On Mattis Teutsch’s Figural Style
S. A. Mansbach

Mattis Teutsch’s curriculum vitae parallels chronologically (and geographically) the history of classical modern art and its reception. Born into a Saxon-Székler family in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy; educated in the Kingdoms of Bavaria and Hungary; active as a painter, sculptor, critic and theoretician in republican France, Weimar Germany, revolutionary Hungary, and royal and, later, socialist Romania, Mattis Teutsch embodies the concept of the cosmopolitan European: transnational in orientation and experience, yet local in his references and commitments; universal in his artistic purposes, yet individual in his visual vocabulary.

Mattis Teutsch’s art, like that of other innovative artists of his age and region, has not been studied consistently and has rarely been assessed impartially. Due to the vagaries of twentieth-century political history, his varied activity has often been approached tendentiously. Yet, aesthetic preferences and ideological fashion have also played a role in the reception of Mattis Teutsch’s work. Equally important were the artist’s own shifts in style, aims, and convictions. Mattis Teutsch’s stylistic concerns of the 1910s differed markedly from the aesthetic emphases of the mid-1920s and later. The dramatic changes in the context for his art, as well as within his oeuvre, have meant that both the scholarly treatment and public reception of Mattis Teutsch have been characterised by notable historical inconsistencies and ideological disjunctures.

The vagaries of the historical reception of Mattis Teutsch’s art can be charted through the specialised literature, which betrays fundamental differences in stress and focus, often according to the linguistic or national origin of the authors.1 In general, the few German-language studies (except those published in Transylvania) tend to present the artist in the context of Expressionism, and less frequently in terms of the organic abstraction that Franz Marc, František Kupka and Wassily Kandinsky, for example, pioneered in Central Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century.2 Hungarian scholars have, in the main, focussed on Mattis Teutsch’s essential contribution to the avant-garde aesthetics developed, applied and effectively promoted by Lajos Kassák and his MA-circle (Fig. 1.). With a few notable exceptions, the literature in Hungarian ends its analyses of Mattis Teutsch’s works with the middle of the 1920s, when the artist had definitively settled down in Romanian (and no longer Hungarian or Habsburg) Brassó, and when he cultivated his relations with Romanian avant-gardists.3

The literature published in Romania reflects the divisions prevailing culturally and politically in "Greater Romania" (România mare). Between 1919 and the 1930s the German language reviews of Mattis Teutsch’s local exhibitions and his German language publication Kunstideologie not infrequently celebrated the artist’s inventiveness as a "Saxon" or regional figure. When his international achievements were mentioned, they were often invoked less to praise his cosmopolitanism than to underline the accomplishments of a native son.4 The articles in Romanian, which appeared only after 1920,5 often presented the artist as a figure of national importance. In the pages of Contimporanul his stature as a mature figure of international consequence was affirmed by its forward-looking editors Marcel Janco and Ion Vinea, and by its regular contributors, M. H. Maxy and Tristan Tzara, whose own status as avant-garde "outsiders" may have played a role in their endorsement of their Transylvanian colleague.6 Nonetheless, in comparison with Mattis Teutsch’s relatively frequent appearances in the pages of Contimporanul and Integral, as well as his regularity as an exhibitor with the Arta nouã group, mention of the artist in Romanian language articles was relatively rare, especially in the 1930s, when the authoritarian government energetically showed its determination to downplay the cultural distinctiveness of its national minorities.7 (Fig. 2.) This policy of selective attention increased during World War II and especially in the decades which followed. It was not until 1968 that a spate of Romanian language publications began to deal seriously with Mattis Teutsch’s art, touching upon works from the opening decades of the century as well as newer ones. Most of them followed one of two principal approaches. Several authors focused "apolitically" primarily on the classical avant-garde aesthetics, with the lyrical abstractions of the late 1910s and early 1920s serving as the fulcrum of discussion.8 Others, particularly those published during the 1980s period of autarky, did not shrink from highlighting Mattis Teutsch’s ideological engagement, manifested gradually in his art from the mid-1920s through the 1950s.9 Both approaches promoted a public appreciation of Mattis Teutsch as a Romanian figure who helped to foster a flowering of Romanian culture, and one whose art drew on transnational experiences coloured by indigenous interests.10

