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Nicolas Eber: A circle getting closed – From the concrete to the abstract and back – Hans Mattis Teutsch on Dante’s traces

“When halfway through the journey of our life
I found that I was in a gloomy wood,
because the path which led aright was lost.”

That is the wording of the opening strophe of Dante’s famous “Divine Comedy” titled epic poem. In the following it is reporting about his adventurous journey under the guidance of the poet of the roman antique epoch, Vergil, through hell and purgatory until the entrance of paradise – where, he as a pagan was not permitted to accompany him. Dante’s difficult and apparently hopeless situation was similar to that of Hans MattisTeutsch around 1915-16. Then, towards the end of 1916, his destiny brought the half-orphan born and with two little children widowed, already over 30 years old painter in touch Lajos Kassak and his shortly before established “Monthly periodical for literature and fine arts” MA (meaning today). Preceding that he undertook already numerous unsuccessful attempts in order to find acceptance for his art. In the following, during the nearly three years long existence of MA in Hungary and preceding its 1919 immigration to Vienna, MattisTeutsch’s paintings and linocuts became the most frequently reproduced ones on its pages. Besides,the first exhibition in MA’s newly opened exhibition locality in October 1917 consisted ofMattisTeutsch’s works and it was accompanied by the edition of a portfolio containing a dozen of his linocuts. A year later in the same place a second exhibition of his works took place.

Kassák’s recognition and confidence bestowed MattisTeutsch’sinspiration and creative dash literally with wings. The realization of series of paintings and linocuts as well as of wooden sculptures in course of the following years was clearly the result of that impulse. Its effect lasted during about five years undiminished and thereafter, with a slightly diminishing tendency about up to ten years, i.e. until about 1927. One can conclude already from this circumstance to the extraordinary spiritual sensitivity of Hans MattisTeutsch, which found also its clear expression in his works.

Added in his case to the extraordinary spiritual sensitivity was the rare ability of an especially high grade and dense expressivity. That was repeatedly enabling him to express even most complex spiritual conditions and feelings with surprising, even wondrous intensity – frequently by means of merely three lines – generally understandable and deep impression evoking. One may really regard it as a great mystery how could this essentially already since a full century escape the attention of the experts and remain hidden to their sights. In this context I am thinking and referring in the first line – however not exclusively – to his fundamentally novel 1917-18 series of paintings depicting trees in an anthropomorphic style and to his 1922-23 series of paintings, which became known later as “Spiritual Flowers”.

What is in his case also extraordinary, however in light of his already above mentioned exceptional spiritual sensitivity nevertheless understandable, is the loss of his inspiration due to his deception for the absence of resonance and recognition from the experts- and public side.

Its doubtless expression consisted in his truly exceptional complete creational pause between the early 1930’s and the 1945 end of World War II.

The works of his subsequent late activity period until his death in 1960 have no similarity whatsoever with those of his earlier activity and especially not with those from 1917 to 1923 – inspired by Kassák’s confidence and support. They are obviously lacking the inspiration and the spiritual sensitivity of his earlier activity period and in my sight they are no more than expressions of his technical abilities. That doesn’t however influence or reduce in any way the outstanding value and art-historical importance of his earlier, between 1917 and 1927 created works.

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1. In a park, approx. 1908, oil / cardboard, 46 x 48 cm

56.

2. Delightful encounter 1916-17, Oil / Cardboard, 40 x 49 cm

F91NE

3. Red Spiritual Flower, 1922-23, Oil / Cardboard, 36 x 29 cm

42.

4. Female nude in an armchair, 1928, Oil / Cardboard, 28 x 35 cm

Nicolas Eber / ebnic@sunrise.ch

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