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The «Spiritual Flowers» of Hans Mattis Teutsch

The «Spiritual Flowers» of Hans Mattis Teutsch

The paintings of Hans Mattis Teutsch known as «Spiritual Flowers» are oil paintings on 36 x 29 cm size structured-cardboards, representing coloured, floralstyle expressionist phantasy-motives on backgrounds of monochrom-character – red, blue, green, yellow or colourless – occasionaly combined with geometric elements like diagonals or arches.

This newly elaborated definition, is the wording of the seven basic characteristics – which can be classified as technical, stylistic and effective – of the wellknown picture-series and should be regarded as an introduction to its following detailed description and analysis.

The reproductions of the presently recognised «Spiritual Flowers»-paintings is to be found at the end of my present script – to my best knowledge in such form for the first time. With regard to the patience of those of my readers who are only here making first acquaintance with the «Spiritual Flowers» paintings of Hans Mattis Teutsch I considered it justified to show a few of their typical examples already on a larger scale between the sections of my text.

The series of paintings of Hans Mattis Teutsch known under the title of «Spiritual Flowers», created between 1921 and 1923, from which at present about 20 uncontested examples are known, is according to my view an outstanding peak aswell of his stylistic and artistic development as of the modern painting in general, which nobody could surpass since then. A psychological explanation of this is presumably hidden essentially in the fact that the 1884 in Brasow, Transsylvania as semi-orphan born and as painter or sculptor still completely unknown Hans Mattis Teutsch became in 1917 – already 33 years old – the most frequently reproduced artist on the pages of Lajos Kassák’s newly launched Literature and Art Periodical MA, which in the closest sense of the word lended wings to his talent and creative energy.

With regard to the paintings in question the title «Spiritual Flowers» is already generally known since the publishing of Zoltán Banner’s first monography, in 1972, i.e. 12 years after the painters death. Owing to the lack of earlier published documents, it is doubtlessly justified to conclude that the source of Banner’s informations, who was performing research at the Brasow-home of the family, was János Mattis Teutsch, the still living son of the artist – which I got also confirmed by Banner personally. Moreover also that the «Spiritual Flowers» titling was both known and recognised within the Mattis-Teutsch family. However sofar nobody seemed to know even an approximately precise definition of the paintings in question and the literature about them was rather a source of confusion than that of help. It is questionable and obviously no more clarifyable how the respective confusion begun and whether it was due to the son of Hans Mattis Teutsch or to a possible misunderstanding between him and the authors of the first monographies? There exist however quite clear clues that the respective naming (at least indirectly) goes back to the painter himself – i.e. that it is not a product of fortuitousness or arbitrariness – and that it expresses essential peculiarities of the paintings in question.

According to our actual knowledge Hans Mattis Teutsch has created between 1919 and 1923 partly in a temporary sequence, partly however more or less simultaneously at least five in stilistical and technical respect – relative to size and cardboard quality – clearly distinguishable smaller and larger series of paintings. Among those there are two generally known, the earlier, generated around 1919 as «Sensations» and the other, generated between 1921 and 1923 as «Spiritual Flowers». Whereas in the case of the «Sensations» their historically verifiable and by their creator given name is uncontestedly recognised and at most subject of doubts regarding ist application, the situation in the case of the «Spiritual Flowers» series is strongly controversial owing to their naming only considerably after their generation, especially since the beginning of the 21st century.

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With regard to the classification of the paintings in question in the literature published sofar, the situation can be hardly characterised other than as a complete chaos and incomprehensible confusion. Both the painter himself by omitting to title his works and the concerned authors by their newly so to speak uniform – and let us add meaningless – « Composition » -designation have their parts in this deplorable situation, which can be hardly regarded as advantageous with respect to knowledge and recognition of the paintings in question.

In the years around 1920 Hans Mattis Teutsch has created several series of paintings, which are differing from each other in stilistic respect and regarding the represented motives, moreover with respect to their sizes and the special structured cardboard sheets applied for them. From those one can clearly differentiate at least four to which one can add at least one further series with similar motives, however on different cardboard-sheets. There exist consequently at least five different and clearly distinguishable styles among the series of paintings in question. For two of them there exist also titlings, namely « Sensations » and « Spiritual Flowers », however regrettably without the corresponding clear definitions. As a consequence the related literature published sofar cannot be characterised else than complete confusion. In this context one can neither spare from reproaches the painter himself for the omission of the naming and definition of his series, nor and especially the authors concerned. As a sort of counterreaction one can find in the latest publications – instead of a clarification – only the insignificant uniform designation « Composition ».

