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Nicolas Eber: Hans Mattis Teutsch and Lajos Kassák

It does not occur frequently that a person is able to exert simultaneously a truly decisive influence in somebody elses life and also in art history, like in the case of Lajos Kassák towards Hans Mattis Teutsch.

Art history and the public opinion surprisingly didn’t realise in the course of nearly 100 years, that Hans Mattis Teutsch and his art have played a so decisive epochal role as only very few prior or after him. The reason for this is hides mainly and very simplified and briefly behind the paintings with anthropomorphous depiction of trees from the years 1916 – 18. Those may namely be classified with full justification as fundamental, completely new inventions, something much more rare in art than in technique. In the already quite substantial literature about Hans Mattis Teutsch published sofar the notion of the anthropomorphous, humanlike representation of trees does not occur at all.

Surprisingly this is not entirely without a parallel, since in the case of the roughly simultaneously created animal-paintings of Franz Marc a search in the substantial literature for an indication to his anthropomorphous animal representations – which here below are demonstrated by means of an univocal, unmisleading clear example – is in vain. With regard to the tremendous differences prevailing with respect to genetic relationship between trees and mammals on one side and humans and mammals on the other side this is in the case of Mattis Teutsch’s paintings concerned even more surprising. This is exemplified further below by means of two examples.

One has to ask oneself where this partial blindness in the literature about fine arts is coming from and how it may be somehow explained?

The initially in Brasow as wood-carver and thereafter in Budapest and Munich artistically further educated Hans Mattis Teutsch began – according to the available informations – his intensive artistic activity around 1908. He participated repeatedly in various exhibitions, however without noteworthy success, which isn’t very surprising with regard to his works of that time.

Due to the death of his wife in 1915 the 31 year old Hans Mattis Teutsch – living at that time in the neighbourhood of Budapest where he was teaching art – became a widower with two small children. It was a short while thereafter that the big surprise occured. Lajos Kassák published in his literature and art monthly MA – launched in late autumn 1916 – not only immediately in February 1917 on the frontpage one of Mattis Teutsch’s linocuts and two fullpage reproductions of his paintings, but furthermore organised from his works – paintings, wooden sculptures and linocuts – in October 1917 also the first art exhibition in the newly opened exhibition locality of his periodical MA in Budapest.

All this bestowed – understandably – in a literal sense wings to Mattis Teutsch’s artistical inspiration and productive dash. He realised in a short sequence several important series of paintings and wooden sculptures and – until the mid 1920’s – some 170 graphics, mostly linocuts. All this in an entirely new own style. His works – mainly linocuts – became the most frequently reproduced ones on the pages of the periodical MA.

Kassák and his art periodical emigrated from Hungary to Vienna in 1920 – following the political right-turn after the collapse of the counsel-republic – and the cooperation with Mattis Teutsch came soon to its end. He found however temporarily a substitution, a new artistic home at the Berlin-domiciled gallery « Der Sturm » of Herwarth Walden, which came however in the later 1920’s equally to its end – due to Walden’s emigration to the Sovietunion – i.e. again for polical reasons.

Soon thereafter, around 1928, there was at first a radical stilistic change and after about 1933 a twelve year long interruption of artistic activity, until after the war, 1945. His works created afterwords – only paintings and no more sculptures and linocuts – have however practically no similarity or kinship with those created between 1917 and about 1928.

In my opinion one can state with full justification that without the chance and the cooperation offered at once by Lajos Kassák and his periodical art magazine MA, the important, even epoch-making early artistic work of Hans Mattis Teutsch wouldn’t have been created. In the course of its creation Kassák seems to have played the role of a catalyst, having the rare quality to enable an event from the outside, without direct participation in it.

There exist for everything in the world reasons and also explanations, even when they remain sometimes unknown. For the circumstance that the very important and unique artistic work of Hans Mattis Teutsch created between 1917 and 1928 did not find until presently the due recognition in Hungary and virtually none internationally, one cannot find rational reasons. On another level however such according to which the explanation has – besides the apparent partial blindness of the experts – probably to do with the nationalistic question, with the national membership and thereby with the circumstance that Hans Mattis Teutsch is not really considered to belong to one of the possible hungarian, german or rumanian nations and is therefore in a way homeless. Perhaps there exists still some hope that this can be overcome.

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Franz Marc: Cat family

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Hans Mattis Teutsch: Delightful encouter, 1916 -17, oil /cardboard, 40 x 49 cm

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Hans Mattis Teutsch: Springtime – man and youngster greeting group of dancing girls

1917-18, oil / cardboard, 50 x 60 cm

Nicolas Eber

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