Imre Szobotka

Imre Szobotka, “Fiatalkori Onarckép (Self Portrait as a Young Man)”, 1912-14, Oil on Canvas, 45.5 x 38.2 cm, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Born in Zalaegerszeg, Hungary, in September of 1890, Imre Szobotka was a painter and engraver. Between 1905 and 1910, he studied at Budapest’s School of Design under painter Ignác Újváry. Szobotka traveled to Venice in 1908 for a study trip and traveled to Rome in 1909, this time accompanied by his friend Ervin Bossámyl. He relocated to Paris in 1911, where he lived at the residence of avant-garde sculptor and graphic artist József Csáky, one of the first Parisian sculptors to apply pictorial Cubism to his art.

Szobotka attended the 1911 Independent Salon in Paris, where he viewed the works of the Cubist painters. Inspired by their work and with the encouragement of his friend, the Cubist painter József Csáky, he enrolled at the La Palette School of Art in 1912, where he studied under Cubist painters Jean Metzinger and Henri Le Fauconnier. By the spring of 1913, Szobotka’s works, exhibited in the Independent Salon, were already noticed by the French critics, including writer and critic Guillaume Apollinaire. 

During World War I, Imre Szobotka was interned as a prisoner of war, starting in 1914 in Bretagne and later, at Saint Brieuc, France, until his release in 1919. The landscapes, still lifes, and portraits made in the internment period were experiments in cubism, symbolism, and orphism, a cubist offshoot that focused on abstraction and bright colors. These works, rare examples of Hungarian Cubism,  included his 1914 “Pipe Smoker”, the 1916 “Sailor”, and watercolor illustrations he produced for poet Paul Claude’s “Revelation”.

After his return to Paris in 1919, Szobotka’s paintings contained a more naturalistic expression. He exhibited this new work first in 1921 in Belvedere, a commune in the Vesubie Valley north of Nice, and, between 1929 and 1944, in shows at the Tamás Gallery, the Fränkel Salon, and the Mária Valéria Street gallery. The solid, defined construction of these landscape works by Szobotka insured him a place among the Nagybánya artists, whose work was focused on plain-air painting.

Imre Szobotka was a founding member of Képzőművészek Új Társasága, the New Society of Fine Artists, and presented his work in its exhibitions. For his 1929 “Mill in Nagybánya”, he won the landscape award presented by the Szinyei Society, an artistic association founded after painter and educator Pál Szinyei Merse’s death to promote new artists. Szobotka would later enter the “Mill in Nagybánya” at the 1938 Venice Biennial. In 1941, he won the Szinyei Society’s grand award for his exhibited work. 

From 1945 onward, Szobotka produced some graphic work; however, his main concentration was on his landscapes. He spent his last summers in the countryside near the village of Zsemmye where he painted pastoral landscapes. Szobotka became president of the painting division of the Fine and Applied Arts Alliance in 1952. For the body of his work, he received the Munkácsy Award in 1954 and the Socialis Work Order of Merit in 1960. Imre Szobotka died in March of 1961, at the age of seventy, in the city of Budapest.

Imre Szobotka’s “Self Portrait as a Young Man” is one of the key creations of his Parisian years. It shows his embrace of the elements of cubism, particularly the coloring and abstraction of its orphism branch. The main emphasis of the work is not the formal structure with its conventionally postured figure, but rather the way the light breaks its components into prisms of color. Szobotka emphasized his sense of light value and his translucent colorization to form a refined play of reflections, which cut the painting’s solid forms into colored shards.

