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Monday, March 14, 2016

Carel Willink

Late Visitors Pompeii, 1931, Carel Willink
Very few developments in the world of art happen suddenly. Perhaps the closest any new art style ever came to "bursting" suddenly upon the scene was when Picasso and Braque "dropped" the Cubism bomb into Modern Art. Even that didn't come without two or three years of whistling warning like an incoming artillery shell. Otherwise, evolution rather than revolution tends to be the norm, often with some intermediate style to during the early decades of the 20th-century. They called it "Magic Realism." It was realism with a dreamlike quality. Later, as Magic Realism, sometimes called "Imaginary Realism," evolved into Surrealism, the effect being that of dreams with varying degrees of realism to make them more stark and frightening. This transitional era was the province of the Dutch painter, Carel Willink.

Carel Willink (mostly) self-portraits, 1920s through 1980s.
Radio Girl, 1925, Carel Willink
Carel Willink was born in 1900. He grew up in Amsterdam, the son of a mechanic, who was an amateur painter himself, and encouraged his son in his artistic leanings. After a brief fling at studying medicine, Willink switched to architecture. In the years after WW I he studied at the Technische Hogeschool in Delft. In the early 1920s, Willink moved to Germany, hop-ing to enroll in the Art Academy of Dusseldorf. However, he failed the entrance exam so he chose Berlin instead where he studied briefly at the Staatliche Hochschule. Judging from the number of paintings of himself he created (above) over the course of his career, he must have majored in self-portraiture.

Construction, 1922, Carel Willink--Picasso's Cubism and Leger's "tubism."
Willink evolved as a painter, his style ranging from German Expressionism, Cubism, to various dalliances in abstraction, as influenced by Picasso. Picasso continued to be a major influence all during the decade of the 20s as Willink adopted a figurative style in a neoclassical mode with influences from Leger and later the metaphysical paintings of Giorgio de Chirico. The de Chirico influence Willink picked up in the early 1930s as he and his brother toured Italy including visits to Pisa and Florence. During this period Willink painted such works as Late Visitors in Pompeii (top) daring from 1931. Also from 1931 he painted a nude reclining in front of a landscape, Resting Venus (below).

Resting Venus, 1931, Carel Willink
Although Willink's Magic Realism was a direct forerunner of Surrealism, the artist never fully embraced Surrealism. From 1935 until his death in 1983, Willink lived in Amsterdam. His realistically rendered paintings frequently depict disquieting scenes taking place in front of imposing buildings, reflecting his early studies of architecture. Quite apart from his many self-portraits, Willink also painted many portraits of other people too. Transitional styles seldom end when the next "big thing" (Surrealism, in this case) comes along. Carel Willink continued Magic Realism well into the 1970s, seeing Magic Realism spawn Surrealism then run parallel to it.
Sleeping Zebra, 1959, Carel Willink
The Execution, 1933, Carel Willink


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