Jun 24, 2010 - Sale 2219

Sale 2219 - Lot 16

Price Realized: $ 18,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 20,000 - $ 30,000
NORMAN LEWIS (1909 - 1979)
City Night.

Oil on wood panel, 1949. 610x455 mm; 24x18 inches. Signed and dated in incised oil, lower right recto. Titled "City Nights" in ink and "City Night" in crayon on the verso.

Provenance: acquired directly from the artist; collection of Oral Lovell, Wellesley, MA: thence by descent to the current owner, private collection.

Exhibited: Willard Gallery, New York, with the gallery label on the panel verso. The artist had his first solo exhibition at Willard Gallery in 1949. A painting entitled City Lights is listed in the catalogue for his 1950 exhibition.

City Night is one of the first scarce "black" paintings and one of the earliest abstract paintings by Norman Lewis to come to auction. Lewis found his first abstract idiom in the urban life of New York City. He would paint what he saw from his studio window or on walks at night in Harlem. Beginning with Tenement, 1948, Lewis found an abstract pattern in the colored rectangles of illuminated windows against the black ground of the darkened city. In City Night, Lewis condensed the abstraction of New York tenements into a denser, more organic grid that is less literal, and is bissected with lines representing clothes and power lines strung between buildings. The abstraction of the vertical structure in this painting and other cityscapes reflects Lewis's growing modernist approach to painting at the end of the 1940s. Conwill pp. 32-33.