BRAM VAN VELDE (1895-1981)

Lot 57
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Estimation :
170000 - 200000 EUR
Result with fees
Result : 220 520EUR
BRAM VAN VELDE (1895-1981)

Sans titre, 1977, Arles ou Grimaud (?)

Washed China ink and gouache on gelatined wipe lavis B by Canson, signed with brush BRAM v V lower center

120.5 x 149.5 cm

47 1/4 x 59 1/16 in.


Painter with a unique and unclassifiable style, Bram van Velde was born in 1895 in the Netherlands and died in 1981 in Grimaud. His life was marked by material and mental misery, wandering from a country to another and lack of artistic recognition. However, by his perseverance and the unique and radical character of his art, he will benefit at the end of his life from the recognition of the institutions and the public, which he had missed so much. A promising painter from his early years, he was supported by the Kramers, a family of collectors who owned an industrial painting factory where he worked. With their financial support and encouragement, Bram van Velde travelled to Germany from 1921 to 1924, where he discovered the German Expressionists, then the works of Matisse and Picasso in Paris between 1924 and 1931. He also met the writer and poet Samuel Beckett, who would remain his friend and tireless supporter. Beckett would also be one of the main exegetes and disseminators of the work of Bram van Velde.

From 1932 to 1936, Bram van Velde moved to Mallorca with his first wife, who died there accidentally. Fleeing the beginnings of the Spanish Civil War, he settled in the Paris region in 1936. He remained in France during the Occupation and did not paint during this period, which he lived very badly, leading a life of misery. Like the French abstract artists of his time, he was marked by the war and the vicissitudes of his time. He affirms: "I do not paint. I try to make visible the phenomena of our time.

In 1948, the gallery owner Aimé Maeght exhibited his work with his brother Geer in Paris and in New York under an agreement with the American gallery owner Samuel Kootz. The public will not be at the rendezvous and Maeght will separate from Bram van Velde and in 1952 Aimé Maeght will not renew their contract of collaboration. Spotted at the same time by the art critic Jacques Putman, who will become a faithful friend and supporter, Bram van Velde even moved in with him for a while. The two friends are buried side by side in the cemetery of Grimaud. He also travelled to Switzerland, where he finally received the recognition he had lacked until then, as proven by his first retrospective exhibition, held in Bern in 1958. In 1990, the Centre Pompidou paid homage to Bram Van Velde by designating him as one of the essential figures of abstract art, who knew how to radically question gestures and forms from the 1940s.


The work we are proposing today, dated 1977, coincides with a period in which Bram van Velde was gaining recognition in the art world with retrospectives organized in major galleries and museums in Europe. In fact, in 1973 he returned to the Maeght Gallery, thus crowning the arrival of a long-awaited success that would never be denied. It was also in the 1970s that Bram van Velde settled permanently in the South of France. Painted in Grimaud or in Arles, this painting shows many of Bram van Velde's characteristic features. Having abandoned cubism at the end of the 1940s, he continued to work with geometric forms, particularly the triangle. He rounded the angles and stretched the proportions, combining the structure and rigor of Nordic expressionism with the curve. The forms soften and arch, the paint slips and flows - Bram Van Velde says "to paint the impossibility of painting".

Gouache is the privileged medium of the artist's production, faster than oil, it favors the collapse of forms and colors, a way to express the refusal to fix them definitively. It is a medium close to the gesture, and the traces of the hand are inscribed more noticeably than in the thickness of the oil. Here, the palette is reduced to a gradation of black and gray, typical of the year 1977 from which he will paint only in three colors: black, red and mauve. His production is also reduced, he paints little and with little means, as if to symbolize the destitution of his life.

As shown by its exhibition history and its lithographs reproductions, this artwork is the synthesis of this period of the artist's life, an emblem of a long awaited success for Bram van Velde.

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