Insert Images:

Imre Szobotka, “Sailor”, 1916, Oil on Canvas, 35 x 29 cm, Janus Pannonius Museum, Péca

Imre Szobotka, “Gathering Apples”, 1930, Oil on Canvas, 55 x 76 cm, Henman ottó Museum, Miskolc

Imre Sobotka, “Self Portrait”, 1912, Oil on Cardboard, 53 x 45 cm, Private Collection

Robert Delaunay

Robert Delaunay, “Manège de Cochons”, 1905-1918, Gouache and Watercolor on Paper, 52.5 x 49.8 cm, Private Collection 

Born in Paris in April of 1885, Robert Victor Félix Delaunay was one of the earliest completely unrepresentational painters, whose work affected the development of abstract art.. In 1902, after finishing his secondary education, he was apprenticed for two years to study decorative arts with a theatrical designer located at the Impasse Ronsin in the Belleville district of Paris, where he worked on theater sets. At the age of nineteen, Delaunay left Ronsin to focus on his painting and entered six of his works at the 1904 Salon des Indépendants

Delaunay traveled to Brittany, where he was influenced by the Pont-Aven group, symbolist artists inspired by the pure color of Paul Gauguin’s works. The works he painted in Brittany he presented at the 22nd Salon des Indépendants. Between 1905 and 1907 Delaunay became friends with Henri Rousseau and Jean Metzinger, with whom he shared a 1907 exhibition at art dealer Berthe Weill’s gallery. Delaunay, familiar with the color theories of French chemist Michel-Eugéne Chevreul, started painting at this time in a Neo-Impressionist manner influenced by the work of Paul Cézanne.

After returning to Paris in 1908 from a year in military service,  Robert Delaunay began painting multiple series of works in a style that used bold colors and was increasingly influenced by abstraction and cubism. These series included the 1909-1911 “The City”, the “Eiffel Tower” executed 1909-1912, and the 1912-1914 “Window” series. Delaunay started to use pure colors again early in 1912 and, at the end of the year, had painted his first two abstract paintings: the 1913 “Circular Forms” series and “The First Disk” series.

In 1910, Delaunay married textile and theater set designer  Sonia Terk who, in 1964, would become the first female artist to have a retrospective at the Louvre. Together, with Czech painter and graphic artist František Kupka, they pioneered an offshoot of Cubism called Orphism, which today is seen as a key transition from Cubism into Abstract art. Orphism reintroduced the use of strong color during cubism’s monochromatic phase and was known for its geometric shapes.

In 1911, Robert Delaunay began exhibiting in Germany; he was invited by Vasily Kandinsky to participate in the first Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) exhibition held at Heinrich Thannhauser’s Moderne Galerie in Munich. Delaunay’s first solo major exhibition in Paris was held in 1912 at fashion designer Paul Poiret’s contemporary Galeries Barbazanges. This show, containing forty-six works from his impressionist period to his cubist Eiffel Tower series, gained him recognition as a monumental visionary artist.

 During the period from the outbreak of war in 1914 to 1920, Delaunay and his wife spent the years in Spain and Portugal. In 1917 in Madrid, Delaunay met Russian art patron and ballet impresario Serge Diaghliev and  designed the stage set for Diaghilev’s  production of “Cleopatra”; Sonia Delaunay produced the designs for the porduction’s costumes. Delaunay would later  produced illustrations for Chilean post Vicente Hudobro’s work “Tour Eiffel”. Both Robert and Sonia Delaunay exhibited their work from their time in Portugal at a 1920 show in Berlin’s Der Sturm gallery. 

In 1921, Robert Delaunay returned to Paris where he continued to work in both figurative and abstract themes, with an 1922 exhibition of his new work at Galerie Paul Guillaume . He would later be introduced to artists in both surrealism and the Dada movement by poets André Breton and Tristan Tzara. In 1924, Delaunay started his “Runner” series of paintings and, in the next year, executed frescoes for the international Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris.

Delaunay returned to complete abstraction in 1930 and produce compositions with circular disks and color rhythms, sometimes executed in low relief. For the 1937 Paris International Exhibition, he participated in the design of large panels and colored reliefs to be used in the Aeronautics pavilions. Delaunay’s last works were decorations for the sculpture hall of the 1938 Salon des Tuileries, an annual painting and sculpture exhibition.

Stricken with cancer, Robert Delaunay lost mobility and his health gradually deteriorated. He died from cancer on October 25, 1941 in Montpellier, at the age of fifty-six. In 1952, Delaunay was reburied in Gambais, a commune in north-central France.


