Switch Language

Nicholas Eber: The picture-poetry of Hans Mattis Teutsch

Poetry in the literature has several varieties among which the best known are the narrative and the lyrical ones. The characteristic of the lyrical versus the narrative poetry is that its subjects are instead of events sentiments – and among those in the first line friendship and love – and besides that it is expressing its messages in a concise and short manner. Possibly one of its most beautiful examples is Sándor Petöfi’s, the Hungarian national poet’s famous poem “I shall be a tree if you are its bloom…” consisting even in my somewhat more extensive English translation in comparison to the original version of no more than 8 lines and 58 words and sounding as:

“I shall be a tree if you are its bloom,
Are you dew, then I shall be a bloom.
I shall be dew if you are a sunbeam,
Only for us getting united soon.
Are you the paradise my sweetheart,
Then I shall become a star,
Are you however the hell,
Then perdition should be my part.

In the fine arts – painting, sculpture and graphics – there exist as well lyric varieties, their classification is however often everything else than easy and obvious. Is for examplethe portrait of a charming and beautiful women or child better classified as portrait- or lyric painting? Also in the case of landscape painting occasionally one can speak of lyric style, its definition is however not easy and remains finally the subjective decision of the spectator.

In the case of Mattis Teutsch’s two most significant – since fundamentally new and inventive – series of paintings, the 1917-18 “Anthropomorphic Trees” and the 1921-22 “Spiritual Flowers” their characterization as lyric picture-poetry is equally justified. This is easier and more obvious in the case of the “Anthropomorphic Trees” than in that of the “Spiritual Flowers” since their dominating and comprehensible subject consists in friendship and love, whereas in the case of the “Spiritual Flowers” the thoughts and ideas evoked by those abstract paintings are presumably the consequences of individual resonances. Differently expressed: whereas with some phantasy it is possible to express in words the meaning of the “Anthropomorphic Trees” it is hardly possible or even impossible to achieve that in case of the “Spiritual Flowers”.

An extraordinary individual and characteristic – one could even say unique – peculiarity of Mattis Teutsch’s anthropomorphic picture-poetics consists in the unprecedented density by which he was able to obviously depict and express completely his figures and simultaneously also their emotions mostly with no more than three lines. Already this alone would well justify his place in the peak region of worldwide art. As we know, this is by far not yet the case one century after the creation of his epochal creations and nearly six decades following his death in 1960. On the search after its reasons and explanations a lot of explanations and thoughts are coming to one’s mind. Among those his national nowhere really belonging – or best to Hungary or to Romania from where so far nobody has yet succeeded to reach the peak region of worldwide art -the blindness and lack of comprehension of art history having found its expression in the shortcomings and mistakes of the literature published about his art and besides the “outsider quality” of his discoverers and patrons – Lajos Kassák and Herwarth Walden – of whom the first named was a communist and the second one of Jewish origin, etc.

From an objective viewpointit is obviously doubtful whether after such a long time the due recognition of a fine arts artist still has a chance, whether he might still obtain his due place in art history? What induces me to answer this question in an affirmative way is the circumstance that the art of Hans Mattis Teutsch cannot be regarded on the basis of the so far published – almost entirely Hungarian – literature as sufficiently well documented and understood. Or, expressed in another way, that the chancefor his due understanding and recognition is hidden in the broadest possible notification and explication of his relevant works and that this is also possible by means of the recently achieved new cognitions.

Please find here below a short summarization with regard to his two most important series of paintings:

1. With regard to the 1917 series of paintings with anthropomorphic representation of trees in front of landscape-like backgrounds it became known due to novel investigations, which one could also call detective work, that those were – as consequence of Kassák’serroneous judgement, who was considering them as representatives of the traditional landscape-painting – neither shown at the exhibitions of MA nor on its pages and therefore remained hidden and unknown in the scope of private collections for about 60 years until about 1980, when – from a mediator – a substantial part of them was acquired by different Hungarian and one Transylvanian-Romanian museums.

In the altogether 6 Hungarian- 3 German- and 2 Romanian-language monographic volumes published about Mattis Teutsch and his art since the early 1970s the paintings in question found only mention following their entrance into the abovementioned museum’s collections, however always under titles as landscapes, without any allusions to their anthropomorphic character.

From the works belonging to this series of paintings actually about a dozen are known, but in several cases their anthropomorphic classification is less than obvious.

2. The oil paintings created around 1921-22 over structured cardboard sheets of 36 x 29 cm, from which versions with red-, blue-, green-, yellow- and colorless backgrounds reaching to the edges exist, are mostlynamed in the literature “Spiritual Flowers”. They have obtained this excellent fitting title from Mattis Teutsch himself about 30 years after their creation, in contextwith a portfolio presented 1950 to his newborn grandson, Waldemar.

What the authors of the different monographies in the following brought aboutwith this title cannot be characterized else than a complete chaos. In the literature published so far this title became partiallyapplied without consideration and in an extensive way in a groundless and erroneous manner and in several other fully justified cases it was omitted and replaced by meaningless “Composition” titles.

With respect to that and as the result of a careful a thorough analysis it was possible to determine that actually around 20 acknowledgeable examples the “Spiritual Flowers” exist,the seven characteristics of which are defined and listed here below:

  1. Oil painting
  2. Structured cardboard sheet
  3. 36 x 29 cm size
  4. Uniform red, blue, green, yellow or colorless backgrounds
  5. Expressionist style
  6. Flowerlike composition
  7. Phantasy motives

For those readers of my Lines, who are not yet familiar with the paintings of Mattis Teutsch I am presenting here below a few examples of the series of paintings concerned. Besides I wish to mention that more detailed studies of the two series of Mattis Teutsch’ paintings concerned are also available in the row of my Mattis Teutsch studies on the web.


1. Delightful encounter, 1916 – 17 (oil / cardboard, 40 x 49 cm)

MT Frühsommer 200dpi

2. Early spring – A man and a youngster greeting a group of dancing girls
1917- 18 (oil / cardboard, 50 x 60 cm)

MT Liebespaar.600dpi

3. Lowers 1917 – 18 (oil / cardboard 34 x 45 cm)

4.- 7. Spiritual Flowers – 1921 – 22 (oil / cardboard, 36 x 29 cm)

Nicolas Eber / ebnic@sunrise.ch



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

invoice template

invoice generator