According to the classic latin wisdom « Qui bene distinguit, bene docet » is good differentiation the precondition of good teaching and in this matter here there wasn’t sofar any differentiation. Consequently one could hardly expect that Mattis Teutsch’s unique and ingenious, however simultaneously also abstract works, could without the least explanations by suitable titels achieve proper comprehension, appreciation and estimation.

I intend to deal in an other place also with the abovementioned different other series of paintings of Mattis Teutsch, which in the publications until present didn’t take place at all. Here I am restricting myself to the «Spiritual Flowers».

In 1950 Hans Mattis Teutsch presented to his newborn grandson, Waldemar, an unfortunately no more available, in the meantime lost and allegedly as «Spiritual Flowers» entitled map, containing a larger number of his works and moreover a dedication in hungarian language, which can be reproduced by the following wording:

Unfold yourself,

be the flower of the refined

spiritual and active world!

The inside content

should define the outside values!

That should be your way,

that should be your life!

Kronstadt 20.05.1950

Your Grandfather

According to a note of Julia Szabó, who towards the end of the 1970’s conducted research for her monography in Kronstadt / Brasow at the residence of the Mattis Teutsch family, the above quoted and in the meantime mysteriously disappeared original document was at that time still existing. Fortunately at least its above quoted copy remained available. Accordindly the notion « Spiritual Flower » originates – even if not exactly, but at least obviously and certainly – from Hans Mattis Teutsch himself. As will be shown here further below, this title fits excellently to those oil paintings of Hans Mattis Teutsch which were certainly meant by it.

The well known latin proverb « Nomen est Omen » translated : « The name is the key of destiny » isn’t in all likelyhood fitting only to the name of persons, but also, as I shall try to show to the title of works of art.

Among the numerous works created between 1921 and 1924 I never saw any on their rear side with the designation « Spiritual flower » in the handwiting of Hans Mattis Teutsch, however quite a number with the designation « Composition ». Consequently not only the possibility, but a probability close to certainty exists that this group of paintings, which received its present name only quite some time after its creation, has received it from the artist and therefore that it is indisputable and fully righteous.

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Hans Mattis Teutsch : Red « Spiritual Flower « approx. 1922, – oil / cardboard – 36 x 29 cm

According to the information of Hans Mattis Teutsch’s grandson, Waldemar Mattis Teutsch, who was the addressee of the no more available map, neither its destiny, nor the precise knowledge of its content are still known. The above quoted dedication of the map can however certainly be regarded as a clear indication that the notion « Spiritual Flower », even if only emerging quite some time later than the creation of the corresponding paintings, is going back to Hans Mattis Teutsch himself and must therefore be considered as fully authentical. The relationship between the known dedication and unknown content of the map is based upon the nearly certain likelihood that the map must have contained at least a larger qantitity of « Spiritual Flower » -paintings. Moreover it is logical and obvious that the real source of information for the author of the first monography published ten years after the painter’s death could be nobody else than his that time still living son, János – father of the receiver of the map, Waldemar – who knew both the content of the map and was able to communicate regarding its dedication with his father Hans Mattis Teutsch.

Thinking about this thoroughly and without prejudice the only possible conclusion is that there must have been obviously a correlation between the dedication and the content of the map. To this one may add, that the essential discoverer of the young Hans Mattis Teutsch was Lajos Kassák, in whose art-magazine « MA » which has organised regularly art exhibitions aswell – the very first one, by the way from works of Hans Mattis Teutsch – an indisputable rule was prevailing according to which all works reproduced in, or exhibited at « MA » had to carry, without any exception, only such meaningless titles as « painting », « drawing », « linocut » or « sculpture ». From this the merely subsequent entitling of the painting-series in question as « Spiritual Flowers » – which can be considered without any doubt as a peak in both Hans Mattis Teutsch’s artistical development and in 20th century art in general aswell – is both entirely clear and understandable and also fully justified.

Moreover this title is unique and fits excellently the paintings in question and who else than Hans Mattis Teutsch himself might have figured it out ? Anyway one can find it already in the earliest monography, which was elaborated by Zoltán Banner in close contact with Hans Mattis Teutsch’s then still alive Sohn János.

Prior to the proper subject of my writing, the definition, description and appreciation of the category of paintings carrying in my opinion with full justification the designation « Spiritual Flowers » I consider it as meaningful to describe the actual situation and the history of its origin. Both can be taken from the quite sizeable literature published over Hans Mattis Teutsch in the course of almost half a century. The picture which they deliver is however that of a complete confusion and desorientation. The basis of my judgements are the here above at the beginning defined detailed criterions, elaborated through the critical valuation of the past publications about Hans Mattis Teutsch and through the attentive and careful view of the paintings in question.

