Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections
Yves Klein molded the body of his artist-friend Arman in plaster and had it cast in bronze. The bronze was then painted with "Yves Klein Blue," a mixture of dry pigment and clear binder that Klein had patented in 1957, and the life-size sculpture was placed against a gilded wooden panel. Klein's use of his trademark blue was oddly ambivalent: the choice had spiritual and poetic resonance, while the implications of trademarking a color were richly ironic. This portrait relief continued Klein's longtime interest in using the body to make art, exemplified in his controversial series of large paintings in which he used paint-covered women as his "brushes." The efficiency of direct body casting parodies the classical sculptural tradition of meticulous hand-carving. The portrait of Arman, done before Klein's premature death, was the first in what was to have been a "Collective Portrait Relief" of several artists, including Klein himself at the center, in contrasting tones of gold-covered bronze projecting from an Yves Klein Blue panel. Ann Temkin, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 332.
Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Many contemporary artists are associated with a signature image or technique, but only Yves Klein laid claim—literally gave his name—to a specific color. He inaugurated International Klein Blue in Milan in 1957 with an exhibition of monochrome paintings. Following the debut of I.K.B. as a painting medium, Klein employed his color blue in the service of architecture, sculpture, murals, performance, and famously, at a Paris gallery opening in 1958, a cocktail. His use of blue had dual implications: the choice had profound spiritual and poetic resonance, while at the same time the implications of patenting a color seemed richly ironic. The unique luminosity of I.K.B. stems from the secret formula of clear synthetic fixative that allows the grains of dry blue pigment to sparkle.
In the final months of his short life, Klein began a series molding the bodies of friends and colleagues in plaster, destined to be cast in bronze and painted I.K.B. These portrait reliefs extended Klein's longtime interest in using the body to make art, exemplified in his notorious series of large paintings of the early 1960s in which he had used paint-covered
women as his "living brushes." Klein's portrait of Arman, the French artist celebrated for his agglomerations of objects pressed into dense assemblages, is the only portrait relief that he had time to finish. After Klein's death, it was cast in blue-painted bronze in an edition of six. The figure was placed against a wooden panel gilded with gold leaf, as prescribed by the artist. The figure of Arman was the first in what was to have been a "Collective Portrait Relief" of several artists, including Klein himself at the center in reversed colors: gold-covered bronze projecting from a panel of his own International Klein Blue. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 115.