The belgian Avant-Gard 1917-1930 | Group 2 Gallery

14/9 – 27/10 2018

Marthe Donas, Paul Joostens, Jean Jacques Gailliard, Marcel-Louis Baugniet, Victor Servranckx, Felix de Boeck, Pierre-Louis Flouquet, Karel Maes.

Group 2 Gallery | Bruxeles | Belgium

Thematic selection of fine quality and some extremely rare works by several major members of the Belgian Avant-Garde movement, which started around 1917 and developed during the 1920’s up to the early 1930’s.

Marthe Donas ( 1885 – 1967 ) was, with Sonia Delaunay, Gontcharowa, Popova and some other Russian artists, one of the first female abstract painters in art history. Settling in Paris in 1916, she discovered Cubism in the atelier of André Lhote. There she made her first abstract paintings early 1917. Later that year Donas met Ukrainian sculptor Alexander Archipenko with whom she lived in Nice. She joined the group of “La Section d’Or”, which had a.o. Léger, Braque, Gleizes, Brancusi, Villon, Kupka and Archipenko among its members. Theo Van Doesburg devoted several articles to Donas in the art magazine “De Stijl”. In 1920 Herwarth Walden invited Donas to exhibit in his famous Gallery Der Sturm in Berlin. The American artist-collector Katherine Dreier bought five works at this show. With the help of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, Dreier created a unique collection called “Société Anonyme”, which she later bequeathed to Yale University. This collection has been shown in several American museums in 2008-2009. In 2015 Donas was well represented in the exhibition “Sturm-Frauen : Women Artists of the Avant-Garde in Berlin 1910-1932” in Frankfurt-am-Main and in 2016 the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent hosted a major retrospective of her work.
Paul Joostens was a very individualistic avant-garde artist, experimenting with oil paintings, drawings, collages, assemblages and poetry. After his training at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, he experimented with several new pictorial tools. Joostens is a.o. one of the first collage artists in Belgium. In 1919 he discovered the Dada movement, which will influence his work throughout his later career. His assemblages created a sensation in the early 1920’s. He became a member of the group around poet Paul Van Ostaijen, along with sculptor Oscar and painter Floris Jespers. Though considered as one of the pioneers of abstract art in Belgium, Joostens never abandoned the link with figuration and the narrative in his work. After his Cubist and Dadaist period, he distanced himself in 1926 from the avant-garde in order to paint in a ‘Neo-Gothic’ manner, inspired by the Flemish Primitives. In the 1950’s he resumed making Dadaist work, wherby two themes dominated his work : the female and the mystique. Woman, at times depicted as the holy virgin or as a prostitute, played a central role in many compositions, such as in the series of the “Poezeloezen”, as he called the prostitutes from the Antwerp red-light district.
Jean-Jacques Gailliard, son of impressionist painter ​Franz Gailliard, was born in Brussels in 1890. In 1903 he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels and in 1907 he followed the drawing lessons of symbolist painter Jean Delville, who was fascinated by mysticism, esoterism and occultism. As an adept of swedish theologian and mystic Swedenborg, Gailliard decorated the chapel of the “General Church of New Jerusalem” in Ixelles in 1915. During that period his work was symbolist and he used a pointillist technique. During the interbellum, his works became abstract. From 1920 to 1924 he moved to Paris where he met artists a.o. Isidora Duncan, Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Eric Satie. From 1922 onwards, he took part in the “Salon des Indépendants in Paris”. When “7 Arts” was founded in 1922, he participated at several exhibitions of this avant-garde group. In 1923 he was present at the Salon of “La Lanterne Sourde” in the Egmont Palace in Brussels and in 1925 he was a member of “Les peintres constructeurs”, with Baugniet, architect Stanislas Jasinski, Servranckx, Flouquet, Xhrouet and Maes. In 1925 he co-founded the modernism group