In the – in historical order – first in 1970 in Roumanian language published Mattis Teutsch monography by Zoltán Banner – which has been republished thereafter with identical text and illustrations in 1972 in hungarian and 1974 in german by the Editor KRITERION of Bucharest – there are under the 38 illustrated paintings 15, which are titled as «Spititual Flowers», among them however merely one (figure 46), to which this designation is fitting from actual sight.

In chronological order the next book is the 1983 by editor Corvina in Budapest published monogaphy by the author Júlia Szabó. In it one can find under the 45 paintings reproduced 10 titled as « Spiritual Flowers » which is however only in two cases correct (figures 53 and 54), and as a special curiosity one painting, which could have been correctly titled as « Spiritual Flower » (figure 50), is named «Composition».

In the chronologically next, 1998 published Mattis Teutsch monogaphy by the author Valéria Majoros one can find under the 31 paintings two titled as « Spiritual Flowers » – and in both cases correctly ! Thereby and thereafter one could have expected, that in this respect everything would be correct and all paintings labeled correctly. However completely mistaken! One was very much set right by the chronologically following publications – first the voluminous catalogues of the representative Exhibition « Mattis Teutsch and the Blue Rider » first shown in 2001 in the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest and thereafter in the Haus der Kunst in Munich. In those all 20 fullpage reproduced corresponding paintings which could have been with full justification titled as « Spiritual Flowers » are merely designated as « Composition ». As a clear sign and confirmation that this was not due to error or mistake, however to conscious intention, one can take obviously the 2015 in partnership with the Hungarian National Gallery published Mattis Teutsch monography of László Jurecskó – who belonged to the organisers of the 2001-exhibitions. In that book all 6 reproduced paintings which are clearly and doubtlessly satisfying the « Spiritual Flowers » -criterions are merely titled as « Composition ».

Moreover in the catalogues of the 2001 exhibitions as well as in the 2015 published monography by Jurecsko, also the paintings-series known as « Sensations », which around 1919 preceded the series of the « Spiritual Flowers » and which were in the early 1920’s detectably exhibited under that name – given by Hans Mattis Teutsch – in the scope of several exhibitions were aswell titled as « Composition ».

Independently of whether this happened consciously and intentionally or merely out of ignorance or negligence it can neither from an objective, nor from a subjective standpoint be considered as substantiated or justified, but rather as harmful for the groundless, delayed, even missing international acknowledgement and recognition of Mattis Teutsch’s life-work.

The apparently very profoundly and carefully working and searching arthistorian and researcher Tibor Almási took in his book published 2001 under the title « The other Mattis Teutsch » through the Regio Art Editor in Györ detailed position also regarding this complex of questions. In this context I consider it as significant and rewarding to look into it in some detail. Almási is discussing first – prior to the « Spiritual Flowers » – the precedingly, 1918-19 created and as « Sensations » titled   series of paintings. In their case he approves the titling as proper and justified from the point of view of content and justified. Moreover he is citing several references regarding their presentation in different exhibitions in Budapest and Vienna, where they found also approval in the accompanying critics. This is clear precedent in which a series of paintings of Mattis Teutsch was shown and became known under a designation given by himself. Consequently it is clearly inappropriate, even simply false, that in the catalogues of the 2001 exhibitions of the Hungarian National Gallery and the Haus der Kunst in Munich moreover also in the abovementioned monography by László Jurecskó, works of the same series of paintings are figuring with the meaningless and unspecific «Composition» title.

Regarding the series of paintings «Spiritual Flowers» Almási argues, in my view inconsistenly, that originally – in the 1920’s – they were shown in the scope of several exhibitions with their at that time from Mattis Teutsch given titels «Composition», at most completed with a number or a colour-designation. Almási mentions however also the first emergence of the notion «Spiritual Flower» in 1950 in connection with the portfolio presented to the grandson Waldemar. Against its expanded use he is argueing however that this notion does not emerge any more in the writings published during Mattis Teutsch’s life time and didn’t even find mention in the 1969 published detailed Mattis Teutsch study of the arthistorian Irén Lukász. They were merely mentioned as – by the way to my opinion correct – melodic and symphonic compositions. Taking this as decisive argument against the use of the « Spiritual Flowers » -title goes in my judgement however definitely too far. Partly since about the first in 1950, by the already 64 years old and retired Mattis Teutsch introduced new designation until his ten years later death there were barely any scripts published, and partly since Irén Lukász, even if on friendly terms with him must not have got at all necessarily notice of the new titling and by the way – 19 years later – could have also forgotten it. Almási quotes in this connection also the art critic Iván Hevesy, who wrote in this context about « … the absolute painting, which became to a such independent and sovereign, in itself alive and effective creation as an absolute acting musical composition or a complex ornament. » To say the least, this quotation – which I can fully approve – and the meaningless and degrading title « Composition » are certainly and obviously in contradiction to each other.

