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Jean Messagier (1920-1999) continued

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I always have been a great admirer of the abstract art of Jean Messagier. Recently i acquired a collection of gallery catalogues of the New Yrok based Lefebnre gallery . A renowned gallery that was active from 1960 – 1986 and run by John Lefebre. In the early years he chose original lithographs as cover for his publications and one of these is the very impressive lithograph by Jean Messagier. Spread over 3 page this is probably the best i have ever seen by this artist. I am biased, since i am the fan of his abstract art, but even for a normal art lover this work must be outstanding.

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messagier 1964 b

The Lefebre catalogue is now available at http://www.ftn-books.nl

messagier lefebre a

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KRH Sonderborg (1923-2008)

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A Danish born artist where KRH stands for Kurt Rudolf Hoffmann and the Sonderborg stands for his birth town and he started to call himself KRH Sonderborg since 1951.

Sonderborg went to school in Hamburg, Germany and completed a merchant’s apprenticeship in 1939. He became a private student of the painter Ewald Becker-Carus in Hamburg in 1946. From 1947 to 1949 he studied painting, graphic art and textile design at the State Art School in Hamburg under Willem Grimm and Maria May.

Starting in 1953, he became a member of the group “Zen 49” and he went to Paris the same year where he learned engraving from Stanley William Hayter in the Atelier 17. Paris is also the place where he first encountered Tachism. In the years following the artist continued his travel and worked for some time in London, Cornwall, New York, Ascona, Rome and Paris again. While in New York, Sonderborg came into contact with Action Painting and Abstract Expressionism.

His own style is became more abstract, painting using swift, gestural strokes that reveal the painting process, with spontaneous colour application. Black and white contrasts are an important feature, later he added colours such as cadmium red.

K.R.H. Sonderborg exhibited in the 1958 Biennale in Venice. He was awarded the Prize for Graphic Art at the Biennale in Tokyo in 1960 as well as the Great International Prize for Drawing at the 1963 Biennale in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

From 1965 to 1990 Sonderborg held a post as professor of painting at the Stuttgart Art Academy. In 1969/70 he was a guest lecturer at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, as well as at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1986.

the following Sonderborg publications are available at www.ftn-books.com

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Serge Poliakoff (1906-1969)

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I love his art. It always reminds me of the best dutch abstract artists from the 60’s and i would not be surprised of Willem Hussem was influenced by Poliakoff’s art

Serge Poliakoff was born in Moscow in 1906, the thirteenth of fourteen children. (Some sources claim that he was born in 1900, which in fact fits in better with his later history – 1906 would have him leaving home and earning his living as a musician at the age of 12.) His father, a Kyrgyz, supplied the army with horses that he bred himself and also owned a racing stable. His mother was heavily involved with the church, and its religious icons fascinated him. He enrolled at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, but fled Russia in 1918. He arrived in Constantinople in 1920, living off the profits from his talent as a guitarist.

He went on to pass through Sofia, Belgrade, Vienna, and Berlin before settling in Paris in 1923, all the while continuing to play in Russian cabarets. In 1929 he enrolled at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. His paintings remained purely academic until he discovered, during his stay in London from 1935 to 1937, the abstract art and luminous colours of the Egyptian sarcophagi. It was a little afterwards that he met Wassily Kandinsky, Sonia and Robert Delaunay, and Otto Freundlich.

With these influences, Poliakoff quickly came to be considered as one of the most powerful painters of his generation. In 1947, he was trained by Jean Deyrolle in Gordes (Vaucluse region in France) amongst peers such as Gérard Schneider, Giloli, Victor Vasarely, and Jean Dewasne. By the beginning of the 1950s, he was still staying at the Old Dovecote hotel near Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which was also home to Louis Nallard and Maria Menton, and continuing to earn a reliable income by playing the balalaika.. A contract enabled him to quickly gain better financial stability.

In 1962 a room was given over to his paintings by the Venice Biennial, and Poliakoff became a French citizen in the same year. His works are now displayed in a large number of museums in Europe and New York. Poliakoff also worked with ceramics at the Manufacture nationale de Sèvres. He influenced the paintings of Arman.

The following Poliakoff publications are available at www.ftn-books.com

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Erik Ortvad (1917-2008)

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One of the founding cities of the COBRA movement is Copenhagen and one of the true Danish COBRA members was Erik Ortvad.

