Portrait Relief of Claude Pascal
Yves Klein was pivotal to the resurgence of the avant garde in Europe after World War II. His public actions and rebellious rethinking of the role of the artist set the stage for generations of conceptual artists to come. Klein and Les Nouveaux Réalistes believed that the artist should be an instigator, a creator of stimuli: traditional oil painting and self expression were dead things of the past. Instead, Klein advocated a new realism of pure sensibility, through which he aimed to liberate the imagination.
This iconic portrait of Klein s friend (and sometime collaborator) the poet Claude Pascal is one of three such portraits he made just months before his untimely death at the age of thirty four. In early 1962, Klein set out to make a collective portrait of his friends and fellow Nouveaux Réalistes, each cast from life in the same pose, covered in his signature International Yves Klein Blue [IKB] and set against a majestic gold background. Klein’s own portrait was to be gold against a blue background. Klein completed only three of the preliminary plaster casts and he finished only the final relief of Arman (made of polyester resin). After Klein s death, his widow Rotraut Klein Moquay authorized editions of twelve of each of the three portraits. All were cast in bronze, a material Klein did not use during his lifetime, perhaps due to cost. Life size, frontal and nude, Portrait Relief of Claude Pascal recalls classical, imperial Roman sculptures. Klein s signature ultramarine pigment had, for the artist, both real, optical space and Zen like spiritual depth. It evoked immateriality. Applied to the portrait casts, his IKB gives the figure a metaphysical quality of both absence and presence, as if levitating from the earthly world.
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