Since both notions « Spiritual Flowers » and « Sensations » originate from Hans Mattis Teutsch himself, I can not imagine any valid argument against their application. Quite on the contrary I am firmly convinced that it should, already from the point view of appropriateness, explicitly happen ! In my view especially the designation « Spiritual Flowers » fits in its uniqueness its to the pointness excellent to the floral- and poetic-acting colourful paintings. By all means definitely better than the anonymous, colourless and insignificant everyday designation : « Composition ».

This entire story might remind an indifferent observer to the analogy of the pendulum, which is inclined, or even damned, as it is well known, to strike out in both directions equally wide and without external intervention hardly ever to stops in its middle position of rest.

To this excursus regarding the story oft he « Spiritual Flowers » up to now I wish finally to add explicitly and with every distinctness that all this should not be meant and understood merely as criticism of the otherwise quite positive and thanks-deserving performance of the authors concerned, however merely as status inventory and diagnosis of the past occurrences. This should show how difficult and time-consuming the gain of arthistorical cognitions might prove.

The designation « Spiritual Flowers » fits especially excellent those paintings of Hans Mattis Teutsch which I have first seen 1986 in the 1983 published Mattis Teutsch monography by Julia Szabó and which made on me spontaneously a deep and lasting impression. They are oil paintings showing imaginary multicolour compositions in expressionistic style over structured-surface cardboard sheets of

36 x 29 cm size evoking at their spectators a poetic, flowerlike acting impression. They have without exception all around a – red, blue green yellow or colourless – background extending to the very edges and moreover occasionally also geometric elements like diagonals.

From the six monographies and different exhibition catalogues well over twenty such paintings are known. How many were originally created is barely recogniseable but very likely they were quite more. They are unmistakeably very typical and therefore already at first sight easily recogniseable as works of Hans Mattis Teutsch whose handwriting they are carrying.

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Hans Mattis Teutsch : Blue « Spiritual Flower » approx. 1921, oil / cardboard – 36 x 29 cm

In technical respect the « Spiritual Flowers » in question are showing as a common feature, that they are painted over structured cardboard sheets with regularly distributed small elevations. One may only guess whether Hans Mattis Teutsch bought or produced himself those cardboard sheets – which he was using regularly over several years and in substantial quantity not only for his « Spiritual Flowers » series. As a professional wood-carver and sculptor he would have had good presuppositions to do that. Anyway one may state that the said structure of the cardboard sheets used by him lends the paintings in comparison to those painted over even cardboards or canvas very individual, livelier, with other alternatives difficult to compare refractive properties and more differentiated optic-visual effects. One may justifiably assume that Hans Mattis Teutsch wouldn’t have used them so abundantly over several years if he wouldn’t have ascertained himself regarding their obvious advantages for the effect of his paintings.

In artistical respect the common characteristic of the paintings in question consists in their lively multicolouredness together with their shading and light colour-variations monochrome acting, dominating backgrounds – in red, blue, green, yellow or exceptionally also colourless – owing to which the represented flowerish structures obtain at times a very characteristic individuality and groundkey. They show a certain kinship to the different sound-keys of musical compositions. Or, using a not really close comparison, whether it would be question of colourful dressed beautiful young women with long black, brown, red or blond hair.

It is similarly noteworthy in this context that Hans Mattis Teutsch was using for the monochrome backgrounds of these paintings only one of the abovementioned four basic colours and never others or

any colourmix. I have seen among over twenty examples only three deviating from them in as much as their backgrounds are colourless, but otherwise belong, according to my judgement, nevertheless to this category of paintings.

A further common denominator of these paintings in artistical respect consists therein, that besides their expressionistic style – and in accordance with their designation consisting half of the notion « Flower » and half of the immaterial and unvisible « Spirit » – they expose a floral character jumping in ones eye and thus evoke in their spectators a visual impression as if they were imaginary flowers arising from the phantasy of the painter. This is, according to my knowledge an uncomparable phenomenon in the history of painting and consequently assurs already by itself a place for Hans Mattis Teutsch in the peak region of the Olymp of the fine (plastic and graphic) arts.

