Swann Galleries’ October 27 auction focuses on Atelier 17, the printmaking workshop founded by Stanley William Hayter, and its extraordinary influence on the fine arts in America and Europe from the mid 20th century onward. The sale, titled Atelier 17, Abstract Expressionism & The New York School, was a year in the making and is the first to explore the studio’s impact.
The auction catalogue is organized into three sections. The first, Atelier 17: Europe and the Early Years, features several engraving by Hayter, as well as surrealists such as Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst and Joan Miró. Among the attractions of Atelier 17 in the beginning were the magnetic personality and technical prowess of Hayter as printmaker and teacher, and the presence of experienced artists such as the Surrealists and others, including Alexander Calder, Jacques Lipchitz and Pablo Picasso, who worked side-by-side with younger artists.
The section Atelier 17 in New York highlights Hayter’s influence on a new crop of artists during his time at the New School. These artists experimented more with abstraction than surrealism, and some went on to establish their own printmaking studios and programs at other American universities. Jackson Pollock, whose New York apartment was located opposite Atelier 17, learned from Hayter the technique of drypoint and engraving, and the auction includes two untitled circa 1944-45 prints by the artist. One, an extremely scarce proof printed by, and formerly in the collection of, Gabor Peterdi, is only the second known impression before steel-facing (estimate: $25,000 to $35,000).
There are also prints by Peterdi himself, as well as a Still Life oil on canvas, 1953 ($7,000 to $10,000); prints by Fred Becker, Letterio Calapai, James Kleege, Mauricio Lasansky, and Andre Racz; as well as Norman Lewis’s Green and Black Abstraction, watercolor and ink, 1951 ($4,000 to $6,000) and Togetherness, etching, 1973 ($3,000 to $5,000); and two color pastels by Hans Burkhardt.
The final portion of the sale is dedicated to Abstract Expressionism and these examples serve to illustrate the experimental nature of Hayter’s approach to printmaking, and his attempts to fuse the Surrealist technique of Automatism with the expressive power of abstraction. There are screenprints by Pollock ($6,000 to $9,000 each); several prints by Willem de Kooning, including his earliest print, Revenge, a sugar-lift aquatint, 1960, which is also his only intaglio print ($5,000 to $8,000); his lithograph Woman at Clearwater Beach, 1971 ($10,000 to $15,000); and Quatre Lithographies, color lithograph, 1986 ($8,000 to $12,000); and a selection of color aquatints by Robert Motherwell, such as Orange Lyric, 1989 ($7,000 to $10,000) and The Red Queen, 1989 ($12,000 to $18,000).
Other Abstract Expressionist artists of note include Helen Frankenthaler, Adolph Gottlieb, Philip Guston, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Louise Nevelson and Larry Rivers.
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