Cr it ic ism
LYDIE LACHENAL KENNETH MESDAG RITTER To paint, to appropriate space, to capture the truth of appearances and the invisibility of the real, the sensuality of the matter, the human being and the soul, the poetry and the infinite of the world of forms and colors... A writer claimed: “Great books are only the mutilated shadows of invisible and eternally non-incarnated images of the soul” 24, but painting is not literature, and Picasso, on the other hand, is supposed to have said: “I don’t search, I find.” That is somewhat true for all painters, but for Weissberg, painting is above all a questioning. The painting is in the question. An existential question without limit in space and time. The answer to the question is the pursuit of the painting, the continuation of the melody, as in the an old Jewish song he liked, taken up by Ravel under the title The Eternal Enigma,25 whose lyrics Michel Fontaine related to us as Weissberg had told them to him: “The world asks an old question: – melody – and the response to the question: – is the continuation of the melody.” Weissberg interrogates form, which harbors and lets appear beneath the interior life of immobile models, intense and secret, inhabited by unknown thoughts, a dream. He approaches, he brings us nearer to the visages, the abandoned bodies of silent and captivating beings, as are also the simple objects of his still-lives, his flowers that wilt, the earth, skies, houses, the streets in his landscapes. No estheticism, the objects too have a soul. In austere compositions, stripped, vigorously constructed and brought down to the essential by a transparent layer of paint or by impasto, the painter questions the line, the matter and the flesh of colors, their vital energy, which sometimes, suddenly, express themselves with surprising force and respond to the song of the world. The painter then has done a successful painting, he sees, he gives life, he attains the truth in art. This Expressionism is not in the subject, nor in the stridence of the colors. It impregnates the painting almost invisibly, from the interior. The deformations that are introduced are not aggressive, nor more do they tend to simulate gaucherie. They are a matter of sensitivity, not aiming at primitivism, but at simplicity, not at caricaturing but at characterizing, so as to bring out the human in its purest expression. Intellectualism and satire, foreign to painting, and which kill emotion, are rejected. As for the intrusion of the irrational, it can only be the effect of a creative surge or of a divine hazard, never the fruit of a system. The tendency to reconstruction must leave room for the fundamental impulsion, for the “god that holds the hand of the painter”. Contained Expressionism, as if interiorized in the vivid or sober paint of the painting. [...] Weissberg paints human solitude, the grandeur of nature and bitter-sweet beauty. With rigor and restraint, he is distinguished by a sensual and sensitive brio, and in his best works, with a teeming spirituality, magnified by color.
Presentation for the Weissberg exhibition Retrospective 1924-1942, Gallery Mann, Paris 1998.
WALDEMAR GEORGE Léon Weissberg (Przeworsk, Galicia, […]) excelled as a painter of suburban and industrial landscapes of the Paris area, as well as of hauntingly imaginative Jewish topics. His Jewish Bride is a brilliant example of the qualities of painting and of folklore that Eastern European Jewish artists have contributed in recent decades to the style of the School of Paris.
Preface to the catalog for a collective exhibition Gallery Zak, Paris, 1955, referenced in Cercle de Montparnasse. Later published by the author in The School of Paris, ch. IX.
Quoted by Cecil Roth in his book, Jewish Art.
24. Herman Melville. 25. Maurice Ravel, Deux Mélodies hébraïques.
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