As regards the other expressionistic oilpaintings known to us and painted on the same structured cardboard sheets of 36 x 29 and sometimes 35 x 25 cm size on which the many-colured structures extend to the edges, they furthermore differ from the « Spiritual Flowers » partly in as much as their compositions do not have uniform-colour backgrounds and do not look monochrome and partly that their compositions are neither evoking a flowerlike nor a comparable uniform and closed impression.

The presumably late 1920-21 examples of the category « Sensations » on which also stylised human figures appear in combination with the otherwise not objective structures, in a way embedded into them, can be possibly considered as last intensification attempts within the scope of that series. From this one can deduct the lines of a continous stylistic development.

The « Spiritual Flowers » are representing to my judgement the peak of a multiyear stormy – and in all likelihood no more enhanceable – development. In my view nobody – neither Hans Mattis Teutsch himself nor anybody else – has since been able to surpass them. I suppose that this fact and the bitter realisation of the lack of comprehension and due appreciation of his work – which is, by the way, essentially still prevailing – delivers on the one side the most likely explanation for the consequent long interruption of his creative activity until the mid 1940’s which can be regarded as a resignation and on the other side for his consequent radical change of style. This assumption is clearly supported by his later work and his expression immediately prior to his death on 17.03.1960, accordig to which « he is now going to sleep during 100 to 150 years and return only thereafter when his work will achieve comprehension. »

With other words this can be interpreted in such a way that according to the barely ambiguous signs Hans Mattis Teutsch was punished during the second half of his life for apparently having hurried on ahead of his time and was therefore unavoidably misunderstood. Or according to metaphorical comparison in a way that he has probably lifted the edge of a curtain behind which the look was not permitted.

What appears questionable to me in this context is that neither the nearly 100 years elapsed since the creation of the «Spiritual Flowers», nor the nearly 60 years since the death of Hans Mattis Teutsch seem to be able to rectify this. Would it be therefore possible that the corresponding duty of recognisation has to be performed by myself, a non-professional ? Or am I goig to become in this respect only the proverbial prophet calling into the desert?

In accordance with the above described past we do unfortunately not have – despite of their comparatively broad knowledge – neither from Mattis Teutsch himself nor from elsewhere – any definition whatsoever of the painting-category « Spiritual Flowers ». I am therefore advocating and considering it also as urgent to adapt absolutely the definition at the beginning of my essay,

From that one can deduct the following seven clear criterions for the classification of the « Spiritual Flowers ».

1. Oil paintings – 2. Cardboard sheets with structured surface – 3. Size 36 x 29 cm.

4. Backgrounds in red, yellow, blue, gree or colourless reaching all around to the edges

5. Expressionistic style – 6. Flowerlike appearance

7. Imaginary motives

Hans Mattis Teutsch had the habit, demonstrated by numerous examples, to execute several of his paintings identically with respect to design and colour, but in different sizes. In the category of the « Spiritual Flowers » paintings however no such occurrence is known.

In the literature about Hans Mattis Teutsch a search for a description or definition of the category of « Spiritual Flowers » paintings is entirely fruitless. Those paintings to which the designation is really correct distinguish themselves from the others which could be also associated with flowerlike peculiarities that they act like exposed imaginary bunches of flowers or flower-pots in front of a monochrome background.

With other words the « Spiritual Flowers » receive by their monochrome border-regions a distinct limitation and thereby a sort of accentuated strong individuality. Compared to this, flower-beds always expose a sort of collective character and effect. A spectator of the « Spiritual Flowers »-paintings could be inclined to guess whether Mattis Teutsch was first painting the monochromic background and only afterwards, over it, the bouquet-like proper subject or proceeded in the opposite order ?

To me, in a first attempt, only the opposite procedure appears as convincing and plausible, first the floral phantasy-motive and only thereafter, as conclusion the monochromic background. In a similar sense that under normal circumstances a painter doesn’t paint a picture for an already existing frame but is looking after a well fitting frame for a picture.

The next question arising regards the different significances with regard to the different colours of the monochromic backgrounds, which seem to act somehow similarly as the keys (or even the tempi) in the case of musical compositions. It is therefore obvious that both have to be synchronized, to fit together.

