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Nicolas Eber: The representation of humans by Hans Mattis Teutsch

Hans Mattis Teutsch exerted between about 1908 and 1928 – i.e during a roughly 20 year period between of his 24. and 44. age – an extremely multsided and productive activity as painter, illustrator, sculpturist, poet and author of arttheoretical papers.

Against the middle of the 1910 years he developed within the framework of expressionism and under the application of ist means a new picturial language (one could even speak of picturial languages) partly for the representation of human figures and partly for the depiction of trees. The understandibility of a picturial language requires or assumes similar to a vocal or alphabetically written language its learning or explanation. With regard to the circumstance that the vocabulary, or possibly better expressed formal stock, of picturial languages is by orders of magnitude smaller as that of vocal languages, its appropriation is correspondingly easier and faster. A picturial language may be regarded similar to vocal languages as a means or code of communication, or if one prefers as a medium and is serving in a similar way to the expression of messages, the achievement of mutual understanding.

Mankind owns besides the vocal or by means of letters expessible, however without appropriation or explanation not generally understandable languages, – similar to the different animal genuses – a so called innate and generally understandable tacit means of communication, which may be best named gesturial expression. Its means on the human level are mainly the headholding, the facial expression or mimic and the holding and gesture of legs and the feet, the arms and hands. In this respect however even the feet may play a role. Mattis Teutsch was able to apply these in a generally understandable and simultaneously masterly manner for the expression of his statements. It seems however that regrettably neither his professional nor his amateur public seems to have been able or ready to devote this aspect the due attention.

In a certain sense most important creative artists are owning an individual formal language, picturially expressed an own handwriting. On the basis of that their conoisseurs are enabled to easily and spontaneously recognise their works. Similar is valid, as is well known, in the case of musical compositions. Inside this generally valid framework however very substantial diferences are prevailing and therefore one may consider every genuine painter or sculptor as the creator or inventor of an individual formal language. Since in this respect no measurable and qualifyable boundary settlement phenomenon exists, this is by far not easy and unequivocal to judge free of subjectivity.There exist therefore besides the clear cases also frequent bordery ones.

With regard to Hans Mattis Teutsch I have already pointed in my ealier paper / article, entitled as «Mattis Teutsch painter oft the trees» to the point that in this respect he was the inventor and creator of an entirely an fundementally new picturial language. The anthropomorhising i.e. humanisation of the trees may be regarded in an opposite sense and from another line of sight also as the «treelike representation of humans» i.e. that one may speak already in that context aswell as from Mattis Teutsch’s repesentation of humans. One may also express this also in that way that the anthropomised or humanised representation of trees or the representation of humans in the form of trees are merely the two opposing sides of the same coin. Here within the scope of this paper I am however restrictring myself to the genuine and unequivocal representation of humans.

Titles of my two other essays are: « Mattis Teutsch the painter of trees» respectively «The symbolism of Mattis Teutsch». Subject of the first mentioned one is the humanised representation of trees and of the second mentioned one the extremely simplified and abstracted representation of human figures. With other words and finally the subject is in both cases the representation of human figures, since one could in the case of the anthropomised trees also regard them from a line of sight as the representation of

humans in the shape of trees, with other words as the two opposing sides of the same coin. On this basis such an interpretation according to which the multisided and fantasiarich Mattis Teutsch ultimately didn’t do else than the depiction of humans from different sights, respectively lines of sights, is well justifyable.

With these two – already by themselves taken unique – subjects there are however by far not all aspects of the representation of humans by Mattis Teutsch exhausted. There exist namely also such creations of him in which the representation of human figures, – clearly recognizeable as such even if strongly stilised – is extremely individual and impossible to be compared with or taken for the works of other painters, which became earlier known. From those do I intend to introduce here below a few examples.

