The exhibition Mattis-Teutsch and Der Blaue Reiter is the first retrospective of the Transsilvanian artist Hans Mattis-Teutsch (1884–1960). The Hungarian National Gallery and the MissionArt Gallery, both in Budapest, and the Haus der Kunst Munich have brought together over 150 paintings, 40 sculptures, 30 graphics, 70 lino- and woodcuts and numerous documents from international public and private collections to enable the first representative overview of the life’s work of this complex artistic personality.
The most important sources were, in Romania, the art gallery in Sf. Gheorghe, the National Museum in Brukenthal, the art gallery in Bra_ov and the National Museum of Bucharest. In Hungary, the National Gallery, the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest, and the Janus Pannonius Museum in Pécs have contributed generously to this exhibition, beside some large private collections in the USA, Switzerland and Germany. The Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, both in Munich, are among those who have provided about 40 works of Der Blaue Reiter that are included in the exhibition.
Hans Mattis-Teutsch was a painter, graphic artist and sculptor, but also an art teacher, theorist and literate. Unjustifiably almost completely forgotten today, he is recognized retrospectively as a significant protagonist of the European avant-garde. But for all his contemporariness and internationality, he always remained an unmistakable individualist in his artistic language.
He was born in 1884 in Brassó– known also by its former Saxon name Kronstadt – in Siebenbürgen/Transsilvania. Hungarian until 1921, it is now Bra_ov in Romania. He first trained as a woodcarver in his hometown and then studied sculpture from 1901 to 1903 at the Royal Arts and Crafts School in Budapest before continuing his studies from 1903 to 1905 at the Königlich Bayerische Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich.
In the years between 1905 and 1907, when Mattis-Teutsch earned his living as a frame-carver in Paris, he and numerous other artists of the avant-garde – including Kandinsky, Münter and Jawlensky – came face-to-face with the latest art trends. He was influenced both by the works of Gauguin and Van Gogh on the one hand, and on the other by the secessionist, delicately-coloured world of images of the symbolist Nabis, but also by the Fauves movement surrounding Matisse, with its contoured forms full of clear and powerful colours.
Apart from these early study and work periods in Budapest, Munich and Paris, which were so influential in his work, Mattis-Teutsch remained faithful to the town of his birth, to which he returned following a final stay in Berlin in 1908. From then on, he left Brassó/Bra_ov only for repeated but always limited visits to the capitals of Germany, Hungary and Romania.
At the place of his own first artistic education in Bra_ov he became an arts teacher in 1909 and remained so for decades. This geographical withdrawal is the main reason why Mattis-Teutsch has attracted so little attention in the European avant-garde scene since his death.
But it was precisely the return to Siebenbürgen that marked the start of his artistic creativity. The central motif of his work from these productive years of the first decade of the 20th century was Nature. He portrayed it in a colour-intensive, strongly rhythmical, expressive picture language. His quest for the forces holding the world together, and for the kinetic energies active in visible appearances, as well as his desire to show the surrounding Nature in harmony with inner, personal emotions, led him increasingly in the direction of abstraction. The central concurrence between Mattis-Teutsch and the painters of Der Blaue Reiter lay in this spiritual interpretation of colour and symbolic forms, as well as in his confidence in their generally understood power of expression. The comparison made by the exhibition makes this connection clearly visible, although it cannot be proved by documents.
What can be proved, however, it the close cooperation that developed between Mattis-Teutsch and the expressionist art magazine MA (Today), which appeared in Budapest from 1917 onwards. Its publisher Lajos Kassák was the first person to present an exhibition of Mattis-Teutsch’s work, held in his own publishing house, and it was also the first MA exhibition. Through Lajos Kassák’s mediation, Mattis-Teutsch made contact in 1918 with the editor of the spiritually related Berlin newspaper Der Sturm and the director of the Sturm gallery, Herwarth Walden – the person who contributed so much to the fame of Der Blaue Reiter through publications and traveling exhibitions. Mattis-Teutsch, together with Paul Klee, took part in the 99th exhibition of the Sturm gallery in 1921.
The early 1920s saw a big change in Mattis-Teutsch’s works. His mainly expressive, strongly coloured painting changed under the influence of Constructivism, which had been developing internationally since 1920. He now produced compositions of complex construction, and after 1926 his colour palette became more and more restrained, the bright colours lightening to become pale pastel tones. The aspect of objectivity was increasingly reinforced, allying itself to the representation of the human body. This confrontation influenced Mattis-Teutsch to produce figurations of an appearance both archaic and heroic. Sculptural works also began to gain in importance again. In these, Mattis-Teutsch was the first artist to discover aluminum as a material for artistic expression in addition to wood and terracotta.
The formal and colourful elegance and sophistication, which were so characteristic of Mattis-Teutsch’s work in the late 1920s, and the flatness that marked his paintings after the late 1920s, place his works nearer to design, and act as a bridgehead to his artistic origins in applied art and the design principles of the Art Nouveau. Simultaneously, the theme of work and of the new man comes to the foreground.
The exhibition concept was produced by Éva Bajkay, Hubertus Gassner, Lázló Jurecskó and Zsolt Kishonthy. For the purposes of this exhibition, a representative catalogue with 488 pages, 300 colour reproductions, 9 essays and 30 documents has been published. It appears in German, Hungarian and English.
14,1 x 14,1 cm
Privatsammlung G. Lecca, München