The four ground-colours – red, blue, green or yellow – applied by Hans Mattis Teutsch for his different « Spiritual Flowers » -paintings dispose each very own and specific emotional energetic peculiarities. They bestow to the respective paintings also something like different qualities and basic frames of mind. Consequently the conclusion is almost compelling that the painter must have had from the earliest beginning of the painting a clear idea of the entire picture, since the subject of the picture and its monochrome backround are in various respects organically coherent comparable somehow with the parts of a human body where, for example, blue eyes are mostly accompanied and harmonise with blond hair.

Moreover the colours and especially the four basic-colours applied by Hans Mattis Teutsch for the backgrounds of his « Spritual-Flowers »-paintings have already themselves very strong individual properties, emanations and resonancies. They are very much influencing the mood of tthe picture. To illustrate this one should try to imagine a «Spiritual-Flowers»-painting with green background overpainted to red, or vice versa a painting with red background overpainted to green. That would clarify quite some aspects in this regard!

The hitherto existing situation with regard to the titling of the paintings classified here above as «Spiritual Flowers» deserves also a few thoughts and remarks. The painter himself is not really obliged to lend titles to his paintings – not even when the represented subject is not evident and self-explaining – although it can be considered in most cases as advantageous from the point of view of artistic treat. The language and the message of the painter is primarily the painting itself. The situation is quite different, when the titling doesn’t come from the painter himself but from an art-historian or exhibition-maker instead.

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Hans Mattis Teutsch : Green « Spiritual Flower » approx. 1921, oil / cardboard – 36 x 29 cm

I mean hereby that already such a meaningless title as « Composition » is to be regarded essentially as a titling. One could namely instead use also only « Picture » or « Painting » as title, in a way disregarding that each spectator would know also without it, that what he sees is a painting. With other words a titling as « Composition » or « Painting » does not reveal other than the admission of ignorance or unwillingness to express. On the other side one could ask oneself with quite some justification whether an arthistorian who is writing a book and depicting therein a painting with an insignificant title or an exhibition maker hanging a picture without title on the wall wouldn’t be obliged towards the public to something more ?

With regard to the paintings of Hans Mattis Teutsch accurately defined here above as « Spiritual Flowers » for the first time only in nearly hundred years the situation is confusing. In the different – so far in three languages – published monographies the here above as « Spiritual Flowers » defined paintings are only very exceptionally titled as such, however very often merely as Composition. What is even worse and confusing is that frequently such paintings, which partially do not even have similarities or kinship to the true « Spiritual Flowers » were nevertheless titled as such. In the major part of the latest publications one can find instead, as an apparent overreaction to the previous confusion, and as another extreme, the uniform titling of all paintings which might come into consideration in this context, even the doubtless « Spiritual Flowers », as « Composition ».

I wish to be permitted to emphasize that in case of the paintings, satisfying the above clearly described « Spiritual Flowers » -definition, the use of that title, which is the exclusive and unique designation of Hans Mattis Teutsch’s paintings, is unequivocally serving his interests and his well deserved fame and esteem.

The « Spiritual Flower » -paintings are essentially by means of a few – frequently no more than two – colours established, abstract, floral acting paintings, in which respect one can discover a surprising similarity between them and the colourful flowers of nature whereas the many-coloured pieces with their colourless background have rather similarities with bouquets consisting of several sorts of flowers.

It is similarly remarkable that comparing the « Spiritual Flowers » – paintings with the earlier created « Sensations » – series we witness a simplification in formal respect aswell as with regard to multi-colouredness, accompanied by a better understanding and oversight. Independently of this in the case of both series of paintings besides their multicoulouredness the cardboards applied for them render an accentuated emission by means of their threedimensional structure and differenciated refraction of light. It is truly remarkable that since their already century long creation apparently none of the arthistorians or artcritics seem to have noticed this exceptional effect.

* * *

The motives and reasons why Hans Mattis Teutsch after 1928, i.e. around 44 years old, suddenly and apparently without any transition interrupted his paintive and scupturing activity are sofar entirely unknown and there was a fair chance that they would also remain for ever. The thematical and stylistical breach and colouring between the works created prior to about 1928 and those created thereafter is so obvious and striking that an outsider may barely imagine an identical creator behind them. Possible and imaginable explanations are however the change of the political situation in Germany, the center of his activity in the 1920’s, with other words that for him already then the projected shade of nazism became perceptible (whereby his relationship to Herwarth Walden, alias Georg Lewin, the the Jewish leader of the « der Sturm » Galery might have played a role). Further explanations could have been for example his health condition or his relationship to his wife, however it seems now, 60 years after his death, that a convincing and clear explanation will miss for ever.

