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Serge Poliakoff (Russia/France 1906‑1969)

Composition abstraite, 1960

To be sold at our Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary Art + Design 8 – 10 November 2023

Lot 427 Serge Poliakoff (Russia/France 1906‑1969). Composition abstraite. Signed Serge Poliakoff lower right. Gouache on paper, 47.5 x 63 cm.

Executed in 1960.
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Alexis Poliakoff, Editions Melki, Paris.


300.000 – 400.000 SEK
€ 26.000 – 35.000


Svensk-Franska Konstgalleriet, Stockholm, ”Serge Poliakoff”, 10 November-2 December 1962.

Born in Moscow on the 8th of January 1900, the Russian painter Serge Poliakoff became one of the most important abstract painters of postwar Europe. After fleeing revolutionary Russia in 1917, Poliakoff made a short stop in Constantinopel before arriving in Paris in 1923. While earning his living as a musician, Serge’s interest in the art of painting grew and in 1929 he enrolled in both Académie Forchot and Académie de la Grande Chaumière. During his first period in the French capital, Poliakoff’s work were mainly focused on classic academic subjects such as nudes, nature and horses. However this came to change in 1935 when Serge Poliakoff again moved, this time to London where he enrolled in the Slade School of Fine Art. From now on the abstract side of art and the layering of paint became a subject of interest for the 35-year old Poliakoff.

A few years later Serge once again set sail for Paris. Poliakoff’s second spell in Paris came to be a period of immerse studies in the art of colourful abstract painting. A great source of inspiration was his new acquaintance and fellow countryman Wassily Kandinsky. Further inspiration was drawn from the artist couple of Sonia and Robert Delaunay as well as the sculptor Otto Freundlich, all working with abstract colourful art. Poliakoff’s work now developed in a way where he let colour itself form the context of the painting and like all abstract painters Poliakoff became concerned with the relationships between line and surface, form and content, colour and light. During the late 1940s Poliakoff also developed his very special way of abstract painting, arranging different fields of colour alongside one another and he came to be a front figure for the École de Paris.

Poliakoff’s early post-war work is often characterised by his use of earthy colours such as shades of brown and grey. However, in the late 1940s and 1950s the palette changed to become brighter and more contrasting. The gouache included in this sale is a colourful composition composed by different shades of blue, a motif he returned to several times during the late 1950s and 1960s. It shows an arrangement of different shapes and even though there is no direct symmetry between the colour fields, together they form a true chromatic balance. The colours appear through various forms where every shape is unique. These characteristic interlocking jigsaw arrangements is typical for Poliakoff’s compositions from this period. Poliakoff himself declared; “The painting should be monumental, that is to say larger than its dimensions,” in his Cahier 1 of 1965.

Serge Poliakoff is regarded as one of the foremost artists of the 20th century and has influenced the western art scene to a great extent. During his lifetime, he was praised by the most influential abstract art historians and played a major part in the post-war debates on abstraction. His celebrated works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, Malmö konsthall in Sweden, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C. among others, as well as in many prominent private collections worldwide.  

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