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Nicolas Eber: Hans Mattis Teutsch the graphic artist

Hans Mattis Teutsch was in several respects an exceptional phenomenon. In first line to be mentioned in this respect is his many-sidedness as creative artist. Originally educated to a wood-sculptor at the trade school of his native town Brasso in Transsylvania (belonging that time to Hungary and since 1919 to Rumania) became he in the following simultaneously to an art painter, graphic-artist, sculptor, poet and essayist. In the second place the circumstance deserves to be mentioned that – following a further artistical education in Budapest and Munich between 1901 and 1905 he was only truely entering the art-scene in 1917, i.e. in an already ripe age 33, when a collective exhibition of his works – paintings, gaphics and sculptures – took place in the newly opened exhibition locality of Lajos Kassák’s artmagazine MA in october 1917. At that occasion also a linocut-album with 100 numbered examples containing 12 of his linocuts was published by MA. Already prior to that 9 of his linocuts and 2 of his watercolurs were published – full size – in MA. A year later, in november 1918, at the occasion of a second Mattis Teutsch exhibition at MA, 62 of his works – 42 oil paintings, 10 watercolours and 10 linocuts – were shown and on the pages of MA 4 of oilpaintings reproduced.

Altogether – prior to its politically motivated emigration to Vienna in 1919 – on the pages of MA in less than 2 years 17 of Hans Mattis Teutsch’s linocuts and 6 of his paintings were depicted, whereby his works became there clearly the most frequently show nones. Following the emigration of MA to Vienna – between May 1920 and March 1921, in the course of 10 months – a further 3 linocuts in original size were reproduced on its pages i.e a total of 20 linocuts.

The importance of the circumstance can be hardly overestimated that a since then practically completely unknown and no more very young artist, besides other already known and prominent names, like Robert Berény, Sándor Bortnyik, Lajos Gulácsy, Károly Kernstock, János Kmetty, József Nemes Lampérth, Lajos Tihanyi and János Vaszary, whose works were also repeatedly reproduced on the pages of MA, enjoyed such a preference from the side of its instinct-certain editor and publisher.

The graphic work of Hans Mattis Teutsch, consisting of about 170 graphics – with the exception of 5 woodcuts, linocuts – created roughly between 1915 and 1924 – i.e. in the course of 10 years – represents an important part of his artistic work. Its dominating subjects were – especially in the earlier years – trees and persons besides a few biblic subjects. For the later phase of the cuts – roughly after 1920 – it is however a tendency towards abstraction which is characteristic.

The subject of the graphical works of Hans Mattis Teutsch has been already amply treated in a voluminous, 153 side book published in 2003 by the Regio Art Editor in Györ in hungarian language under the title « Mattis Teutsch the graphic artist » written by Tibor Almási. I came nevertheless to the conclusion, that an essay in a shorter form – and besides also in german and english – restricting itself to the very essentials is nevertheless useful, even of need.

The special feature in the case of Mattis Teutsch’s linocuts is mainly the impressiveness of their graphic language, the circumstance that he is able to express and describe something by means of unique thrifty means. This is becoming most clearly and obviously evident from his representation of biblic subjects, presumably since in their case the background event, i.e. the

evidence is already known. For this reason and as an analogy to operatic ouvertures, I am presenting them here below in the first place. Since when regarding the corresponding pictures even without the indication of an original-title – which, remarkably is the case – their message, at least as far as I am concerned, is immediately evident. However from the relevant literature published sofar it is clear and obvious that one cannot generalise and presume. Even in the case of Almási’s abovementioned work, in which the author provided many cuts with fitting and explanatory titels – so for example in the case of nr. 64 titled as «Golgota» – one can find many with the meaningless « Composition » title, revealing perplexity or incomprehensibility.

I am meaning that meaning that with regard to its obviousness essentially it would be superfluous to allude to the circumstance how strong the understanding of its message the artistic treat of a painting or graphic might increase – to which a suitable title essentially contributes – and how much more a such understood picture is remembered and appreciated.