Roger de La Fresnaye

Roger de La Fresnaye, “Artillery”, 1911, Oil on Canvas, 130 x 159 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Born in Le Mans, France, in July of 1885, Roger de La Fresnaye was a French painter who combined melodic colors with the geometric simplified forms of Cubism. He studied at several art schools in Paris, including the Ranson Academy, under painter Paul Ranson, and the École des Beaux-Arts. La Fresnaye, in his early works, experimented both with Symbolism, with its colorful shapes and dream=like quality, and also with Expressionism, which feature bold colors and swirling brushstrokes.

Around 1910, Roger de La Fresnaye began incorporating the more abstract style of Cubism into his work. In 1912, he became a member of the Section d”Or, a group of artists and dealers aimed at spreading the influence of the new art form of Cubism. Although La Fresnaye adopted the geometric emphasis of Cubism, he emphasized the use of color and retained some recognizable forms in his work. This was largely due to Robert Delaunay’s abstract style called Orphism, which its interplay of shapes, colors, and use of light.

Roger de La Fresnaye exhibited his works at the 1912 Salon de la Section d’Or, one of the more important shows of its time which featured more than two hundred Cubist works. He entered the French Army during World War One and was discharged in 1918 due to his contracting tuberculosis. La Frewnaye went to the south of France to recover, continuing to draw and paint in watercolor. However, he never recovered enough energy to undertake a sustained work load. 

Although his paintings did much to popularize Cubism, Roger de La Fresnaye later abandoned the avant-garde and become one of France’s advocates of traditional realism. He ceased painting in 1922 but continued to produce drawings. La Fresnaye’s death occurred in Grasse on the French Riviera in November of 1925 at the age of forty.

Roger de La Fresnaye’s  1911 “Artillery”was painted three years before the outbreak of World War One. It depicts officers on horseback accompanying a caisson, or ammunition wagon, transporting a field gun and three soldiers in helmets. A military band wearing the blue and red colors of the French infantry is in the background. La Fresnaye’s geometric rendering of the forms strengthens the composition, evoking the military group’s cadenced movement through the canvas’s space.

Top Insert Image: Roger de La Fresnaye, “Nature Morte à l’Oeuf”, 1910, Oil on Board on Panel, 66.2 x 50.9 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Roger de La Fresnaye, “Alice au Grand Chapeau”, 1911, Oil on Canvas, 130.5 x 97 cm, Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon

Albert Gleizes

Albert Gleizes, “Man on a Balcony”, Oil on Canvas, 1912, Philadelphia Museum of Art

“Man on a Balcony” is a large oil painting created in 1912 by the French artist, theorist and writer Albert Gleizes. The painting was exhibited in Paris at the  Salon d’Automne of 1912. This Cubist contribution to the salon created a controversy in the French Parliament about the use of public funds to provide the venue for such ‘barbaric art’.

Gleizes was a founder of Cubism, and demonstrated the principles of the movement in this monumental six foot tall painting with its projecting planes and fragmented lines. The large size of the painting reflects Gleizes’s ambition to show it in the large annual salon exhibitions in Paris, where he was able with others of his entourage to bring Cubism to wider audiences. The painting was completed around the same time as Albert Gleizes co-authored with Jean Metzinger a major treatise and manifesto on cubism entitled “Du Cubisme”.

“The plastic results are determined by the technique. As we can see straightaway, it is not a matter of describing, nor is it a matter of abstracting from, anything that is external to itself. There is a concrete act that has to be realised, a reality to be produced – of the same order as that which everyone is prepared to recognise in music, at the lowest level of the esemplastic scale, and in architecture, at the highest.”- Albert Gleizes, The Epic: From Immobile to mobile Form”, 1925

Lyonel Feininger

Lyonel Feininger, “Gelmeroda XIII”, Oil on Canvas, 1936, Museum of Modern Art, New York

This crystalline painting features one of Feininger’s favorite subjects—the Gothic church of Gelmeroda, located near Weimar, Germany. In his many images of the fourteenth-century structure, Feininger explored the building as a physical connector between the past and the present. Here, he adopts the angled fragmentation of form and space found in Cubism and Italian Futurism to give a sense of spiritual energy and transcendence. In 1937, one year after this work was completed, Nazi officials included Feininger’s art in the notorious Degenerate Art exhibition, prompting him to return permanently to the United States.