Comparing the works of his two creative periods between about 1908 and 1928 on the one side and about 1945 and 1960 on the other side, one gets the impression of a tyre from which the pressure has escaped in the later period. This when bearing in mind that Mattis Teutsch lived 32 more years after 1928 and following a decadelong interruption started painting again and exerted a practically uninterrupted lifelong teaching activity in Brasow.

With regard to his artistic activity it can be clearly stated, that merely its early period between 1908 and 1928 and especially its second half was of importance, in the course of which unique and epoch-making works of everlasting value were created. For this strange and difficult to understand story in all likelihood no other than a psychological explanation may serve, consisting of the realisation of the circumstance that due to the likely coincidence of several developments – about after 1928 – an obviously very sensible and inward oriented personality lost its self-confidence, inspiration and energy gained in 1916-17, at the onset of his successful epoch owing to the support of Lajos Kassák.

Although we do not have much knowledge in this respect, it is almost certain that in this context also the failure of a true and lasting recognition of his art must have played its part. On the one side it seems that he was not a really good and efficient explainer and promoter of his art and on the other side that except Lajos Kassák and Herwarth Walden – one who due to his leftist orientation and the other due to his Jewish descent were losing their influence – he did apparently not find other influential supporters.

Finally in the sense of an explanation of what happened, it may also be supposed that the throughout positive tune of his art, free of any shade, negative and violence – which has in my feeling similarities to the music of Franz Schubert – became inopportune towards the end of the 1920’s especially in Germany and Eastern-Europe, evoking towards him a lack of comprehension, which doesn´t seem to be clearly over in our days either.

In this connection I am in the fortunate position to be able to cite himself as wittness. In the only truly Roumanian-origin, 1985 in Klausenburg-Cluj/Napoca, by the editor DACIA published – bilingual, Rouumanian and German – monography of the author Mircea Deac one can find in its appendix under the title « Mattis-Teutsch about the art » 48 quotations. From those I am citing here below two, which appear to me especially relevant in context to this essay.

38. The presence or lack of the feeling is the decisive question. Does it exist then we have to bow ourselves in front of it and under all circumstances consider it. The feeling can be regarded as a reality which was originating together with mankind, as an uncomparable life-function, the form of expression which has to mirror the immeasurable finer proportions of imagination. Fine as a frail breath it can produce changes in cells of the brain, which let them vibrate in the same rhythm.

40. My paintings are movement- and colour-compositions, not decorative works. I render my perceptions, my spiritual conditions in a new form.

29.

Hans Mattis Teutsch : Yellow « Spiritual Flower », approx. 1921, oil / cardboard – 36 x 29 cm

Under the « Spiritual Flower » -paintings of Mattis Teutsch, whose message, mood and individuality consists in their floral and imaginary compositions and monochrome backgrounds, one can not find even a single one with a negative, disharmonic or even aggressive effect. Everybody may try to judge by means of the below presumably for the first time tabulated reproduction of the actually known and recognised 20 paintings.

Although it is a commonplace, but maybe is nevertheless justified to cite, that the difference between the colours is due to their different optical frequences. Among the doubtless original, below reproduced 20 Spiritual Flowers, which are satisfying the established criterions the somewhat surprising result with respect to their basic colurs is: 6 red, 6 blue, 3 green, 2 yellow and 3 colourless. With other words the upper end of the scale frequence representing red and its lower end representing blue colour are dominating versus the other colours with the intermediate frequences. Since this is assumably not the result of conscious intention but rather of instinct, it might be justifiable to conclude from it to the harmonic nature of the painter. In this respect especially the rounded perfection and the mutual similarity of the number 4, 9, and 14 depicted red and of the number 1 and 8 depicted blue Spiritual Flowers appear as remarkable, from which one may probably conclude, that the basic colours and the compositions of the paintings are independent parameters, which appears to correpond to the different coloration of identically shaped flowers in the nature.

At first sight only the paintings with colourless backgrounds appear to deviate from the rest as they distiguish themselves both due to their colourfulness and their bouquetlike acting compositions from the other « Spiritual Flowers » with only two or at most three colours. On the other side it seems as if the compositions with red and blue background compared to the green and yellow ones would appear more closed. Moreover it can be remarked that the compositions with green background colours are those with the strongest flowerish-plantlike appearance and that those with yellow background colours appear in comparison to their other colour counterparts as the most complex and least closed.

