Late Paintings and Drawings

11 Nov 2016 – 3 Feb 2017

The Merchant House is proud to present JUDIT REIGL, a visionary figure of contemporary abstraction, a key contributor to its post-conceptual rebirth and unfolding. Installed in dialogue with Reigl, her first show in Amsterdam explores her late five-canvas monumental series Déroulement (phase IV–anthropomorphie), 2008, and the last of Oiseaux, 2012, with 15 vertical scrolls of flying birds.

Reigl’s keen erudition and unorthodox outlook—from a non-Western (off-center) starting point—ground her concept of physical movement, from migration to inner mobility, to ward off stasis and conformism. Bravely parting with the Surrealist group in 1954, just as André Breton had invited her to show and had written about her work, she was forging her own style in her transformative Éclatement series of the same year. As she continued to reign over l’écriture automatique and lyrical brushwork by a full-bodied action over a sixty-year career, fragments of canon, classical and new, have been rigorously deployed in the painterly space she opened.

TMH Catalogue 4.1, 2017

Kurtag, Duchamp & Joyce with Frances-Marie Utti
and Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes, 27 Jan 2017

Solo at Galerie Kamel Mennour, Paris
Judit Reigl: Je suis la Règle
8 Feb 26 Mar 2022 /
Solo at Galerie Dina Vierny, Paris
Judit Reigl: première abstraction 1954 1966
8 Sep 20 Nov 2021

Download Press Release

Reigl’s deep connection to science and music is implicit in the unifying field of her critically acclaimed series: Guano, Centre de dominance, Écriture en masse, Homme, Écritures d’après musique, and Déroulement. These series were the focus of the five-gallery event in Paris last spring punctuating the evolution of Reigl’s explosive gestural act in relation to the expressive tension she kept discovering in the earthly matter—la matière même—of the canvas.

In the works at The Merchant House, Reigl reconnects to her ravishing bodies in flight from Face à…, 1988-1990. She defined this life-long project in 1985: “The body: the most perfect instrument and the most tragic obstacle.” Yet, felicity of flight and mastery in these remarkable works break the tragic as the ballet of forms in motion soars through the rhapsodic greens and blues to articulate the inarticulate: vintage Reigl at her most seductive. As Georgia O’Keeffe would stake her artistic position (and though Reigl has strived to make herself hard to place), this is not about the best woman painter; it is about one of the best painters who brings us to now.


Judit Reigl (1923-2020, FR born HU) was a visionary figure of contemporary abstraction, a key contributor to its post-conceptual rebirth and unfolding. André Breton invited her to join his Surrealist gallery upon her arrival in Paris from Hungary in 1954, but she opted to forge her own style and declined. Referring to the significance of the human body and its power to move, she defined her life-long painterly quest by saying: “The body: the most perfect instrument and the most tragic obstacle.” Reigl received the 1964 Guggenheim prize and other major awards. Her work is in the collections of The Met, the MoMA, and the Guggenheim in New York, the Tate Modern in London, Centre Pompidou and Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, and the Met in New York. Reigl lived and worked near Paris.


Déroulement (phase IV–anthropomorphie), 2008
Oil and acrylic on canvas
220 x 195 cm, each


From the series Oiseaux, 2012
Ink on paper
Variable dimensions