Anton Jasusch — Mood Landscape

Anton Jasusch was the most important representative of “Košice modernism" and one of the most important personalities of Slovak art of the first half of the 20th century...

Inventory No.: O 36

Artist: Anton Jasusch
Title: Mood Landspace

Year: 1958-1963
Technique: oil
Material: cardboard
Dimensions: 49 x 61.5 cm
Signature: signed, bottom right, brush: Jasusch

Anton Jasusch was the most important representative of “Košice modernism”[1] and one of the most important personalities of Slovak art of the first half of the 20th century. He created his original painting program that was based on expressionistic-Art Nouveau language, abstracting shapes, captivating play with colour and addressing basic ontological questions that are still relevant even for the current viewer. Nevertheless, he had not been fully appreciated or understood during his lifetime, neither by the professionals nor the general public. Nor was he accommodated by the former communist regime. Jasusch’s artistic contribution has not been fully recognised until recently and that happened mainly thanks to a deeper research of the “phenomenon” called the Košice modernism.

His early works (1908-1914) were mostly inspired by periodical artistic tendencies, especially symbolism, Art Noveau and expressionism. He was influenced strongly by the works of Konštantín Kővári-Kačmarik, József Rippl-Rónai or Ferdinand Katona who was a close friend of his. Jasusch spent this period painting mostly landscapes and motives of everyday life. He used simple visual composition and concentrated on the matters of colour, surface and lines – the basic painting principles that he also studied later over the course of his whole career. The First World War was a key turning point in Jasusch’s personal life and his painting program as well.[2] His experiences from the front lines and prison camps, along with his journey home that led him through the countries of the Far East had a strong influence on him. He started to focus on existential themes and a search for the meaning of life that he also reflected in his paintings. These paintings that were created between 1920-1924[3] are considered a part of the artist’s peak period. One of their characteristic features is a combination of an expressionistic-Art Nouveau language and a modernistic approach towards building an image. The paintings contain strong symbolism and allegorical scenes based on the idea of an all-powerful agent – a superhuman, spiritual, destructive force that “controls the fate of the universe, our planet, humanity and individual people.” [4] The paintings of this period often contain Jasusch’s critical and sarcastic attitude that he used to point out that humans are incapable of resisting their predetermined fate.[5] After this important creative period, the artist’s work started to be more inconsistent and conventional, probably due to his both psychological and physical exhaustion.

The last distinctive period of Anton Jasusch’s work came towards the end of his lifetime. In 1958, he had a solo exhibition in Košice that presented his works of the 1920s. It was Jasusch’s opportunity to see these works for the first time since they were presented in Bratislava in 1924. This experience gave the artist a creative stimulus.[6] On the turn of the 1950s and 1960s, Jasusch created a large number of paintings featuring countryside and World War themes like concentration camps and partisans. He also devoted his time to landscape painting as we can see in the painting from Nitra Gellery’s collection. It is titled Mood Landscape and was created during this period.

The modestly sized oil painting was created on cardboard. Towards the end of his career, Jasusch opted for cheaper materials than canvas due to his financial situation.[7] The artwork is horizontally oriented rectangular which follows the tradition of landscape painting techniques. The theme of the painting is a countryside panorama. It follows a simple triangular composition that focuses on its central axis. The scene consists of three main parts: the front is dominated by a large arable field, the central part features wooden houses with trees between them and the last one is covered by sky with the sun positioned towards the top right corner of the image. The image dynamics lies in its diagonally oriented elements as well as in its unfinished scene that seems to continue beyond the frame. The painting’s simple imagery is enriched with curved organic lines that represent Jasusch’s Art Nouveau experience and also thick, rapid outlines of shapes that follow the principles of German expressionism. The artist uses modernistic approach to eliminate elements and shapes from the image that leave colour to be the only means of expression of the final artwork. The colour palette is dominated by shades of brown and green. The artist’s play with colour makes the viewer focus on the central part of the image. Otherwise monotone colour scheme is disrupted with light shades of clouds or white house sidings. The central part is also highlighted with sun rays that account for the use of yellow and orange shades that create a pulsating contrast once they meet with the green parts. Thick and rapid layers of cold, darker and earthy colours invoke a dreary, nostalgic feeling of the overall composition. The described features of the Mood Landscape oil painting formally follow Jasusch’s extraordinary works of the 1920s and it is one of the most representative samples of the diverse style of the artist’s late period.