A consideration of the literature on Mattis Teutsch corroborates the impression of partiality in the treatment of the artist. Regardless of the reasons for the selective assessment of his creative production, it is evident that entire phases of Mattis Teutsch’s work have been largely overlooked. Among the periods comparatively neglected by scholars is the stage of mostly figural works from the mid-1920s and 1930s.11 Admittedly, during the decades of academic fixation on "high modernism", little attention was paid to the "return" to figuration that was almost universally practiced during the third and fourth decades of the twentieth century. From Picasso’s "neoclassical" portraits of women, through Christian Schad’s "Neue Sachlichkeit" depictions of German businessmen, Malevich’s "Russian rendering" of peasants, to Isabel Bishop’s bustling images of New York, this wide range of figuration was often disparaged by progressive cultural critics as a betrayal of modernist ambitions - as much ideological as aesthetic. Yet, it must be acknowledged that representational style and subject held enormous appeal, and not just for the public. The pioneers of abstraction and celebrated creators of modernism turned to "objective" art as a serious and legitimate vehicle for contemporary art. Thus, a contemporary history of modern art should encourage a closer reading than in past decades of the character, variations, and meanings of the figural works executed by Mattis Teutsch, just as in the case of other "mainstream" modern masters.12

When in the mid-1920s Mattis Teutsch began giving ever more prominence to the human figure in his two-dimensional work, he could draw upon many of the stylistic attributes he had long been practising.13 Thus, the appearance of figuration in Mattis Teutsch’s paintings and prints meant less a rupture with the past than a development from it, although one motivated by different ideological concerns and bearing considerable aesthetic implications.

During the 1910s Mattis Teutsch had successfully worked in an effective stylistic blend of near-abstraction and attenuated linear forms ultimately derived from nature. The consequent compositions, fusing rich colour and active linear play, led to animated images of affecting lyricism, visual equivalents to what Mattis Teutsch believed was the spiritual dynamism of nature and of life’s pulses (Fig. 3.). All through his life Mattis Teutsch emphasised the close relation between nature, art and the human. Most strongly he affirmed it in such aphorisms as "the affirmation of life is lyrical" and "the expressive form of art is determined by the pulsating strength of life".14 This aesthetic formula was not entirely abandoned in later decades, although it was essentially transformed to accommodate the artist’s heightened commitment to social themes based on what the artist himself admitted was "the discovery and creation of a new type of man."15

1925 might conveniently be identified as the year in which the artist began to feel comfortable about making public his new focus on the human form. The year before he had exhibited with success both in his native city of Brassó and in Bucharest, the latter under the aegis of Contimporanul.16 (Fig. 4.) From the surviving photographs and contemporaneous articles, it is clear that in 1924 the artist presented works whose style was fully congruent with those he had displayed earlier in Budapest and in Berlin.17 He was closely affiliated with, respectively, Kassák’s Hungarian MA group, with Herwarth Walden’s international expressionist enterprises, and with left-leaning artists who were to remain briefly in Viennese exile. (Fig. 5.) Evident in these public presentations are examples from Mattis Teutsch’s long series of spiritually saturated paintings, conventionally labeled in the literature as "soul flowers." Begun in the late 1910s, when the painter artfully blended metaphysical ruminations with advanced painterly aesthetics (drawing inspiration from the organic abstraction of Kandinsky and Kupka and from the romantic expressionism of Franz Marc), the series had run its course by 1923–24, as the artist oriented himself toward more materialist concerns. Within a year or two, Mattis Teutsch’s long-standing interest in "natural abstraction", most clearly expressed in the "soul flowers" series, was superseded by a passionate engagement with figuration, which would occupy the foreground in his compositions and theory for the remainder of his life.

The stylistic development might best be characterised by a gradual shift: in composition, in the use of colour, in subject matter, and in meaning.18 Several sets of comparisons may illustrate this evolution and point the way to new interpretative approaches to this phase in Mattis Teutsch’s oeuvre. As Mattis Teutsch’s interests and styles were simultaneously manifested in several media, the following pairs of images differ from the customary practice of comparing painting with painting or sculpture with sculpture. My point in juxtaposing media is to underscore the artist’s totalising efforts and practices.

