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Monday, June 12, 2017

Alexander Kanoldt

San Gimignano, 1922, Alexander Kanoldt
Over the past few years I've written from time to time about an art movement termed "magic realism." In doing so I've come to see it as something of a misnomer. That is, it's not very magical in any reasonable sense, and it's not realism on any sort of consistent basis (depending upon the artist). It ranges from a heavy handed Rouault style to what amounts to hyper-realism. Thus it has such a broad application to so many different painters representing so many different styles as to be very nearly meaningless. To define it and limit the meaning of the term, magic realism, is what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe. On the face of it, that sounds a lot like Surrealism but it differs in that magic realism focuses on the material object--actual existence of things in the world--as opposed to Surrealism's more cerebral, psychological, and subconscious reality. Moreover, as might be expected, the degree of realism as related to the element of magic ranges all over the place.

Nikolaiplatz, 1910-13, Alexander Kanoldt
The German painter, Alexander Kanoldt, is often labeled as a "magic realist," though his style evolved over the course of his thirty year career as may be seen in comparing his Nikolaiplatz (above), from 1910-13, with his San Gimignano (top), from 1922. The former seems heavy and firmly grounded while his San Gimignano and others from this period seem to soar due to the heavy emphasis on verticality. This can be seen still better in Kanholdt's two versions of Olevano (below).

One city, one angle, and quite apart from the obvious times
of day, we see Kanholdt's style settle into a boxy cubism
anchored in the objective rather than the theoretical.
Alexander Kanholdt was born in 1881. His father, Edmond Kanoldt, was a painter in the German city of Karlsruhe, located near the French border. Alexander Kanholdt studied first at the Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe in Karlsruhe before moving on to Munich in 1908. There he met several of the modernists such as Alexei Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter. Over the next several years Kanoldt became involved with them in several German Expressionists movements including the New Objectivity, and along with the Swiss painter, Paul Klee, the New Succession in 1913.

Kanoldt was a painter of modernist realism, while any element of magic involved a certain degree of imagination on the part of the viewer.
Still Life II, 1922,
Alexander Kanoldt
During the early 1920s Kanoldt developed the mature style for which he is best known, a dull realist rendering of potted plants, angular tins, fruit and mugs on tabletops. His portraits were in the same cold statuary style. Kanholdt's architectural landscapes had a strongly geometrical quality reminiscent of Paul Cezanne. Dur-ing a lengthy stay in Italy in 1924, Kanoldt produced multi-perspective architectural landscapes and serene interiors. These works resulted in an invitation to exhibit in the famous "Neue Sachlichkeit." His had the second largest group of works after Max Beckmann.

Courtyard, 1913, Alexander Kanoldt.
In 1925, Kanholdt became a full professor at Breslau Academy, a post he held until 1931. During this time he was often at odds with the avant garde. About 1933 Kanholdt moved on to the State School of Art in Berlin becoming its director until his resignation in 1936. With the rise of Nazism in 1933 Kanoldt attempted accommodations. He began painting in a romantic style, but nonetheless many of his works were seized by the authorities as "degenerate art" in 1937. Alexander Kanholdt died of heart disease in Berlin in 1939.

Telegraph Wires, 1921, Kanoldt, Alexander

View of Subianco, 1924, Alexander Kanoldt


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