“​L’Assaut”​​. In his abstract works of the 1920’s a certain humor is present, which distinguished him from his fellow “constructivist” artists. Keeping in mind the interdisciplinary character of different art forms, he illustrated books, published engravings and designed theater decors. With L’Assaut he organized an open-air exhibition in Brussels in 1927. In 1927 he also signed a contract with Gallery “Le Centaure” in Brussels. Gailliard started making at that time figurative paintings which he called “surimpressionist”, focusing on the reality behind the visible world. The fantastic element became essential in his oeuvre, at times in combination with words or texts. Throughout his long career he made figurative drawings and paintings of places in Brussels and Ostend and portraits of fellow artists and writers : Maurice Maeterlinck, Fernand Khnopff, James Ensor, Michel de Ghelderode and many others. In 2007 Group 2 Gallery paid tribute to the artist with the exhibition “Jean-Jacques Gailliard – around James Ensor and Ostend”.
Marcel-Louis Baugniet was born in Liège in 1896. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels from 1915 to 1918, where he met a.o. Magritte, Flouquet and Delvaux. His first works were influenced by the symbolists Klimt and Khnopff. In 1921 he studied at the “La Grande Chaumière” Academy in Paris, where he met a.o. Zadkine and the Lurçat brothers and where he discovered the russian constructivists Malevitch and Lissitzky. Baugniet admired most of all Czech artist Frantisek Kupka. Back in Brusels, he joined in 1923 the “7 Arts” Avant-Garde magazine founded by painters Flouquet and Karel Maes, the Bourgeois brothers (architect and poet) and composer Georges Monnier. Baugniet published many articles and manifests in this magazine, whereas his art gradually moved from cubism to geometric abstraction. In 1923 Baugniet met the ballet dancer Marguerite Acarin, who became his wife and whose name he changed into “Akarova”. In 1925 Baugniet participated at the “Decorative arts” exhibition in Paris, where he discovered the russian pavillion with works by Popova, Tatlin, Maïakowski, Lebedev and Stepanova. Much impressed, he decided to study the russian language. In 1927 Baugniet formed with dutch architect Van Tonderen a company called “Modern Interior”. Together they signed a manifest in eight parts, a.o. “Le beau c’est l’utile” (The beautiful is the useful), “La fonction crée la forme” (The function creates the form) and “We preach the triumph of the machine”.
Victor Servranckx, born in 1897, claims having made his first abstract work, a gouache/collage, in 1915 and in 1917 several of his non-figurative works were exhibited at Galerie Georges Giroux in Brussels. Artist Michel Seuphor, author of “Abstract art in Flanders”, wrote at the time that this was the very first exhibition of abstract art in Belgium. Servranckx was in touch with international masters such as Fernand Léger, Marcel Duchamp and the italian futurist Filippo Marinetti. His “Pure plasticism” works were selected by the New York gallery “Société Anonyme” for the International Exhibition of Modern Art in 1927. As a member of the Avant-Garde movement in Brussels, Servranckx wrote articles for the magazine “7 Arts”. In 1922 he published with René Magritte the manifesto “L’art pur. Défense de l’esthétique”. Servranckx is best known for his geometric abstract works from the 1920’s. Typical for his non-figurative oeuvre is material imitation and the suggestion of mechanical movement by machines in a highly stylized form close to French Purism. Servranckx gave his works neutral titles (Opus, followed by a serial number), which was in the spirit of the idea of ‘collective art’. In 1925, Servranckx momentarily ceased painting and devoted himself to architecture and design in his studio “Cubist Home”. With architect Huib Hoste he designed an office space for the “Exposition Internationale des arts décoratifs” in Paris. When he resumed painting a year later, he distanced himself from the constructivist style, using a very diverse mixture of styles in his oeuvre. His work became “abstract surrealist” whereby organic elements are combined with geometrical forms. In visionary paintings with biomorphic figures, Servranckx