Spiritual Flowers, 1921-23, oil / structured cardboard, 29 x 35 cm

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1. Blue Spiritual Flowers             2. Yellow Spiritual Flowers              3. Green Spiritual Flowers

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4. Red Spiritual Flowers                5. Light Spiritual Flowers               6. Blue Spiritual Flowers

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7. Blue Spiritual Flowers                8. Green Spiritual Flowers             9. Red Spiritual Flowers

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10. Red Spiritual Flowers            11. Light Spiritual Flowers              12. Blue Spiritual Flowers

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13.Yellow Spiritual Flowers                 14. Blue Spiritual Flowers          15. Red Spiritual Flowers

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16. Blue Spiritual Flowers               17. Red Spiritual Flowers               18. Green Spiritual Flowers

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19. Red Spiritual Flowers                  20. Light Spiritual Flowers

Appendix

The careful definition of « Spiritual Flowers » presented before describes in the first place – by listing their positive criterions under seven points – precisely which paintings belong to them and which do not. This already for itself cannot be regarded as simple. In reality the situation is however more complicated and demanding and it is therefore sometimes confronting the reviewer with a true dilemma. For example by what can be considered in a given case as floral and what no more. Moreover also in that respect – which does not figure under the points of the definition – whether a symbolised human figure or a microscopelike object are still acceptable or not within its framework – i.e whether the positive criterions do not require in given cases a completion by negative ones the variants of which being virtually countless.

This shall be made better understandable by means of some typical examples. In that respect I have to emphasize that the lack of alignment of a given painting under the « Spiritual Flowers » is nothing more than a technical-stylistic judgement and in no way its evaluation and has nothing in common with the acknowledgement of its originality. Besides it is obvious that the works of Hans Mattis Teutsch from his extremely productive and many-sided creative period between 1919 and 1923 are partially so similar that their alignment and presentation in series appears to be justified with regard to the thereby achieved substantially stronger effect and lasting artistic treat. All this is not at all speaking against the individual presentation of the works concerned and its intention consists merely in hinting to the point that their understanding and appreciation is much more intensifyable by the recognition of their series-character and common presentation. Taking thereby a comparison it would be a pity in the case of a mountain-chain to limit oneself by the use of blinkers to a sole peak.

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21. Spiritual Flowers-like Composition with blue background, approx. 1923, oil / cardboard, 35 x 29 cm

The above example of figure 21, which corresponds in many respects – like oil-painting, size, quality of the cardboard, floral character, expressionist style and monochromic background – to the definition of the « Spiritual Flowers » stands however in contradiction to it in two other points – regarding the thick black diagonals reaching to the edges of the page and the feature visible in the middle of the picture looking like a microscope.

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22. Spiritual Flowers-like composition with yellow background, appr. 1923, oil / cardboard, 35 x 29 cm

In the case of the painting reproduced as figure 22 first of all the multiple interruption of the yellow background is a reason against its classification as « Spiritual Flower » besides the lilacoloured humanlike figure in its upper-left.

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23. Spiritual Flowers-like composition with blue background, appr. 1922, oil /cardboard, 36 x 29 cm

In the above example depicted as figure 23 the several times interrupted monochrome background and the doutful floral character are mainly the reasons against its classification as « Spiritual Flowers ».

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24. Spiritual Flowers-like composition with yellow background, appr. 1922, oil / cardbd. 36 x 29 cm

In the case of this example also the several times interrupted monochrome background and the doubtful floral characte are the hindrances against its qualification as « Spiritual Flowes ».

25. Spiritual Flowers-like composition with blue background, appr. 1923, oil /cardb. 36 x 29 cm.

Regarding the painting shown here above as figure 25 first of all the missing floral character and moreover the impression of a park seen from above, speaking against its qualification as « Spiriual Flower ». Moreover one can discover in it also the schematic outlines of a humanlike blueish figure in upright position, embracing with its right arm a pole and diagonally opposite to it, in the lower part of the painting, an also schematised, reclining white-coloured human figure.

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26. Spiritual Flowers-like composition with green background, appr. 1922, oil /cardb. 38 x 30 cm.

In the case of the above as figure 26 reproduced painting essentially only the even, unstructured surface cardboardsheet is speaking against its classification as « Spiritual Flower »

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27. Spiritual Flowers-like composition with green background, appr. 1923, oil /cardb. 35 x 25 cm.

Regarding the painting reproduced here above as figure 27 the reasons against its classification as « Spiritual Flowers » are the unstructured, even cardboard, its deviating 35 x 25 cm size and the repeated interruption of the monochromic background. Besides also the reclining female nude with elevated knee over the black diagonal line which supports this decision, although at a superficial first sight the overall impression has much similarities with the true « Spiritual Flowers ».

Nicolas Eber / ebnic@sunrise.ch

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