1. As first example (Fig. 1.) I am showing the reproduction of a watercolour, created towards the end of the 1910s, in which one can see in the foreground of a fabulouslike multicoloured landscape two although stongly stilisided and simplified but nevertheless clearly recogniseable human figures in sitting position. The figure on the left can be recognised – according to my judgement – although strongly stilised – on the basis of his slimmer hip and in relationship to it broader breastkasten as a male and the figure on the right, turning itself towards him and signalising by the touch of his shoulder her intention to approach him, aswell as according to its broader thigh, as a female. Moreover it is also obvious that both figures are undressed i.e.naked. On the ground of these details and the lack of a title which could contradict an assumption is justified according to which it is justified to interprete the scene in question as a symbolic representation of the original condition of men. This work clearly demonstrates and exemplifies the fantasiarich, creative and poetic style of Hans Mattis Teutsch.

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Fig. 1. Human couple, 1918-19 (watercolour over cardboard, 23 x 31 cm)

2. The following and here below as Fig. 2 reproduced charcoal-drawing can be regarded in several respects as akin with the preceding watercolour, however with the noticeable difference that the rightside-figure, which is symbolised by the richer heariness of the head as the female one, in this case is signalising her intention towards the male by an inviting armgesture instead of touching him as in the previous example. With respect of is expression and understandibility this drawing compares itself however well with the previously presented painting-version of the same subject.

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Fig. 2. Human couple, approx. 1915 (charcoal over paper, 19 x 19 cm)

3. The watercolour reproduced here below is the representation of a conflict, the participants of which are the three stilisied human figures. On the right side of the picture one can see a person which can be interpreted on the ground of its rose body-colour as a female sitting on the bank of a yellow coloured (symbol of envy ?) and blue framed riverlike strukture and on the other, left side of the picture another, assumably male person turning towards the female, which seems to invite him with a gesture of her arm. Beetween these two persons, in an upright position and dark green colour (symbol of fury?) in the neighbourhood of the female figure its male partner whose declining, refusing armgesture towards the other male completes and fully explains the meaning oft he represented scene. All this is inbeded into a symbolic landscape consisting of structures in the colours of the rainbow.

On the right side of the picture, behind the rose coloured figure one may assume a further symbolic white coloured (neutral ?) person as a further possible actor of scene although since without arms and legs in several respects doubtful. Remarkable and worthwhile of mention are besides the human figures the red coloured structure – with yellow center – at the bottom part of the picture with its wide open threatening mouth like shape opposite the female figure. One may really get astonished about the phantasy of Mattis Teutsch and his ability to express and convert it in a picture of such complexity. How was it possible that apparently nobody observed it in nearly a century of time ?

I am most prepared to assume regarding this interpretation the accusation of a possibly too vivid phantasy since I am convinced that this is very good example to demonstrate that Mattis Teutsch clearly intended and was also able to express a complex story by picturial means.

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Fig. 3. Jalousy scene, 1919 – 20 (watercolour over cardboard, 25 x 28 cm)

4. The scene depicted on the figure 4 due to its unequivocal nature doesn’t require any special further interpretation. It shows an upright male figure embrasing a female figure wraped into her cloth, who, judging from the holding of her legs, appears / seems to have thrown herself into his arms. One may regard it as a special feature of the picture that contrary to the merely symbolically, with the top of his head depicted male, the human quality of the female figure embraced by hi mis merely signalised and revealed by her legs. In this connection I want to refer to circumstace that already at the occasion of the V. MA-exhibition, showing once more – after his first exhibition in october 1917 – Mattis Teutsch works in november 1918, the critic Ivan Hevesy noticed and pointed to the erotic side of his art on the pages of MA.

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Fig. 4. Embracement, around 1919 (watercolour over cardboard, 31 x 23 cm)

5. The oil painting reproduced here below as figure 5 demonstrates obviously the effect and the substantial stilistic development and progress achieved in comparison to the previously presented works from a few years earler. The couple visible here – similarly to the previous ones clothless – appears to sit opposite to each other in something like a small boat in close bodily proximity and loose, tensionfree poses, however in erotic respect stronger emphasised in comparison to the earlier works. The female part of the scenery appears to be clearly / obviously identified by her rosecoloured body and longer hairs against the broader shouldered and pale lilac coloured body of the opposite male, who seems to embrace her with his right arm. The entire picture appears both in formal as in colourcompositional respect extremely dense, awaking an entirely balanced and harmonic impression in its spectators. I beleave that it compares also obviously well with works oft he greatest an dost famous oft he epoch.

