Pollock’s ‘Red Composition’ to highlight Christie’s auction

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), ‘Red Composition,’ 1946, signed ‘Jackson Pollock’ (lower right); signed again and dated ‘Pollock 46’ (on the reverse), oil on Masonite

NEW YORK – Christie’s will offer as a highlight of its newly announced Evening Sale of 20th and 21st Century Art on October 6. Estimated at $12 million-$18 million, Red Composition is an important early work by the celebrated American artist whose drip painting technique would come to revolutionize 20th century art.

Painted directly after his seminal “Sounds in Grass” series, this intricate and multifaceted work stands among the first paintings in which Pollock freed paint from the interference of his brush, allowing it to take on its own form and in the process become a manifestation of true abstraction.

Barrett White, Christie’s executive deputy chairman comments, “The last painting the artist completed in 1946, Red Composition is an exceedingly rare opportunity to acquire a museum-quality work by Pollock that marks the breakthrough of his fabled drip technique. Red Composition was painted directly after Free Form, arguably his first drip painting, which is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Reveling in his flowing skeins of paint, Pollock announces his arrival and leadership of the New York School Irascibles with the daring composition and vibrant red palette of Red Composition.”

The painting is offered for sale by the Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York, as part of a larger museum commitment to refine and diversify its collection and establish a fund for future acquisitions of artworks by artists of color, women artists, and other under-represented emerging and mid-career artists. A portion of the proceeds will establish a fund for the direct care of the remainder of the collection. The decision to sell is in keeping with guidelines established by the American Alliance of Museums and has the support of the Board of Trustees of the Museum as well as the foundation established by Dorothy and Marshall M. Reisman who donated the work in 1991.

Red Composition first belonged to the legendary dealer and gallery owner Peggy Guggenheim who was one of Jackson Pollock’s earliest and most ardent patrons. Guggenheim then gave the painting to James [Jimmy] Ernst, son of the Surrealist painter Max Ernst in 1947. Ernst Senior was one of the most influential voices of the European avant-garde, and after a tumultuous courtship was married to Guggenheim between 1941 and 1946. Early in the 1950s, the painting was then acquired by New York businessman and Syracuse native Marshall Reisman and his wife Dorothy. It remained in their personal collection for over 40 years until it was donated in 1991 to the Everson Museum of Art.

Red Composition is the second highlight of Christie’s Oct. 6 Evening Sale to be announced, joining  Paul Cézanne’s Nature morte avec pot au lait, melon et sucrier, a superlative watercolor still life from the collection of the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan (in the region of $25 million).