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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lodewijk Bruckman

Studio Bruckman, 1932, Lodewijk Bruckman
Lodewijk Bruckman Self-portrait, 1935
I've always been a great admirer of Surrealism. Having said that one might assume I'd also greatly admire Salvador Dali--which I do. I also like Rene Magritte. But there are others. Lodewijk Bruckman is one. Do I hear a chorus of "Who?" in the background? First of all, Bruckman was no Dali, either in the quality and nature of his work nor did he have Dali's flamboyant personality. Likewise, Bruckman lacked Magritte's subtle, rather dry sense of humor. Some critics and art historians prefer to call Bruckman's work "Magic Realism," though the line between that and Surrealism is spider web thin, if, indeed, it exists at all. In any case, it would take an entire paragraph or two to explain the differences. Whatever you want to call it, I like it.

Peace and Plenty, 1949, Lodewijk Bruckman

Coquette #7, 1954, Lodewijk Bruckman.
A tentative step toward the surreal.
I contend that before an artist can become a Surrealist one has to master Realism. The Dutch-born Bruckman (1903) fulfilled that requirement, though the style and content of his Realism before his coming to the United States in 1949 is so traditional as to be over-the-dining-room-buffet boring. His 1949 Peace and Plenty (above) might just as easily have been painting in 1549. The interesting thing about Bruckman is that he didn't suddenly decide he wanted to be a Surrealist. His evolution took several years during the 1950s into the early 1960s. His Coquette #7 (right) is both real and surreal, a carefully contrived traditional still-life without the "impossible" factor, but highly unlikely.  

Still-life, 1962, Lodewijk Bruckman,
Daliesque infinite blues.
Later we see the Daliesque, infinite blue backgrounds, then as the artist seemingly became more comfortable with his new type of Realism (call it magic, if you must) he begins to explore, though never venturing as far from Realism as Dali nor embracing the pictorial symbolism of Magritte, yet manifesting a subtlety lacking in the two biggest names in the genre.
Magjan's Dream, 1959,
Lodewijk Bruckman
The year 1959 seems to have marked a breakthrough for Bruckman. His Magjan's Dream (right) is surreal to the point it challenges believability with its weightless, ephemeral beauty, seemingly an attempt to "out-Dali" Dali. His 1962 Shell, Robe, and Eggs (bottom, left) seems to be a step back, once more drawing upon the graded blues of infinity and dreamlike weightlessness while heightening the minute details which evoke the conflict between reality and illogic that makes Surrealism so entrancing. Bruckman seems to have always been first and foremost a still-life painter. The eggs and eggshells, which occur again and again in his later surrealist works are likewise ever present in his still-lifes from the 50s and 60s, such as Where Is the Bird Who Fits the Feather? (below, right) leading one to wonder if he merely dabbled in Surrealism, fearful of veering too far from the beaten path, or if he truly evolved into a Surrealist, and perhaps even beyond that to this so-called "Magic Realism." Lodewijk Bruckman died in 1995 at the age of 92.

Where is the Bird Who Fits the Feather?,
1962, Lodewijk Bruckman
Shell, Robe, and Eggs,
1962, Lodewijk Bruckman


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