Henri Le Fauconnier

Henri Le Fauconnier, “Les Montagnards Attaqués par des Ours”, (Mountaineers Attacked by Bears), Oil on Canvas, 1912, Rhode Island School of Design Museum

Henri Victor Gabriel Le Fauconnier was a French Cubist painter born in Hesdin. Le Fauconnier was seen as one of the leading figures among the Montparnasse Cubists. At the 1911 Salon des Indépendants Le Fauconnier and colleagues Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Fernand Léger and Robert Delaunay caused a scandal with their Cubist paintings.

He was in contacts with many European avant-garde artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, writing a theoretical text for the catalogue of the Neue Künstlervereinigung in Munich, of which he became a member.  Le Fauconnier exhibited his vast “Les Montagnards Attaqués par des Ours” at the Salon d’Automne of 1912 in Paris.

Albert Gleizes

Albert Gleizes, “L’Homme au Balcon”, Man on a Balcony (Portrait of Dr. Théo Morinaud), 1912, Oil on Canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Albert Gleizes was a French artist, theoretician, philosopher, a self-proclaimed founder of Cubism and an influence on the School of Paris. In 1912 Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger wrote the first major treatise on Cubism, Du “Cubisme”. Gleizes was a founding member of the Section d’Or group of artists.

He was also a member of Der Sturm, and his many theoretical writings were originally most appreciated in Germany, where especially at the Bauhaus his ideas were given thoughtful consideration. Gleizes spent four crucial years in New York, and played an important role in making America aware of modern art.

Juan Gris

Juan Gris, “Still Life with Checked Tablecloth”, Oil on Canvas, 1915, Private Collection

Juan Gris was born in Madrid. He later studied engineering at Madrid’s School of Arts and Sciences. There, from 1902 to 1904, he contributed drawings to local periodicals. From 1904 to 1905, he studied painting with the academic artist José Moreno Carbonero. It was in 1905 that José Victoriano González adopted the more distinctive name Juan Gris.

In 1906 he moved to Paris and became friends with Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger. In Paris, Gris followed the lead of another friend and fellow countryman, Pablo Picasso. He submitted darkly humorous illustrations to journals such as Le Rire, L’assiette au beurre, Le Charivari, and Le Cri de Paris.

Gris began to paint seriously in 1910 (when he gave up working as a satirical cartoonist), developing at this time a personal Cubist style. In A Life of Picasso, John Richardson writes that Jean Metzinger’s 1911 work, Le goûter (Tea Time), persuaded Juan Gris of the importance of mathematics in painting. Gris exhibited for the first time at the 1912 Salon des Indépendants (a painting entitled Hommage à Pablo Picasso).

Francis Picabia

Francis Picabia, “La Source (The Spring)”, 1912

Francis Picabia, born Francis-Marie Martinez de Picabia), was a French avant-garde painter, poet and typographist. After experimenting with Impressionism and Pointillism, Picabia became associated with Cubism. His highly abstract planar compositions were colourful and rich in contrasts. Picabia was one of the early major figures of the Dada movement in the United States and in France. He was later briefly associated with Surrealism, but would soon turn his back on the art establishment.

Jean Metzinger

Oil Paintings by Jean Metzinger

Jean Metzinger (1883-1956), was a French artist, painter, theorist, writer and poet. His early works, from 1902 to 1904, were influenced by the Neo-Impressionism of Georges Seurat and Henri Edmond Cross. Between 1904 and 1907 Metzinger worked in the Divisionist and Fauve styles.

From 1908 Metzinger was directly involved with Cubism; both as a leading artist and principle theorist. Metzinger, following Picasso and Braque, was chronologically the third Cubist painter. He was a founding member of the Section d’Or group of artists, and together with Albert Gleizes, wrote the first major treatise on Cubism in 1912.