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                        1. Nativity, 1916 – 165 x 158 mm                   2. Golgotha, 1916 – 140 x 162 mm

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               3. The Prodigal Son, 1916, 157 x 160                  4. Jona in storm, 1916, 145 x 157 mm

In my view it is truly unique and admireable how Mattis Teusch was able to describe with no more than 25 strokes complex events with several participants, like in the case oft the here above shown examples, easily understandably and impressingly on a high artistic level.

Figure 1. is showing the mother Maria bending herself over the newborn Jesus, lying over straw, and over them, in a protective gesture her husband Joseph. More to the right can see presumably Martha the mother of Maria and on the left side oft he picture it ist he long-eared head of a donky remembering to the circumstance that we are witnessing a scene in a stall.

In figure 2. one can see in the center the crucified son of God, on his left his mother sunk to the floor due to her pain andon his right the group of his apostles.

Figure 3. is the representation of the return of the Prodigal Son, whose kneeling and asking his fathers forgiveness, who is about raising him to himself.

The scene of figure 4. is showing the repentant prophet Jona who on his flight from the prophetic mission imposed by God is about learning his lection.

Characteristic for the prevailing situation are the titles given by Almási in his book to the above described linocuts. Figure 1 is titled therein as « Composition », figure 2, at least as « Golgotha », figure 3 as « Tree in a landscape » and figure 4 as « Youth and Old age ».

At the onset of the creation of the linocuts, in 1915-16 the dominant subjects were nearly exclusively only trees and landscapes only occasionally enriched with a human figure, as demonstrated here below.

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    5. Landscape, 1916, 230 x 170                 6. Tree, 1916, 230 x 170           7. Devotion, 1916, 110 x 121

Towards the end of 1916 he was however already creating cuts with the above shown symbolic biblic themes aswell as landscapes with anthropomorphic tree-figures, as shown here below. The testimony of the scene in question – from which two very similar versions are available and reproduced as figures 8. and 9. isn’t at the first sight easy to interprete. The two figures on the right seam to embrace each other and to their left the figure with raised arm is appearing to express with regard to the happening on the right side rather enthusiasm and congratulation than indignation. In the middle – or background – two presumably young spectators, whose strongly schematised, bent bearing is in all likelyhood similarly interpretable as the raised arms oft the figure to left. In Tibor Almási’s book both linocuts are titled as « Woman and Man » which can hardly be regarded as explanatory.

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   8. & 9. Landscapes with anthropomorphic tree-figures, 1916, 165 x 165 &114 x 111 mm

In case of the two linocuts shown here below as figures 10 and 11. I am assuming anew strong evidences for the obviously solitary capability of Mattis Teutsch to represent even very complex situations understandably, impressingly and harmoniously with the thriftiest means. How could this remain, as a matter of fact, already during a century, practically completely ununderstood and disregarded ?

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                      10. Lowers, 1916, 141 x 162 mm                           11. Courtship, 1916, 125 x 155 mm

In the case of figure 10 it is obvious to regard the higher rightside figure as the male, and the smaller one in center, with spread arms and legs as the female, whose pose is obviously interpreteable as a sign of welcome.

The extremely symbolised scene of figure 11, in which the participants are merely shown through their heads, upper side of bodies and very strongly destorted bearing of their arms – may be considered in the case of the leftside figure as attempt of approximation and in the case of the rightside one as readiness to receive. One can justifiably admire the harmony, compact-ness and phantasy of the representation and the meagre means by which they are achieved.

As conclusion of the description of this creative period the here below as figure 12 reproduced linocut is appearing to me to deserve with its combination of extremely thriftiness in combination with strength of expression worth of attention or even admiration. It can be regarded or interpreted similarly as scene of love- or courtship or even – like in Almási’s book as « Dance ». When counting the lines of the scene proper one arrives at 10 and even their total at no more than 15. How could this uniqueness and ingenuity, this uniqueness and ingenuity remain as a matter of fact remain disregarded in spite of its presence in the collection of two important museums of world-wide reputation – the Albertina of Vienna and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art ? Oversaturation ? Blindness ? Or may eve prejudice ?