Ortvad was born on the 6th of June, 1917 in Copenhagen. He was a painter and a graphic artist, who was known to be an autodidact. He has been painting since 1935 from a very young age. In this period his paintings were influenced by the surrealistic and abstract style of Ejler Bille (1910-2004), Vilhelm Bjerke Petersen (1909-1957) and the artists group called Linien (The Line) (1934-1949). During 1941 and 1942 Ortvad was, just like many other Danish artists and contemporaries, in search of more spontaneity in the course of his creative process. He began to paint with a more spontaneous-abstract style, at which he would use small brushstrokes to purvey his canvases on numerous occasions with the colours grey, pink, yellow and blue.

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Ortvad joined the Danish pre-war experimental artists association Høst (1942-1949) in 1945 as the youngest member. Through Høst he came in contact with members of CoBrA (1948-1951), an international post-war avant-garde movement that believed that art must originate from artistic freedom, fantasy and spontaneity. Ortvad’s artworks were shown in 1948 at the Van Lier gallery in Amsterdam. His artworks were also shown in 1949 and 1951 at the renowned CoBrA exhibitions in Amsterdam and Liège. Ortvad decided a year after the abolishing of CoBrA to put his paintworks aside and focus on his desire to draw cartoons. He did this under the pseudonym ‘Enrico’. After the year 1960 he directed his focus on his spontaneous painting style once again. In contrast with his earlier works, his later works are defined by a powerful characterization existing of fiercely, saturated colours, strong lines and visible brush strokes.

It took al very long time for me personally until I discovered Ortvad, but now that I have encountered his works I believe I like him better than most of his dutch fellow COBRA members. The below publication is available at http://www.ftn-books.com

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Jan van Toorn ….STADsMARKERING, Groningen 950 jaar

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I am always keen on the special publications published by government and museums. Here is one by the Groninger Municipality, who commissioned Jan van Toorn for a special publication to celebrate 950 years Groningen. Size , design and printing are all of the best quality and even the included map looks special. The book comes from the former library of Total design and is now available at www.ftn-books.com

stadsmarkering

 

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Berggruen collection

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If there is one collection I have to mention, being important for all Impressionist and Neoimpressionist lovers around the world, it most certainly is the Berggruen collection. Literally every important artist from these periods is present within this impressive collection. No just one work of art but multiple makes this collection as important as many of the collections that were formed with tax money, and gifts over the centuries. This collection was formed over a period of Seventy years and holds over 165 masterpieces .

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Berggruen started to collect in 1939 after he fled Germany in 1936 and managed to obtain only the very best and in most cases extremely rare and highly collectable works of art. The collection was made a gift to Germany and is now housed in the Berggruen Museum in Berlin, but before it had a place of its own, it travelled the world and many have had the occasion to see for themselves the beauty of this impressive collection. http://www.ftn-books.com has now the catalogue for the Geneva location available. The exhibition was held in Geneva at the ~Musee d’Art et d’Histoire in 1988.

berggruen aa

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the Stedelijk Museum Bulletins

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Art & Project was not the only art gallery who published a regular bulletin in the Netherlands. In 3 consecutive decades, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam published their Bulletin series on a regular basis. Their Bulletins were more informative and less a small piece of art. I thought they were less interesting, but now some 15 years later I have become to appreciate these Bulletin publications. Great design, very informative and always “up to date”. Over the decades some very important and highly collectable Bulletins have been published. The series consists over 400 bulletin publications among which are some true classics which are available at ww.ftn-books.com. My thought about the Bulletin series has changed over the years and I think these publications are from an art point of view important. They show the exhibitions which were held over the years and include some of the best art ever. For me the following Bulletins can not be missed in any serious art book collection: Ben, Memphis, Keith Haring on the Velum, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt on his drawings. This is to name just a few……..

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André François (1915-2005)

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Born Rumanian, but living for most of his life in France.  From the early Fifties on, France had a very lively comic art scene. This surely has been an influence since his cartoon-like drawings were strongly rooted in this kind of art in France BD / Bandes Dessinees) became increasingly popular and so did the art by André François. This was picked up by Willem Sandberg who curated an exhibition on André François in 1966. Catalogue design by Wim Crouwl makes this one of my personal favourite catalogues from the Sixties. the article below was published in the Guardian some years ago…..and of course www.ftn-books.com has the 1966 Stedelijk Museum catalogue available.

