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  • Niki de Saint Phalle Queen of Hearts c.1960–1

    Niki de Saint Phalle
    Queen of Hearts
    c.1960–1
    Wood and various objects (playing card, woodblock letter “N”, rope , wire, broken plate…) on wood
    560 x 405 mm

    Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany

  • Niki de Saint Phalle La hachoir 1960

    Niki de Saint Phalle
    La hachoir 1960
    Paint, plaster and objects (meat cleaver, ball of string, rolling pin, various tools…) on plywood 650 x 500 mm

    Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany

  • Niki de Saint Phalle Family Portrait 1954–5

    Niki de Saint Phalle
    Family Portrait 1954–5
    Oil on canvas
    1510.3 x 1000 mm

    Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany

  • Niki de Saint Phalle Pink Nude with Dragon c.1956–8

    Niki de Saint Phalle
    Pink Nude with Dragon c.1956–8
    Oil and various objects (coffee beansm beads, pebbles, broken crockery, lids…) on plywood
    1435 x 2000 mm

    Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany

Early works and assemblages

Personal crisis in the early 1950s led Niki de Saint Phalle to begin painting. Her works of this period were naïve in style and depict figures, imaginary landscapes, buildings and mythical creatures using a broad range of colours, covering surfaces with dense and decorative patterns. The paintings are highly distinctive with subjects mediated through the artist’s personal experiences and vivid imagination. They include themes that continued to appear throughout her career – mythology, the domestic environment, man, woman and femininity.

As Saint Phalle’s work developed she began to create an immensely personal world using found everyday materials, such as plastic toys and household objects, embedded in plaster reliefs. The works became increasingly abstract, reducing the decorative patterns of her early paintings to pared down landscapes.
In 1959–60 Saint Phalle introduced a number of violent objects into her work – knives, nails, blades and guns. These works were explorations and manifestations of her personal aggression and are a revolt against the constraints of her social environment, her bourgeois upbringing and feelings of entrapment. Many of these assemblages, such as Le Hachoir 1960 and La Paysage de la mort (Collage de la Mort) 1960, were termed ‘Death Landscapes’. They are evocative of the desolation and darkness she was experiencing at the time.

Influenced by Jean Tinguely, with whom she now lived, works such as Queen of Hearts 1960–1 were given a dynamism and expanded sculptural presence through the use of wire attached directly to the picture surface. Recognition for such invented assemblages was finally achieved through her participation in the Art of Assemblage exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1961.

Other works in this room

Scorpion and Stag c.1956–8
Oil and various objects on plywood
1400 x 2000 mm
Donation de l’artiste. Collection Mamac, Nice

Assemblage Painting 1959
Paint and metal objects on plywood         
1305 x 1950 x 140 mm
Donation de l’artiste. Collection Mamac, Nice

Brooch 1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
5.7 x 8 x 1.5 cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

Chess Pawn 1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
57.6 x 5.7 x 1.9cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

Fleur 1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
8.2 x 6.2 x 1.2cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

Rusty Nail I 1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
7.6 x 12 x 0.6cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

Screw Hook 1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
5.7 x 7.6 x 3.1 cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

Red Ribbon 1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
9.5 x 7.6 x 0.6 cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

String I 1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
6.3 x 6.9 x 1.2 cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

String 4  1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
8.2 x 6.3 cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

String 5 1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
7.6 x 5.7 x 0.6 cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

String 6 1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
8.2 x 6.3 cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

Wood Ball 1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
7.6 x 6.3 x 2.5 cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

Red I 1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
7.6 x 6.3 x 1.2 cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

Petit Chapeau 1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
7.8 x 6.3 x 1.9 cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

Petit Sombrero 1961
Paint, plaster and small found objects on masonite
7.8 x 6.3 x 1.2 cm
© 2008, NIKI CHARITABLE ART FOUNDATION, All rights reserved

La Fete c.1933–4
Oil on canvas
1270 x 1780 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Entre la ville et la fleur (Femme entre la ville et la fleur) c.1956–8
Oil and various objects on canvas
1640 x 1160 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Portrait of a Woman c.1958–9
Oil and various objects (pebbles, coffee beans, broken crockery…) on wood
1410 x 1410 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Night Experiment c.1959
Paint, plaster and various objects (tools, handguns, nails…) on plywood
1300 x 1960 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Broken Plates c.1958
Plaster and various objects (broken crockery, jigsaw puzzle pieces…) on wood
550 x 650 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Revolution c.1960–1
Paint, plaster and various objects (discs, spatula, metal grid, nails, headless statuette…) on plywood
620 x 500 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Paysage de la mort (Collage de la mort) 1960
Paint, plaster and various objects (tools, hatpin, razor blade, doll’s hand, toy handgun…) on plywood
660 x 500 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Rubber Glove and Three of Spades c.1960–1
Plaster and various objects (blue rubber glove, playing card three of spades, wire, painted fabric, paint tube,
round metal box…) on plywood mounted on wood
780 x 570 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Two Cowboys c.1960–1
Paint, plaster and various objects (two toy cowboys, domino, beads, corrugated cardboard…) on plywood mounted on
wood
325 x 345 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Toy Yellow Car c.1960–1
Paint, plaster, wood and various objects (yellow toy car, potsherds, blue glass, jigsaw puzzle pieces, metal tray,
pastel drawing on paper) on plywood
545 x 650 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Fusee et gant de caoutchouc c.1960–1
Paint, plaster, wood and various objects (broken plates, shells, scissors…) on plywood
540 x 650 mm
Collection Sprengel Museum, Hannover, DE

Sans titre c. 1959–60
Paint and various objects on plywood
620 x 400 mm
Donation de l’artiste. Collection Mamac, Nice

Sans titre c.1959–60
Paint and various objects on plywood
600 x 480 mm
Donation de l’artiste. Collection Mamac, Nice

Ace of Spades c. 1960–1
Plaster and various objects on plywood mounted on wood
275 x 185 mm
Donation de l’artiste. Collection Mamac, Nice

Gant de travail c. 1960–1
Paint, plaster and various objects on wood
340 x 320 x 60 mm
Donation de l’artiste. Collection Mamac, Nice

Violon c.1960–1
Paint, plaster and various objects on wood
650 x 502 x 178 mm
Donation de l’artiste. Collection Mamac, Nice

Van Harte Betterschap (Valentine) c. 1960–1
Plaster and various objects on plywood mounted on wood
570 x 840 x 210 mm
Donation l’artiste. Collection Mamac, Nice