A linocut from the late 1910s, a good representative of the period (Fig. 6.), reveals a figural group composed primarily from broad, sweeping lines. The black ink seems to flow from the bottom of the print as if it were a current carrying the swaying, reed-like lines of the standing forms.19 The attenuated figures appear almost insubstantial owing both to their posture and to the fact that they are formed by the white "voids" between the black ink. They are "rooted" to the landscape, both at the base, where their lower appendages merge seamlessly with the "ground," and with the background as well, whose thick black outlines of trees and topography lend stability to the composition, so that the figural couple is prevented from being swept away by the coursing compositional rhythms. Formally, the relationship between foreground figures and background landscape is highly charged, with a dynamic visual interplay between the human couple, which occupies the entire vertical axis and compositional centre, and the surrounding setting. Through stark graphic means, Mattis Teutsch has rendered an affecting image of flowing forms through which man and nature are integrated. By scoring the linoleum with long, broad lines (and occasional abrupt parallel "nicks" of the knife), the artist reveals his familiarity with German Expressionism, with whose major practitioners and their metaphysical theories Mattis Teutsch came into direct contact while in Germany.20 At the centre of this print, just like, in fact, in almost all of his two- and three-dimensional work , is mankind. Although here the human forms are well harmonised into the larger rhythms pulsing through nature both compositionally and ideologically, they will soon attain a heightened stature and predominant presence.

By the mid to late 1920s, from which era the stylistically characteristic Red Nude (Cat. P 147.) dates, Mattis Teutsch had mostly eliminated both the expressionist natural setting and its primal spirit. Seeking to communicate a sense of monumentality both visually and philosophically, the artist displays a hieratic emphasis on the human form. The dominant female nude is handled with greater attention to volume and weight than the human subjects are in his earlier works. Indeed, the rendering of contour and shading is closer to the haptic qualities of his contemporaneous sculptures than to the graphic solutions he pursued during the previous decades.21 The red drapery, whose saturated hue strengthens the figure’s sinuous contours, is allowed to fall coquettishly over her left arm, thereby reinforcing her full-blooded allure. Compositionally, however, there is sober balance between the curving woman and the background, just as the warm red tone is held in check by the cool greens and blues of the background design.22 Between the principal protagonist and the subsidiary male figures rendered in blue – between the big and small, forward and backward, warm and dark colouring, and the figures adjusted in complementary contraposition – there is a spatial relationship that is almost musical in its movement.23 Yet, perhaps the most striking shift from his earlier work is the counterpoint established in the Red Nude between geometric rigour and sinuous linearity.

The use of geometrical blocks of local colour in the background serves here simultaneously as backdrop to the principal protagonist and as the stabilizing structure for the entire composition. Through the 1930s, the planes of colours would be variously turned obliquely toward the picture plane, tilted at an acute angle to the viewer, or inclined to suggest recession into the depths of pictorial space. In each instance, the changes in the handling of planes of colours indicate the artist’s connection to international developments in abstract art, thereby attesting to Mattis Teutsch’s continuing dialogue with the mainstream of modernism with which he had been intimately joined and to which he maintained artistic links from his base in Romania. Thus, for example, the quadrangular blocks of colours in the Red Nude partially invoke the aesthetics of the Dutch De Stijl group, whose eponymous journal Mattis Teutsch knew well and whose leader Theo van Doesburg he had befriended. Mattis Teutsch’s art philosophy was influenced also by Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky; especially it was this latter artist’s theory of colours that convinced Mattis Teutsch to deny the orthodox neoplasticism regarding primary colours. Mattis Teutsch’s sympathy for greens and blues as conveyors of feeling and mood were often employed as a (geometrical) structural counterbalance to emotionally stimulating hues of reds and yellows, particularly when the strong sentiments were expressed in sinuous forms or elongated, flowing lines. Mattis Teutsch also had second-hand knowledge about the Suprematist/Constructivist abstraction of Kasimir Malevich and especially El Lissitzky from at least late 1920. It is interesting to mention here the placard for Mattis Teutsch’s exhibition in October 1930. (Fig. 7.) The composition printed in black and red inks consists of perfectly constructivist, red squares and plain extended rectangles. It suggests the canvases of De Stijl, the red squares of UNOVIS, and, in particular, El Lissitzky’s poster About Two Squares, which Mattis Teutsch knew from the version reprinted in De Stijl. In contrast, the placard prepared for the exhibition "Sala-terem" of the previous year (1929) invokes the artist’s earlier expressionist stage.24

Although the "stacked" rectangles of blues and greens lie at the compositional core of the Red Nude, they concatenate through the picture in pale geometric variations, thereby allowing for a "geometricisation" of the pictorial space. Equally important, however, is the placement of the subordinate male nudes at the diagonal corners. Their greenish-blue bodies connect them colouristically to the constructivist geometry, while bracketing the looming red maiden to which they collectively serve as counterpoint.

