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Lot #47 

Toyen (1902–1980)

The Loners

oil on canvas
110 × 81 cm
Estimate: 35,000,000 CZK - 55,000,000 CZK
Starting price: 25,000,000 CZK
Hammer price:
45,000,000 CZK
Absolutely exceptional and rare on the art market, The Loners represents the work of extraordinary qualities by one of the most important personalities of European surrealism, Toyen. This unique artwork from 1934 illustrates the artist’s interest in the female torso, to which she began to devote herself in this year and in which she synthesised foundations and knowledge that had become crucial for the rest of her work. The concise image of the torso became the main motif of her paintings and it attracts the beholders attention with its almost tangible qualities. The shading of the colours in the background decreases from darker to light, creating high-contrast wrinkles that break down the actual mass structure of the painting. These colour transitions construct an illusory and endless space supporting the subject-matter of the painting, to which the name itself refers – The Loners. The free-standing torso thus represents an anthropomorphic depiction of loneliness, which Toyen often expressed around 1934 in a suggestively emotional way. In her paintings, we often encounter bodies without internal volumes or corsets without bodies. These include, for example, the paintings Pink Spectrum and Prometheus, as well as the works Voice of the Forest I, II and III executed a little later, which had the same inspiration source. The Loners is thus a characteristic, yet unique artistic achievement of this acclaimed artist, which points to her extraordinary sensitivity and masterfulness. Although Toyen’s paintings were not always based directly on a dream experience, they often seemed so at first glance, which is why they also attracted eminent Czech poet Vítězslav Nezval, who in 1934 sought for inspiration in surrealist paintings. He was so intrigued by Toyen’s torsi that, based on her artwork The Voice of the Forest, he even wrote a poem of the same title. The presented painting can thus clearly be considered timeless and of the highest art historical and collectors’ value for its initiating potential within the artist’s work.
The painting is reproduced in the artist’s monograph (K. Srp: Toyen, Prague City Gallery, Argo 2000, p. 113, fig. 129) as well as in the book Czech Surrealism 1929–1953 (L. Bydžovská / K. Srp, Argo 1996, p. 124) and in the book Toyen, une femme surréaliste (K. Srp, Artha 2002, p. 110, fig. 64.) It was first presented at the First Exhibition of the Surrealist Group in Czechoslovakia (Prague, SVU Mánes, 15. 1. – 3. 2. 1935, cat. No. 183), where it was for sale for the price of 2600 Czechoslovak crowns. It was also presented at the exhibition of Štyrský and Toyen in 1966 (Moravian Gallery in Brno, cat. No. 175), which was repeated in 1967 in Prague Mánes, and further at exhibitions: Czech Surrealism 1929–1953 in Municipal Library in Prague (16 October 1996 – 5 January 1997, cat. No. 491), Toyen in the Stone Bell House (Prague, 12 May – 6 August 2000, cat. No. 67) and Toyen in the Musée d´Art Moderne in Saint-Étienne (Musée d´Art Moderne, Saint-Étienne Metropole, 28 June – 30 September 2002, cat. No. 67).
Assessed during consultations by prof. J. Zemina and PhDr. J. Machalický. From the attached expertise by PhDr. K. Srp: “[...] This painting is a great example of Toyen’s early introduction into surrealism, which was crucial and brought unique artistic benefits. Although Toyen did not depict any features of the human figure in The Loners, it touched human existence very strongly: The strong balance of the two abstract shapes reflected the existential tensions that were often associated with anxiety for Toyen. The main figure, consisting of black and white-gray horizontal stripes, freely resembles a human torso, whilst the two smaller figures to the right behind it contain slits that may be based on the artist’s previous interest in isolated eyes. [...]”