Felicia Leirner



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Not on display
Felicia Leirner 1904–1994
Original title
Object: 1064 x 686 x 584 mm
Presented by P.M. Bardi 1962

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After training as a singer, Leirner began to make sculpture in the vibrant artistic atmosphere of Sao Paulo in the late 1940s. Her early figurative works attracted prestigious commissions but by the late 1950s she had moved towards abstraction. Composition is among a small group of pivotal works that use complex structures as a means of commemoration. Leirner associated it with her mournful 'reflections upon life and death’ that followed the loss of her husband, a period in which she sought ‘the sublimation of everything through art'.

Gallery label, December 2009

Catalogue entry

Felicia Leirner born 1904

T00535 Composition 1962

Inscribed 'FELICIA' near bottom
Bronze, 41 7/8 x 27 x 23 (106.5 x 68.5 x 58.5)
Presented by P.M. Bardi 1962
Prov: P.M. Bardi, São Paulo (from the artist)
Lit: 'Felicia Leirner na Tate Gallery' in Habitat, No. 71, 1963, p.45 repr.; Mário Pedrosa, 'The Work of Felicia Leirner' in the catalogue of the Leirner room at the 1965 São Paulo Bienal
Repr: Studio, CLXVI, 1963, p.256

The artist states that this is one of a series of six sculptures of this particular type made after her husband's death, 'a very difficult time for me, and there was definitely either a conscious or unconscious symbolism, it is difficult to say, of the feelings of loss, and also of reflections upon life and death, and the sublimation of everything through art' (letter of 10 February 1976).

According to Mário Pedrosa, she discovered on recovering from this painful experience a radical formal reduction, which she started to use as a leitmotif in constructions built out of two-dimensional planes rather than volumes. 'This reduction was made of crossed parts, real crosses. It was not invented by her - it appeared on a series of works like nailed to the walls of memorial monuments. From there originated vertical structures, crowned by pointed arches, arrows of church chapels, of gothicizing castles'.

The Tate's sculpture is the first of an edition of two bronzes. The second cast, which was exhibited at the São Paulo Bienal of 1963, is now in the artist's sculpture garden in Campos do Jordão. There is no artist's proof and there were no casts in other materials. The sculpture was modelled in clay, without any preliminary maquettes, and exists only on this scale.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.422, reproduced p.422

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