The geometrical dimension to Mattis Teutsch’s figural work merits further consideration here. Geometry emerged gradually as an important element in his oeuvre, beginning in the early 1920s. It appears first as an organising principle in his non-figurative paintings, as the following sequence illustrates: Composition, 1921 (Cat. P 48.), Composition (Sense), c. 1919 (Cat. P 49.), Two Figures, c. 1924 (Cat. P 122.), Composition (1924–25) (Fig. 8.). Operating relatively freely from the dictates of local colour, the various geometrical forms – among them ellipses, triangles, crescents and circles – orchestrate attention toward the compositional centre. The concentration of forms is a striking departure from the artist’s earlier "overall" painting in which the entire surface was treated consistently with regard to the application of paint, colour harmonies, and arrangement of forms. The change in organisational structure, does not represent, however, a diminution of the emotional energy that courses through the work of the 1910s. (Cat. D 7.) Mattis Teutsch has chosen to regulate his passion through re-presenting it in a new context. During the course of the 1930s there was a progressive convergence of social content and visual values in a geometrically ordered pictorial universe.25

For Mattis Teutsch composition, form, and colour were aesthetic considerations that carried ethical – or at least philosophical – consequences. Pictorial developments in his work from the 1910s through the 1930s (and, to a lesser extent, through the 1950s) are more than purely stylistic. As one charts a formal evolution, one is also mapping shifts in ideological emphasis, as will be touched on below. Thus, for instance, the notable change in palette in his "soul flower" paintings (Composition [Sense] Cat. P 47.), or in his coloured sculptures (Coloured Composition, Flower Ornament 1919–20 Cat. S 13.), and when the rich reds, purples, yellows, and oranges, relinquished their place to the restrained use of predominantly cool blues and greens as in, for example, Calling c. 1928 (Cat. P 146.), or to black patination in sculpture, such as in Sorrow (c. 1931), marks a metamorphosis in outlook just as much as it registers a transformation in style.

By the early 1920s Mattis Teutsch had concentrated his creative activities in Romania, more precisely in Transylvania, and specifically in the area around his native city of Brassó. Although an active participant in exhibitions internationally, from Chicago to Rome (Fig. 9.), Mattis Teutsch increasingly focused on art education, organisation and display at home. His contacts abroad were, however, not sundered even if they were maintained on a less intense level than previously.26 His manifold creative activities were played out primarily locally, yet the message of his art was always intended to resonate universally. In refining his theoretical position, best codified in the Kunstideologie published in 1931 but substantially prepared during the mid-1920s (Fig. 10.)27, in writing poetry of lyrical intensity, and in exhibiting his manifold visual production, Mattis Teutsch endeavoured to give voice to his vision of modern man.28 He proclaims his ambition most impressively in his monumental canvas of 1927 entitled Manual Labourers and Intellectuals (Cat. P 140).29

The sinuous physicality of the Red Nude has been replaced by the abstract muscularity of two red nudes. Although all the human figures are elongated on these relatively large canvases, there is a notable shift in focus, notwithstanding the compositional parallels: red nudes flanked by blue male nudes, stressing the verticality of the medial section. The use of geometry in Physical Labourers and Intellectuals has emerged from the background to define the picture plane. The three vertically oriented bands create "panels" that act collectively almost as though they were contemporary equivalents of a religious triptych. In fact, the religious parallel was likely an intended one. Structurally, the trapezoidal form and the stepped pedestal on which the figures stand unite the figures in a vertically ascending movement, which served Mattis Teutsch as a visual sign of a purposeful emotional as well as physical activity.30 The two categories of labour symbolically depicted here represent for the painter the absolute attributes of universal humankind in the modern age: the self-realisation of mankind through physical and spiritual creativity.31

Indicative of the artist’s growing attachment to socialism is the primacy of physical work, which is embodied by the red figures that inhabit the central panel. The bowing figures’ attachment to the earth is reinforced by a sharply pointed red wedge, which reiterates the downward movement toward the ground plane. For Mattis Teutsch, man’s connection to the earth was primal: "Der Mensch lebt auf der Erde in Begriffen der Erde, er ist Erde..."32 Yet, Mattis Teutsch’s aesthetic philosophy sought ethical balance, and this is made visible in the painting through the coupling of the red emblems of manual labour with the blue nudes representing spiritual or intellectual efforts: "...[der Mensch] er ist Erde, nur sein Körper, sein Wesen ruft nach Luft - Freiheit."33 The consolidating agent of these complementary drives is art itself, understood both generically and specifically in paintings such as this one.34 Physical Labourers and Intellectuals can thus be understood as signifying the artist’s own creative power, as well as positing an axiom for social organisation. As a pictorial allegory, the painting advances a general social philosophy, which served the artist (and the idealised observer) as a contemporary moral affirmation of art’s centrality to life. This effective combination of aesthetics, ethics, and socialism presented in paint would serve as the foundation for a host of related works extending through the next decade. (Fig. 11.)

