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Nicolas Eber: The Hans Mattis Teutsch puzzles and surprises

The carrier of this extremely important however in his importance not yet duely recognized and appreciated artist, who became known to the posterity and arthistory under the name of Hans Mattis Teutsch, is hiding according my judgement still several not yet clarified and understood surprising and fundamental turning-points. The main purpose of my writing is their best possible illumination.

The path trough life and artistic career of Hans Mattis Teutsch may be considered under several aspects as extraordinary. It began the death by illness of his transsylvanian father János Mátis already prior to his birth, as a consequence of which he was born on the 13th of August 1884 in the transsylvanian town of Brasow as a half-orphan. Thereafter his mother of transylvanian-saxon descent, with the maiden name of Jozefin Schneider, daughter of a hatmaker and with german mother-tongue, married an equally transylvanian-saxon descent clark of the local slaughter-house named Friedrich Teutsch, who became thereby the stepfather of the boy. Consequently he was baptised as Mátis János Frigyes (János and Frigyes beeing the hungarian versions of Hans and Friedrich). Following the performance of the elementary school the younster acquired at the local wood industry school the woodcarver qualification and besides also the hungarian language. His principal language remained however the german, as a confirmation of which he wrote later his poems and art related essays always in german. He continued his professional education thereafter, between 1901 and 1902, in the Hungarian capital Budapest at the Industrial Drawing School and thereafter between 1902 and 1905 in Munich at the Sculpture-Section of Applied Art Academy. In the course of all this, i.e. until his age of 20, he was figuring under four different names (like János Teutsch, Johann Teutsch, Mátisz Teutsch János), which were combinations of his own and his stepfathers family names and of his first name). Thereafter in September 1904, at his age of 20, he adopted the family name of his stepfather and his official name became Máttis-Teutsch János Frigyes.

Until the end of the 1920’s the life of Hans Mattis Teutsch was very turbulent, he was travelling much and exhibiting his works in different places in Europe. At the beginning of the 1910’s he married Gizella Borsos. Together they were also living for some time in Újpest in the neighbourhood of Budapest, where he was acting as a teacher or art master and where she gave birth to their two common children, a boy and a girl. Gizella Borsos died owing to illness in 1915, leaving her husband behind with the two litte children. Hans Mattis Teutsch married again 1919, his second wife was the pianist Maria Konrad from Vienna.

The beginning of his painting and woodsculpturing activity was around 1908 and his participation at exhibitions around mid 1910. During the first worldwar he was able to avoid military service thanks to his unsuitableness. The important event of his artistical career was the fullside reproduction of two of his watercolours and linocuts in February 1917 in the late 1916 launched literature and fine arts monthly MA from Lajos Kassák. In the following his linocuts were frequently reproduced in MA and Kassák organized in October 1917 the first exhibition from his worksin the newly opened exhibition locality of MA at the Visegrádi street in Budapest at the occasion of which an album with 12 of his linocuts was also published. Thereafter his works – paintings and linocuts – were the most frequently reproduced ones on the pages of MA: until 1921 totally 21 linocuts and 6 paintings. Following the emigration of MA to Vienna in spring 1920, his most important connection became the Gallery «Sturm» in Berlin, where, among others, in 1921 his works were presented in a joint exhibition with Paul Klee and in the same year 6 of his works in the scope of a joint exhibition with Alexander Archipenko, Marc Chagall and Nell Walden. Besides in the 1920’s his works were shown regularly in the scope of numerous exhibitions, e.g. in Berlin, Rome, Moscow, Bukarest or Brasow.

The breach happened towards the end of the 1920’s when he suddenly terminated pparently without

any transition his artistic and exhibition activity, to his birthplace Brasow, where he continued his already in 1908 started – and in the meantime merely interrupted – teaching activity in smallplastic and style history. After an about one and half decade long interruption, presumably at the end of worldwar II. he took up again his painting activity abandoned after 1928, however in a completely new and with his earlier one uncomparable style. One may certainly state that contrary to his works created between 1915 and 1928, he didn’t achieve a claim for immortality with those later ones. With other words there exists no common denominator, or kinship in thematical or stylistic respect between his earlier, first and later, second creative period. Whereas – according to my judgement – during his first creative period he was creating basically or even radically novel, very important and immortality deserving works, those of this second, later creative period do not merit such qualification and have to be regarded according to my judgement rather as curiosities without arthistorical importance.

In this context, not surprisingly, the question and request are emerging for an explanation of this rather strange development which, regrettably was not yet delivered by anybody sofar. Even any left behind or earlier known declarations or statements from Mattis Teusch himself are not supplying this explanation. He appears to have been anyway and altogether a rather taciturn, reserved character, who practically never expressed himself regarding his own matters and views – at least not in writing or in public – merely by means of his works. Therefore we are unfortunately left to presuming and guessing. So much is however unconditionally obvious, that the events in question must have had spiritual inducements.

What do we know, certainly and doubtlessly, on the basis of his biography and above all of his works?

