, he studied with Amédée Ozenfant in Paris, France, and later in New York City. In 1951 and 1952 Leo Castelli brought some friends, including early Abstract-Expressionist painters, to see Yektai's New York exhibitions shows. Castelli introduced him to the 9th Street Club in 1951 and he soon became a friend of Rothko,Tobey, Guston, and others. In the mid-1950S he was included in classic group exhibitions of early Abstract-Expressionism at the Stable Gallery and elsewhere, with older generation artists such as DeKooning, Pollock, Newman, and Kline. From 1957 till 1965 he showed at Poindexter. With this background it would be easy to regard Yektai as a key member of the New York School.

    Conceptually and stylistically, the present work is a fascinating example of the very subtle sense of tension between naturalism and abstraction manifest in Yektais work. Firmly established as one of the founding members of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, Yektai's work was shaped and informed by his artistic milieu: luminaries such as Rothko, Pollock, De Kooning and Kline.

    It is notable however that throughout his work the submission to abstraction is never complete, and that the artists love and appreciation of tangible forms ensures a strong presence of naturalism in his compositions. Yektai's desire not to forsake the identity of his surroundings, ultimately, his attachment to natural forms would not grant abstraction a total victory, and it is in this tension that his artistic sincerity is most deeply revealed.

    In composition and technique, "Tomato Plant, Morning" is a unique blend of the artists dramatic gestural style and the influence of the still life genre, and in particular the palette and textural quality of post-impressionists like Cezanne and Toulouse Lautrec. An artist that was a key member of one of the defining movements of twentieth century art, Yektai nevertheless demonstrated an artistic freedom and originality which set him apart from his peers
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