The aesthetic-ethical congruity that lay at the core of Mattis Teutsch’s life’s work had its immanent pictorial counterpart: an equilibrium between non-objective elements - geometry and colour, for example - and representation. Throughout the 1930s Mattis Teutsch reworked compositional motives and reprised philosophical content by means of a sophisticated combination of Constructivism and figuration. Employing constructivist blocks of colours as a principal compositional device, Compositions c. 1929–30 (Cat. P 152.) assertively depicts four male figures in blue. The absence of a red figure (not infrequently female) is compensated for by the use of mauve as the dominant background colour and by the presence of orange-red (implied) rectangles, only the edges of which are revealed. As a result, colour functions analogically as figuration. The four males, cast in differing sizes, are represented from different points of view, which may suggest miscellaneous points in pictorial space. The spatial variation and the asymmetrical positioning of the protagonists are held in compositional equilibrium by the careful balance established among the sets of colour rectangles. Whatever dimensions of the artist’s message remain implied here are made explicit in a related work of equal size but more complex organisation.

Production Line 1930 (Cat. P 150.) is Mattis Teutsch’s most elaborate figural work of the period. Many of the rectangular planes - painted in hues of yellow, red, and blue - have been attenuated to form a pictorial background that resembles a geometrical "pipe organ". Along several of the rectilinear axes are strings of male figures, replicated vertically and horizontally. The arrangement of these figures parallels that of the elongated rectangles, thereby establishing a formal equivalence between the figural and the non-objective. Mattis Teutsch’s intention is clarified by the activity taking place at the centre of the lower register. Here, one can find several workers rendered in shades of red and blue. The colours recall the two types of labour - physical and intellectual - that constituted the essence of modern mankind for the artist. But in this canvas, the men are shown working to produce a red square. For Mattis Teutsch, the red square was the emblem of the ideal socialist order depicted in the universal language of abstract art. Drawing directly from Malevich’s non-objective language of art and philosophy,35 Mattis Teutsch chose not to follow the Suprematist’s programme of allowing the square to float in space. Rather, he joined the abstraction of the parallelogram to the presence of the human figure.36 For Mattis Teutsch, man – not geometrical abstraction alone – was the ultimate subject. "In meinen Malereien versuche ich den MENSCHEN darzustellen, den ganzen Menschen...," he declared.37

This process of creatively combining representational and "abstract" elements attained its formal acme in a work composed of mixed techniques. The Composition (Attitudes) c. 1931-32 (Cat. P 154.) presents male and female nudes atop, before, and behind planes of cool blues. The human figures, coloured in shades of reds or tan, are rendered schematically either with straight lines and flat planes or with rounded contours and intimations of volume. However, most striking are the poses of the figures and the architectural role of the geometrical planes.

For the first time Mattis Teutsch includes a demonstrably classical reference: the female reclining nude in the position of river goddess in the lower portion of the image.38 Instead of holding a pitcher or cornucopia from which water gushes forth, she leans rather seductively against a red rectangle, almost as if she reposes on the charged sign of the red parallelogram from Production Line. Equally remarkable is the juxtaposition of the tonalities: red, tan, and blue, each of which bears for the artist an associated attitude or emotional value, as the title shows. The vertical figures and their affiliated geometrical planes are in compositional contrast. The red male figure with upraised left arm stands firmly with legs splayed, thereby forming a triangle whose apex is ascendant.39 Towering behind him are blocks of blue that became a generalised symbol of spirit, freedom, and mental activity for the artist by that time. Similarly, the two other standing nudes are closely connected with geometrical elements; the smallest scaled human is coincident with the large blue tilted plane. The combination of figure and forms so prominent in Attitudes recalls contemporaneous images from the Bauhaus and its Hungarian adherents, especially works by Mattis Teutsch’s former colleague Sándor Bortnyik.40 Linking figure and planar geometry also confirms the connections to László Moholy-Nagy, which was manifested in Mattis Teutsch’s similar experiments and ideological viewpoints, as well as aesthetic devices. Moholy-Nagy’s transparent planes of pure colours, often depicted as receding into space, his silhouetted images (as in his photograms), and his inventive use of mixed technique to reach beyond the limitations of any single medium - all these strategies are echoed in Mattis Teutsch’s Attitudes. However, the standing flesh-toned female figure, whose volumetric form is partially screened by the blue plane, hints at three-dimensionality. And this allusion is fully congruent with the artist’s intentions; for Mattis Teutsch was engaged with sculpture throughout the 1930s.