Anton Jasusch was born on April 25, 1882 in Košice. In 1904, he started his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest under the leadership of prof. Eduard Ballo. He continued studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich (1906) and at Académie Julien in Paris (1907). In 1908 he returned back to Košice where he worked until the beginning of the First World War when he was forced to enlist. In 1916 he was captured by Russians and it took him four years to return from the Far East. Then he finally settled in Košice where he lived and worked until he died in July 1965.

Mária Janušová

september 2017


Footnotes:

[1] The term “Košice modernism” refers to the Košice art scene of the 1920s. At the time, Košice was the centre of modernism and avant-garde, mostly thanks to its cultural traditions and easygoing social scene that ruled the town. The town laid ideal foundations for new art directions and movements, especially thanks to the local open-minded audience. It accommodated influential national and international artists. Košice had become a harbour for left-wing emigrants from Horthy-era Hungary (e.g. Gejza Schiller, Alexander Bortnyik, János Kmetty), but also Czech artists (e.g. František Foltýn) and German modernists. This regular migration of artists led to rotating artistic tendencies. Besides Anton Jasusch, another important Slovak representatives of the Košice modernism were Eugen Krón and Konštantín Bauer. Refer to: KISS-SZEMÁN, Zsófia – LEŠKOVÁ, Lena (eds.): Košice Modernism. Košice Art of the 1920s. East Slovak Gallery: Košice 2013.

[2] Jasusch’s personal transformation after his return from the War was described by Tomáš Štraus: “The young and physically fit sportsman that used to be full of life has turned into a physically and psychologically ruined scoundrel. The unconventionally social and all-curious young man has become a lifelong loner.“ ŠTRAUS, Tomáš: Anton Jasusch and the Birth of the East Slovak Avantgarde of the 1920s. Slovak Art Fund Publishing: Bratislava 1966, p. 50.

[3] The peak level of this period is marked by Jasusch’s exhibitions in Košice and Bratislava in 1924. ABELOVSKÝ, Ján – BAJCUROVÁ, Katarína: Modernism in Slovak Fine Art. Painting and Sculpture 1890-1949. Peter Popelka Publishing – Slovak Publishing: Bratislava 1997, p. 177.

[4] Ibidem, p. 179.

[5] Zuzana Bartošová explains the message of Jasusch’s universe-themed paintings: “man is just a meaningless part of a large complex, a fatefulness we need to submit to, or in other words, we are unable to take control of our future, we need to make piece with our fate and besides religion, we also need to believe in the reincarnation of wandering souls and the eternal circle of life […].“ BARTOŠOVÁ, Zuzana: Interwar Košice as the Centre of Art. In: BARTOŠOVÁ, Zuzana – LEŠKOVÁ, Lena: Košice Modernism and its overlaps. [Exhibition Catalogue]. East Slovak Gallery: Košice 2013, p. 51.

[6] KISS-SZÉMAN, Žofia: Anton Jaszusch. Painter and Visionary. [Curatorial text]. Bratislava City Gallery: Bratislava 14 June 2007 – 19 August 2007. Available online at: .

[7] Besides cardboard, he also often used paper and paperboard.

Bibliography:

ABELOVSKÝ, Ján – BAJCUROVÁ, Modernism in Slovak Fine Art. Painting and Sculpture 1890-1949. Peter Popelka Publishing – Slovak Publishing: Bratislava 1997.

BARTOŠOVÁ, Zuzana – LEŠKOVÁ, Lena: Košice Modernism and its overlaps. [Exhibition Catalogue]. East Slovak Gallery: Košice 2013

KISS-SZÉMAN, Žofia: Painter and Visionary. [Curatorial text]. Bratislava City Gallery: Bratislava 14 June 2007 – 19 August 2007. Available online at: .

KISS-SZEMÁN, Zsófia – LEŠKOVÁ, Lena (eds.): Košice Modernism. Košice Art of the 1920s. East Slovak Gallery: Košice 2013

ŠTRAUS, Tomáš: Anton Jasusch and the Birth of the East Slovak Avantgarde of the 1920s. Slovak Art Fund Publishing: Bratislava 1966,