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12. Dance, 1916, 143 x 141 mm

Early or during 1917 regarding the linocuts an obviously very strong change occured aswell in thematical as in stilistical respect, which is becaming obvious from the examples shown here below. Through what they were induced is unknown. Whereas the linocut reproduced as figure 13 is still showing obviously anthropomorphic features, the linocuts 14 to 18 have only naturerelated features. To the chronology of their origin we can merely conclude by means of stylistic criterions.

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14. Trees, 1917, 90 x 85 mm       13. Anthrop. Trees, 1917     15. Trees, 1917, 140 x 116 185 x 110 mm

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        16. Composition, 1917                        17. Composition, 1917                       18. Composition, 1917

250 x 350 mm                                        45 x 70 mm                                        61 x 100 mm

After 1918 anew a radical change occured with regard to thematics and style of the linocuts and representation of humans became to the dominant topic. Pair and even family representa-tions in numerous variations and even that of people at work. This has apparently lasted until 1920 and is here below documented by means of examples.

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                19. Seduction scene, 1918, 114 x 142 mm           20. The scorned wife, 1918, 175 x 208 mm

The representation of Scenes in the linocuts of Mattis Teutsch are largely self-explaining and in general understandable and do not require explanations. He was mastering obviously perfectly the clear and obvious expression of a situation by picturial means. Nevertheless the above reproduced linocuts shouldn’t remain without at least some short expanatory comments. In the case of the « Seduction scene » the black figure appears to represent obviously the master of the underworld and the symbolic and invisible manager of the seduction. With regard to the representation of the collapsed wife, who is witnessing from the window the seduction- and scorning-attempt of her husband is the representation of the scene also completely obvious and does not require any further explanation. With other words these two pictures are very good evidences of the outstanding ability of Mattis Teutsch for the tight but nevertheless completely obvious expression of even complex situations.

The here below reproduced example could be well interpreted in my view as the loading of a straw or hey carriage at which two man and a youngster are involved, as a good prove of Mattis Teutsch’s broad interests.

 

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21. Loading of a hew-carriage, 1918, 200 x 204 mm

According to the themata of the linocuts the dominating themata of Mattis Teutsch in 1919 were the relationship of couples and the family as brought obviously to expression by the here further below reproduced linocuts. In case of the here following two cuts it is moreover the unusual edged appearance which is appearing unusual in comparison to the other examples.

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22. Seduction, 1919, 220 x 155 mm                 23. The «White Man», 1919, 230 x 161 mm

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24. Couple, 1919, 200 x 245 mm    25. Family, 1919, 200 x 240 mm      26. Couple, 1919, 185 x 210 mm

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27. Farewell, 1919, 180 x 174 mm

After 1920-21 there was again a radical change regarding the themata and style of the linocuts, towards abstraction occurring, which lastet until 1923 – 24 and is documented here below by means of different examples.

Three Compositions from 1920 – 21

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           28. 145 x 145 mm                                    29. 170 x 230 mm                                  30. 45 x 80 mm

Three Woodcuts from 1922 – 23

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31. Composition,                                         32. Composition,                                    33. The Blue Rider

165 x 150 mm                                              155 x 208 mm                                             170 x 104 mm

The following last change of style towards constractivism lasted until about 1924 -1927, after which Hans Mattis Teutsch – essentially due to physical, problems – abandoned at his age of somewhat above 40 years his graphic-cutting activity.

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       34. Woman on chair, 130 153 mm         35. Couple in bed, 153 x 150     36. Comp. 175 x 145 mm

Three linocuts from between 1924 – 27

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          37. The kiss, 190 x 85 mm      38. Couple, 190 x 85 mm               36.Sitting nude, 188 x 113 mm

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40. Workers, after 1927, 166 x 120 mm

The above selection represents one quarter of the works from Hans Mattis Teutsch’s essentially about 10 year long graphic activity, between 1917 and 1927. What is first of all noticeable thereby ist the truly impressing diversity of themes and styles reaching on one side from landscapes and trees to biblic ones and on the other side from realistic to imaginary topics and from symbolism to abstraction. The common denominator being thereby always the economy and intelligibility of the expression, richness of imagination and harmony.

Nicolas Eber / ebnic@sunrise.ch

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