For more than three decades, beginning in the early 1910s, Mattis Teutsch produced sculptures, mostly in wood but also in other materials. From his manifold material production and from his writings, it is evident that the artist took sculpture seriously, and he considered it inseparable from his two-dimensional work. As a result, a serious study of his sculpture is merited, for which the following remarks might serve as a prolegomenon.

In regard to fundamental aspects of style, Mattis Teutsch’s sculpture parallels the developments apparent in his painting. Works from the 1910s – for instance, Sculpture in Wood (The Kiss) 1917-18 (Cat. S 3.) and Coloured Composition (Flower Ornament) 1919-20 (Cat. S 13.) – reflect the artist’s concern for natural forces and, slightly later, geometry, interests that were manifested in his linocuts and paintings of the same period. Coextensive development between media characterises the artist’s production into the latter years of the 1920s, when sculpture assumes major importance, replacing the central role linocuts had played earlier in his career. In fact, between c. 1927 and c. 1935 Mattis Teutsch produced more sculptures than in any comparable period, and he did so in a variety of materials: wood, plaster, terracotta, and aluminium (Fig. 12.).

In some instances, the sculpted figure seems as if it stepped from the canvas directly into the beholder’s space. With an assured handling of contour, simplification of anatomy, and the play of light to suggest volume, Nude (Cat. S 35.), for example, echoes the treatment of human form in many of the painted works from the late 1920s. Other statuettes, for instance Male Nude 1925-26 (Cat. S 26.), are rendered with an emphasis on geometry, and are kindred figures to the male nudes in Attitudes. Not all of Mattis Teutsch’s sculptures of the period are inexorably rooted in the late 1920s and 1930s. As the artist frequently reprised motives, it should not be surprising to recognise in the sinuous grace of Ballerina or Female Nude (Cat. S 37) the flowing outlines and sweeping form characteristic of the linocuts from the mid- and late-1910s. What is most remarkable, however, is not the invocation of earlier works, or even the stylistic similarities that prevail among various media. Rather, most notable is the observation that these statuettes have an ambivalent relationship to the contemporary works in the same medium, especially when executed in contemporary materials.

Mattis Teutsch executed several sculptures in aluminium, a distinctively "modern" medium for art.41 (Fig. 13.) Whereas other modern sculptors embraced it in order to take advantage of the physical possibilities of the metal – its lightness, strength, and malleability – Mattis Teutsch eschewed its full potential, both as a material and a symbol. What appealed foremost to the artist was the metal’s surface sheen, a brilliance that he most frequently achieved by means of highly patinating wood. In form, size, and function, Mattis Teutsch made little distinction between wood and aluminium, despite the fundamental differences between carving and casting. Each highly reflective figural statuette stood (or was exhibited) on a base; each could be held comfortably in the hand; and each served as a desk or tabletop ornament.42 The equivalence between the sculpted wood figures and the cast aluminium ones suggests that the artist did not assign symbolic value to the metal. Whereas many of his contemporaries seized on new materials (or new ways of handling traditional materials) as a vehicle to demonstrate their commitment to industrial methods, scientific discovery, and "hygienic" procedures, Mattis Teutsch was apparently unconcerned with an ideological justification for the "machine aesthetic." His diffidence in this regard is puzzling, for he was deeply committed to socialist man and the modern age. Perhaps, the Mattis Teutsch of the late 1920s and 1930s felt that his sculpture, and indeed all his manifold creative activities, could best promote the essential needs of modern mankind by focusing attention primarily on the human figure. In truth, throughout his long artistic life he avoided subordinating his commitment to human values to aesthetic experimentation. From his student days in Budapest and Munich to the twilight of his career in Brassó, Mattis Teutsch endeavoured to conjoin his investigation of artistic possibilities with an abiding commitment to moral values. It was this creative balance between aesthetics and humanistic ethics that persuaded him to place the human figure at the centre of his art and philosophy.


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