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Thursday, December 3, 2020 at 6:00 PM CDT

Tradition & Innovation

Sale 5001 Lot 30

Gertrude Abercrombie
(American, 1909-1977)
Levitation, 1964
oil on masonite
signed and dated lower left
titled verso (label)
7 13/16" x 9 13/16"

Gilman Galleries, Chicago, Illinois
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Catalog Note:
Susan Weininger, the leading scholar and author of multiple comprehensive essays on Gertrude Abercrombie's art and life, has seen and confirmed the authenticity of this work.

"The theme of levitation is part of a broader interest in magic in Abercrombie's mature work. Although there is a surreal quality to her work from the beginning of her career, the overt references to magic date from the 1950s on. The marble top table which 'magically' came into her possession is the site of magic in her paintings as are the scenes of levitation." — Susan Weininger

This simplified 1964 version of Abercrombie's levitation paintings becomes more complex as the viewer studies the work. The floating figure of Abercrombie above her iconic chaise lounge is in a dreamlike state with an outstretched arm and a pointed finger, elements of iconography seen in other paintings by the artist. The figure's hair, rather than flowing freely, comes to a point similar to that of a witch's hat, while the bottom of the dress conforms to the shape of the chaise. Typical of the artist's wit, directly below the figure's pointed finger is a tiny cat peeking out from the shadow under the couch. The cat, in contrast to the figure, is wide awake, staring straight out at the viewer and the eyes are reminiscent of the casters supporting the furniture it is hiding beneath. Rather than setting the image firmly in an interior space (see the baseboard in Floating Lady, a similar painting from 1958, indicating an indoor setting), this arrangement is lacking a baseboard and the background becomes a dark blue-grey sky in which a white cloud floats above the figure. In addition, the top of the cloud is pushed upward taking on the shape of Abercrombie's supine face. Done in a meticulous style that she often aimed for but did not always achieve, this is a beautiful example of a late Abercrombie work.

Estimate $10,000-20,000

Sold for $112,500