Cissie Kean (1871-1961), Red Kite, c. 1925
Oil on canvas
Signed with Studio stamp verso
55 x 38 cm
73 x 56 cm (Framed)
£12,000 plus any applicable taxes
British artist Cissie Kean (1871-1961) was born in London to a wealthy family of German coffee merchants. Kean developed an interest in painting from a young age, but her family made it clear that a career as a painter would not be suitable for a young woman of her social standing. However, she would go against her family’s wishes after being crippled as a young adult in a severe riding accident. After this transformative event, Kean was determined to dedicate her life to painting.
Kean completed her artistic studies at the renowned Académie Julian in Paris, where she was awarded a medal for her work in 1906. During this period, her works were strongly influenced by avant-garde artists André Lhôte and Jean Marchand. At the onset of WWI, Kean returned to London where she set up a studio and spent time travelling and attending painting groups around England with fellow artists Bertha Johnson and Lila Sampson. In 1916-19, she painted watercolours with New Zealand artist Frances Hodgkins in areas such as Chipping Camden and exhibited at the New English Art Club in London 1921 and 1922. After the War, Kean travelled extensively in the Mediterranean and Brazil. But the lure of Paris would prove difficult to resist and Kean would return there in the late 1920s to work under André Lhôte once more, as well as Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant. This second Parisian period saw Kean, then in her fifties, dramatically and decisively develop her personal style. Closely following Léger’s approach to objects in his still lifes from this period, Kean arranges flat, highly simplified and semi-abstract forms of varying themes in a layered, interlocking quasi-geometric composition. This flat geometry is only broken by a few occasional naturalistic elements. This juxtaposition successfully imbues Kean’s subject matter with a sense of vitality, movement and monumentality despite the work’s relatively modest scale. Kean’s spirit of experimentation and her innate ability to execute the careful balance between representation and abstraction which the Cubists sought to maintain make her a female artist with a unique artistic voice. However, despite being one of the founding members and regular contributors to the London-based Three Arts Club, as so often happens with the work of women painters of independent means, Kean’s works were rarely exhibited with the intention of selling. At the request of her family, she maintained a low profile and most of her papers and some of her works were sadly lost or destroyed in the years following her death. Happily, despite these obstacles her oeuvre survives, and in the end, Kean succeeded in pursuing her passion and dedicating her life to art.
The Estate of the Artist