William Nelson Copley - Coffee Break - image-1

Lot 88 D

William Nelson Copley - Coffee Break

Auction 1155 - overview Cologne
19.06.2020, 18:00 - Modern and Contemporary Art - Evening Sale
Estimate: 40.000 € - 50.000 €
Result: 108.750 € (incl. premium)

William Nelson Copley

Coffee Break

Oil on canvas. 51 x 61 cm. Framed. Signed and dated 'Cply 63'. Signed, dated and titled 'COFFEE BREAK Cply 63' verso on canvas. - Traces of studio and minor traces of age.

As a child, William Copley was adopted by a wealthy publisher which enabled him to lead a carefree existence and to liberally pursue his interests in art. At the end of the 1940s, Copley came into contact with the art of Surrealism and became friends with artists who had emigrated from Europe such as Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, and Roberto Matta as well the American surrealists Man Ray and Joseph Cornell. In a short-lived career as an art dealer that only lasted a few months, Copley attempted to popularise Surrealism in California with his gallery in Los Angeles. Eventually, he himself bought many works for his own art collection that he had taken on commission. In 1951, he accompanied Man Ray to Paris where he then lived for 13 years and began to paint autodidactically. With his collages and oil paintings, Copley orientated himself towards Surrealism and Dadaism and frequently quoted tongue-in-cheek the famous motifs of his Parisian artist friends, but also set pieces from art history. His standardised figures, which are strongly dominated by their outlines, by vibrant colours, and themes inspired by everyday life pre-empt integral elements of Pop Art.
With their ever erotic, more or less explicit content, Copley's works testify to the artist's unconcerned, hedonistic, and humorous attitude to life. “However, the importance of Copley's art is more profound than the light-hearted content and the aesthetically decorative charm initially suggest. The paintings judge neither sin nor virtue, they lack any moral. This gives the paintings and drawings a subversive power which in its intentionally profane handwriting targets diverse dogmas, those of bourgeois 'decency', and the demands of traditional high art and the 'right' artistic style.” (Brigitte Reinhardt, in: William N. Copley, True Confessions, exhib.cat. Ulmer Museum, Ostfildern-Ruit 1997, p.11)
In dense succession 'Coffee Break' features the same type of unclothed women with voluptuous feminine forms and striking towering hairstyles. Only distinguishable through their hair colour and pose, the women stand facing each other - obviously chatting and touching each other at the same time. Here, Copley associates the everyday, innocuous coffee break of office employees in a carefree and humorous manner with an erotically charged harem scene.


Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York (label verso); Robert Fraser Gallery, London (label verso); Galerie Zwirner, Cologne; private collection, North Rhine-Westphalia


Ulm 1997 (Ulmer Museum), William N. Copley, True Confessions, exhib.cat.no.20, p.55 with colour illus.
Zurich 1995 (Galerie Lelong), William N. Copley, Selected Paintings and Drawings (label verso)