Artwork of the month January

Wols, La flamme, 1946/47, Hilti Art Foundation


*1913 in Berlin, Deutschland, †1951 in Paris, Frankreich

La flamme, 1946/47

Oil on canvas

Hilti Art Foundation

Wols – his real name was Wolfgang Schulze – created some 1800 photographs, 2000 drawings and watercolours, and approximately 80 to 100 paintings. Much of his oeuvre was lost in the brief thirty-eight years of the artist's turbulent life. The first paintings, made shortly after the war in 1946/47, were exhibited in the upscale René Drouin gallery in Paris. The works did not attract much attention at the time, becoming more widely known only later in the wake of art-historical interest in Art Informel and Tachism.

The small, unsigned picture shows a shape with a complex inner structure placed against a light-grey ground mixed with white. The shape, basically symmetrical in composition, acquires a slant through the red lines that form a slightly tilting cross. The turbulence in the centre is accentuated by round shapes of different sizes made by the imprint of tubes of paint; they might be interpreted as eddies or drops or eyes. Fragile, partially broken contours delimit strands of paint left and right that Wols structured like the bark of the tree. He used the handle of his paintbrush to make scratches in the bundles of thin, swaying lines, sprouting out of the edges. They resemble magnetic field lines but also evoke a variety of associations: trees, underbrush, a seed, a piece of sliced-open fruit, and, of course, body parts.

Wols mit der Lupe (Wols with His Magnifying Glass): thus the title of philosopher Bernard Collin's aphorisms in which he conducted an ongoing conversation with the artist. Wols ordinarily left his work untitled to protect it from premature and facile interpretation. La flamme, like the second title Le bouquet, presumably stems from Olga Drouin. Wols pencilled CACCA into the top left corner. This is not only an ironic commentary, more importantly, Collin refers in his aphorisms to Antonin Artaud, whom Wols knew and greatly admired. Collin writes, "Caca, here the cry of Artaud/Is God leaving or staying?"

Angela Schneider

<b>Wols, La flamme, 1946/47, Hilti Art Foundation</b>
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein highlights a work from the permanent collection each month throughout the year. Works from the collection of the Hilti Art Foundation are also included in this series on a regular basis.