That the name, destiny and selfconscience of a person are cohering was already recognised at the age oft he antic roman empire and obtained expression by the still known and practised aphorism: «Nomen est omen» that is «The name is a prognostic». With other words this may be interpreted so, that an uncertainity with respect to the name is like a hint to an identity problem. The abovementioned circumstances make it clear that in case of Hans Mattis Teutsch an uncertitude of that type had a high likelyhood to prevail at least during the years of his youth. It has a rather high probability that his intention to change his sitution in that respect, was the reason behind the modification of his name and of leaving his family’s home and Brasow.

More than a decade later almost simultaneously with the loss of his first wife a decisive turn with regard to his artistic ambition occured through the beginning of his very successful relationship with Lajos Kass ‘ak and periodical MA, which literally provided wings to Mattis Teutsch’s artistic inspiration and creative impulse – according to all signs we know

The question what would have become of Hans Mattis Teutsch without Lajos Kassák and his magazine MA, whether we would still remember him, is by all means justified. Kassák, who turned from a worker on the autodidactive way to an author, painter and editor of a perodical with a progressive credo, was a very rare phenomenon. A clear proof of his progressive credo was his emigration to Vienna following the collapse of the shortlived Hungarian counsel-republic and the following rule of the clearly right wing Horthy-regime, The circumstance that in his quality of editor of the 1916 launched periodical for literature and fine arts MA (Today) he was able to recognise at once the importance and uniqueness of the art of the still completely unknown Hans Mattis Teutsch belongs to his admireable and immortal merits. Noteworthy is moreover that also the other important promoter of Hans Mattis Teutsch, the founder and leader of the Gallery and magazine «Der Sturm» in Berlin, Herwarth Walden, alias Georg Lewin, was similarly to Kassák in a way an outsider. The reason for it in the case of Kassák were his low origin and his leftist orientation, in the case of Walden however his jewish origin. It is very well possible, that the sofar unknown explanation of the sudden rupture of Mattis Teutsch’s very promising artistic career, at least in part, had something to do with the sad destiny of his two most important promoters, Kassák and Walden, aswell as with his rejection of the already glorious fascism in Italy and

the emerging national-socialism in Germany – which had their supporters and effects aswell in Hungary and Romania.

The «puzzles» in the title of this article are refering to the unique and in their kind unprecedented picture-series «anthropomised trees» and «spiritual flowers» aswell as to their stories. These two predecessorless and modelless and from the pictorial- and poetic-sight uncomparable painting-series seemed to emerge completely unexpected and they are seemingly and surprisingly still surpassing even after a century, the abilities of art critcs with respect to their understanding and assessment.

Another possible explanation of the relevant occurencies is hides behind the s.c. outsider-state of Hans Mattis Teutsch. This means, that due to the circumstances of his birth and the following historical events he became – picturially expressed – de facto a victim of his fatherlandlessness, because neither the Hungarians, nor the Germans or the Rumanians consider him really as somebody belonging to them. This could be regarded in my view as an outstanding example of the poverbial falling between chair and bench. I assume, that the untimeliness of this nationalistically coloured sight – provided that my presumption would fit – soon will find its entrance into the common consciousness, which got already used to it that in our time even the national football-teams are internationally composed. However it might be that this is not comparable with arthistorical notions.

The remaining final question is the main and real reason for the surprising appearing sudden withdrawal of Hans Mattis Teutsch from his international painting, graphical and wood-sculpturing activity against the end oft he 1920s, considering that at that time he was only middle-aged and thereafter continued his teaching-activity during around three decades?

The answer to this is hidden according to my assumption behind the ethical values of Hans Mattis Teutsch, his rightousness and politically left sympathies. An absolutely clear confirmation of that is the reassuming of his artististic activity after the war, in 1945, when he became able to believe the onset of a socially more justy order, to the realisation of which he intended to contribute with his activity. Unfortunately I do not have knowledge any parallels to Hans Mattis Teutsch’s artistic career, especially regarding its long interruption between about 1929 and 1945, and the radically changed style of the second period between 1945 and 1960. I assume that most likely no such parallels exist and that consequently it has to be regarded as an exception, especially when taking into account the considerable decrease of the arthistorical importance and creativity of the works of the second period. in comparison to the first one. My conclusion consists in the omission of the presentation and discussion of the works of the second, 1945 to 1960 period, in comparison to those of the 1916 to 1928 period.

Prior to closing I consider it as justified and meaningful – especially with regard to those who are not yet familiar with the painting of Hans Mattis Teutsch – to present here below three characteristic samples from his first, earlier and two from his later, second activity period.

Nicolas Eber / ebnic@sunrise.ch

C:\Users\miki\Desktop\MT Liebespaar.600dpi.jpg

Lowers, 1917, oil / cardboard, 34 x 45 cm

       C:\Users\miki\Desktop\MTJ. Jur 25.jpg          C:\Users\miki\Desktop\MT Seelenblumendias\F91NE.jpg

   Sensations, 1919, oil /cardboard , 35 x 29 cm      Spiritual flowers, 1922, oil / cardb., 36 x 29 cm


Harvester, 1956, oil / canvas, 145 x 90 cm Woman on blue sofa, 1946, oiltemp. / canvas, 90 x 160 cm


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