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André François born André Farkas in 1915 was an illustrator known for his satirical cartoons and comics. He was born in Romania and but eventually moved to Paris. He was a left-wing Jewish and during WWII he hid away from the Germans, and after the war moved to Grisy-les-Plâtres where he eventually passed away in 2005 after a long successful career.

Francois took his early inspiration from the Art Deco movement and the renowned illustrator A.M. Cassandre. When he moved to Paris he actually studied under Cassandre for some time.

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He worked in many satirical publications in France and also in American publications like the New Yorker, Vogue, Holiday and Sports Illustrated. Beyond magazines he also worked in the realm of children’s book illustration, adult content illustration and within the advertising industry (as many illustrators of the time did). In advertising he often created visual puns usually. This usually involved turning inanimate objects into human forms as well as the opposite.

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He became known in Paris for the sense of humour in his work, which he primarily completed in crude black and white ink drawings, with the occasional injection of vibrant colour. He became well-known and sought after by art directors in America after he published several anthologies of his cartoon work titled “The Penguin André François”, “The Tattooed Sailor and Other Cartoons From France” and “The Half-Naked Knight”. His obituary published in the New York Times describes his style perfectly: “François’ crude but sensual black-and-white brush drawings and starkly colored paintings, employing surreal and ironic juxtapositions, introduced serious whimsy to conservative commercial art. He also injected a comedic eroticism that broke various taboos.”

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At the age of 86, his house underwent a terrible house fire and he lost almost all of his work. His friends report that he wanted to create a completely new set of work to replace that which was lost. In 2005 he died from heart and kidney failure.

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What drew me to François’ work is the looseness and simplicity. It reminds me of another contemporary illustrator who I love named Manddy Wyckens. It also reminds me of the illustrations done by Jean-Jacques Sempé for the children’s comic Petit Nicolas. What I love about François’ work is that he doesn’t just create cute, or beautiful images, he is always saying something. While he aims to convey a message, he also doesn’t give the audience all of the puzzle pieces. Sometimes it takes a little longer to understand what the illustration means but when you understand it, it’s all the more rewarding.

I think part of the reason I’m attracted to his work is that I can relate to it as I feel that I am always trying to say something with my work, but often the results are crude drawings and paintings.

The looseness and simplicity is also something I love about his work. Being able to communicate a message with a style that seems effortless is commendable. Looseness and simplicity is something I would love to learn how to use in my own work so I will be sure to look to André François for future inspiration.

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Sources:
https://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/16/world/europe/obituary-andr-franois-illustrator-and-cartoonist.html

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Daphne van Peski (Duijvelshoff)(1942)

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In the beginning, when I started with FTN books I had a hard time to distinguish Wim Crouwel his designs from the ones made by Daphne Duijveshoff. Later the differences became more clear to me. Duijvelshoff even had even more clean designs than Wim Crouwel had. Still, I sometimes make the error to think it is a Crouwel design I am looking at and to discover a few moments later that it is made by Daphne Duijvelshoff. They worked for a very long time together at Total design but she stopped with her design work in 2006. The excellent site on Dutch designers has done a special on her which can be found over here: https://www.dutchgraphicroots.nl/?p=2144

Of course http://www.ftn-books.com has some great Duijvelshoff designs available.

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Niko Pirosmani (1862-1918)

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Possibly the longest blog of all i have written if you take your time to watch the included documentary on Pirosmani. Just a short intro to the book that i have recently added to my inventory ( available at www.ftn-books.com). It is the official catalogue ( sold out during the exhibition because only a few hundred were printed ) IN SEARCH OF PIROSMANI.

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An exhibition held at the Dordrechts Museum in 2012 on the Georgian naive painter Niko Pirosman. At the time successful at the Dordrechts Museum, but almost immediately forgotten. Still a nice exhibition on a very talented self taught painter, who stayed true to his naive style of painting during his life. When I searched for information on Pirosmani I stumbled upon a 90 minute documentary on his life and painting. Watch this and Pirosmani has no secrets for you anymore. The catalogue is now available at www.ftn-books.com