May 21, 2017


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Lot 158: Nejad Melih Devrim

Lot 158: Nejad Melih Devrim


Oil on canvas
Signed and dated lower center
Canvas: 21.75" x 18.125"; Frame: 23" x 19.375"
Provenance: Anita and Tom May, Beverly Hills, California
Estimate: $6,000 - $9,000
Price Realized: $8,750
Inventory Id: 25157

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The Turkish abstract painter Nejad Melih Devrim (1923—1995) was an important member of the postwar Parisian avant-garde, whose work continues to be highly sought after today. Hailing from a family of renowned intellectuals, authors and poets, he was the son of writer Izzet Melih Devrim and painter Fahrelnissa Zeid. Through his mother, Devrim became interested in art and began making paintings inspired by the work of French artists Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse while still a high school student at the reputable Lycée de Galatasaray. He studied art at the Istanbul Academy of Fine Art, graduating in 1941, and subsequently relocated to Paris. Devrim lived and worked in the city from approximately 1946—1968.

Since roughly 1900, Paris was the unrivaled center of artistic activity and innovation, where artists from all over the world flocked in huge numbers. Devrim became part of this diverse gathering of internationals, whose works were loosely grouped under the affiliation of the School of Paris. Prominent figureheads from this acclaimed circle included Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brancusi, Marc Chagall and Amedeo Modigliani. Devrim’s contribution to this group was recognized with his inclusion in the Salon de Mai and Salon des Réalités Nouvelles exhibitions. He was the first Turkish painter to stage a solo show of abstract art in Paris in 1947. During this period, Devrim became acquainted with acclaimed artists and writers like Marcel Duchamp and Gertrude Stein. By 1955, the artist had started to produce graphics and plate illustrations for books by Surrealist and Dada intellectuals such as Paul Éluard and Tristan Tzara.

Immersed in this avant-garde community, Devrim honed his signature style, a distinctive synthesis of western art and the culture of his homeland, combining the energetic coloring of Fauvism and the angular mark-making of Cubism, with aspects of Ottoman calligraphy, abstract Islamic art and intricate Byzantine mosaics, which he had studied in Istanbul. These influences are evident in Untitled (1957), a luminous painting produced during Devrim’s time in Paris. Vibrant cerulean and azure hues are rendered in thick, expressive daubs of paint. These rich colors are reminiscent of the bright tones of the stained glass windows at Chartres Cathedral, which Devrim visited periodically. The artist has skillfully added contrast to the painting’s sweeping diagonals with glints of grey and amber highlights and lyrical black undertones, the forms of which mirror the sweeping curves of Arabic script.

Devrim’s works are held in several important collections including the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris; Musée Royaux des Beaux–Arts, Brussels; Istanbul Museum of Painting and Sculpture, as well as in various esteemed private collections.

“Nejad Melih Devrim.” Galeri Nev Istanbul, n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2017. Voorhies, James. “School of Paris.” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oct. 2004. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.