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Fig. 5. Couple, around 1921 (oil on cardboard, 25 x 28 cm)

6. With regard to the dating of the pictures, there exist owing to the lack of indications by the artist inavoidably a certain inaccuracy and confusion, making it necessary for us to judge their order of creation according to stilistic criteria.

The oil painting of figure 6, regarding the subject of which we are due to its lack of titel, as usual, forced to guessing, does not expose us in that respect to many doubts concerning the intention of the painter’s intention what to represent. The naked couple opposite to each other, placed/enbedded into an idillic environment awakes namely immediately associations to the story of the paradise. Well, but in that case how can be interpreted the seamingly full of cares gesture, by longing to his head with his right hand, of the male figure sitting on the ground opposite his female partner leaning with her back against a treetrunk ?

The choice in that respect is well limited and leading soon to the association with the situation following the banishment of Adam and Eve from Paradise after the sinfall.

Special attention deserves with regard to the paintive representation of the enviroment surrounding the couple their background with stripes from alternating warm- and cold acting colours – being on one side red, pink or yellow and on the other side light and dark blue or green and creating by means of their immediate neighbourhood a certain effect of tension. That reminds me in a certain respect to the colouring in some of Paul Gaugin’s Tahiti-paintings, however completely desregarding the difference that Gaugin’s figures are depicted in a realistic style, whereas those of Mattis Teutsch abstracted in his own very characteristic style.

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Fig. 6. Adam and Eve after their banishment from Paradise, around 1920 (oil / cardboard 49 x 60 cm)

7. The oil painting reproduced here below, reminding one in its style to a geometric abstraction, became known under the title « The white man ». One can indeed discover in it with head, trunk, arms and extremely widespread legs an extremely simplified and stilized humanlike figure in front of a background composed of colours which were characteristic for this period of Mattis Teutsch. Remarkable are thereby the with exception of his right arm white coloured figures extremely widespread legs, which are creating/ awaking together with the rose coloured hornlike object pressed by his right arm against his body the impression of a musical clown or acrobat. It is worthwhile to remark that this painting, the subject of which appears / seems to be rather unique among his works, is simulttaneously a good proof of his stilistic multisidedness and idearichness.

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Fig. 7. White man, around 1919 – 20 (Oil / canavas, 90 x80 cm)

8. The painting reproduced in figure 8. is showing the substantially stilisied vision of a woman sitting on a chair with retracted legsb whilst sucling her child. In comparison to paintings of a few years earlier in this one, as a novel stilistic phenomenon, constructive-geometric elements emerge.

The presumably most characteristik and eyecatching element of it is very likely the signalisation oft he warmth and nearness oft the two naked bodies by means of their reddisch coloration and moreover the circumstance that the painter, despite of his parsimony with respect to all details of his composition, succeds to reproduce the impression of the loving devotion of the mother to her child and to render his entire composition an extraordinary intensive even charismatic note, with is able to catch and even to capture the sight of its spectator.

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Fig. 8. Mother with child, around 1924 -25 (Oil on cardboard, 30 x 25 cm)

9. The subject of this painting is a female nude sitting in an armchair, a subject which does not require any interpretation in thematical respect. What however in picturial and constructive respect admiration may evoke is the masterly, one could even pretend admiration demanding use of the red back of the chair, which is lending energy and charisma both to the nude itself and to the entire picture so that its spectator does not come at all in the mind to raise the question how comes that the realistic and flat depiction of back of the chair on the right side of painting farther left turns into a technically barely explainable, however the entire character / individuality not only of the chair itself but of the entire painting dominating « cenral »-role ?

Something similar is valid with respect to body of the female nude, of its holding and proportions, which appear for a critical sight obviously disproportionate, but in artistic respect nevertheless satisfactory and cnvincing.

Is it possible at all to imagine a more convincing demonstration of the diffences hiding themselves between the physical and aesthetic thruthes ?

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Fig. 9. Female nude in an armchair, around 1926 -27 (oil / cardboard, 28 x 35 cm)

Nicolas Eber


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