experimented with new techniques and materials. However, the design element remained part of his visual means of expression. After WWII, he returned to a formal abstraction and actively collaborated with a new generation of abstract artists such as Jo Delahaut and Paul Van Hoeydonck. Servranckx also participated at the World Exhibition in Brussels in 1958. Servranckx is rightly considered as one of the most important belgian Avant-Garde artists, whose works are found in the collection of international museums. Group 2 Gallery presents in this show a number of extremely rare or highly unusual works of the artist, which will suprise and delight every Avant-Garde enthusiast.
Felix De Boeck was born in Uccle in 1898. Encouraged by artist Prosper De Troyer in 1917, De Boeck gradually changed his style from Post-Impressionism to Fauvism and Futurism. Near the end of World War I, De Boeck exhibited in Brussels with the group “Doe Stil Voort” (Continue quietly) and fellow-painters Victor Servranckx and Jozef Peeters. In 1919 De Boeck met Flouquet, Karel Maes and the Bourgeois brothers, all founding members of the “7 Arts” avant-garde magazine. De Boeck started painting geometrical and circular abstract masks as a reaction to the economic and social upheaval of the First World War and the desire to build a new world. In the period 1919 – 1921 De Boeck’s work gradually grew abstract through an extreme stylizing of masks and landscapes. The two-dimensional gave way to a sense of depth, suggested by several diagonals and colour degradations. The ensuing abstract space, with a primary emphasis on the central point, became a returning mystical element throughout his entire work. In 1923, De Boeck’s work was commented in the two main avant-garde publications in Belgium, “7 Arts” and “Het Overzicht”. After 1925 De Boeck became a member of “L’Assaut” with Marcel-Louis Baugniet, Jean-Jacques Gailliard, Servranckx, Flouquet and Karel Maes. The township of Drogenbos near Brussels hosts a fine museum FeliXart dedicated to the artist’s work.
Pierre-Louis Flouquet was born in Paris in 1900. In 1909 his belgian parents settled in Brussels. From 1914 to 1919, he studied at the Brussels academy and shared a studio with René Magritte. His first works were influenced by Cubism and Futurism. In the early 1920’s he co-founded the avant-garde magazine “7 Arts” with the Bourgeois brothers and Karel Maes. In 1925, Flouquet exhibited in Herwarth Walden’s famous gallery Der Sturm in Berlin. With Marcel-Louis Baugniet and Jean-Jacques Gailliard, he founded the modernism group “L’Assaut” in 1925. In 1928 his work became figurative expressionist. In the 1930’s Flouquet abandoned painting and became a critic, poet, architectural journalist and writer. With Pierre Bourgeois, Maurice Carême, Georges Linze, Edmond Vandercammen and Géo Norge, he founded “Le Journal des Poètes” in 1930. The Museum of Ostend, Belgium, currently organizes an exhibition about Flouquet and his contemporaries Jos Léonard and hungarian artist Kassak.
Karel Maes, born in 1900, was one of the few Belgian artists (with Marthe Donas) who was in touch with the dutch avant-garde group “De Stijl” of ​​Mondriaan and Van Doesburg. For a while, Maes was even the Belgian ‘representative’ of Van Doesburg’s international movement. In 1922 Maes signed the manifesto of the “Konstruktivistische Internationale Beeldende Arbeidsgemeenschap” in Weimar in the presence of Van Doesburg, El Lissitzky, Max Burchartz and Hans Richter. Maes was present at nearly all major avant-garde exhibitions where Pure Plasticism (La Plastique Pure) was highlighted. With Jozef Peeters and some others, he was one of the first Belgian geometric abstract painters. His works feature rectangles, circles and triangles. His oeuvre consists of paintings, drawings, posters, linocuts, woodcuts and theatre decors. He made illustrations for several Belgian avant-garde publications such as Lumière, Ruimte, Ça Ira, Het Overzicht, De Driehoek and 7 Arts. In 1924 he made a series of furniture for the Cité Moderne in Sint-Agatha-Berchem designed by architect Victor Bourgeois. The artist combined his plastic and graphic work with furniture, tapestries and glass windows.