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« Visits with the New Urbanism | Main | Do Hard Times Inspire Great Art? »

March 01, 2009

The Craft of Putz

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I wrote about an exhibit on the Munich Secession at Seattle's Frye Art Museum and followed up with a posting about the most famous secessionist, Franz von Stuck.

The most impressive works at the exhibit, so far as I was concerned, were by a Tyrolian named Leo Putz (1869-1940). Biographical information on Putz can be found here. Many of Putz's most important works are in the Unterberger Collection (the Web site is in German), which is perhaps why he is not well known in America.

Here are examples of Putz's paintings.


Friedliche Tage (Calm Day) - 1902
This is one of the earliest of Putz's paintings that I could locate on the Web.

Waldesruhe (Peaceful Woods or perhaps Tranquility in the Forest) - 1925
And this is the latest.

What interest me are those he painted approximately 1904-14 -- some of which are shown below.

Dame in Blau (Woman in Blue) - 1908 (Detail)
This can serve as introduction to Putz's "classic" phase, wherein he made heavy use of flat, often square-tipped brushes yielding a faceted look to the resulting painting.


Im Herbslichen Garten (In an Autumn Garden) - 1908

Am Ufer (On the Bank) - 1909
This was one of Putz's paintings on display in Seattle. It is large and impressive, appearing brighter and fresher than the reproduction suggests. It was a prize winner at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

Sommerträume (Summer Dreams) - 1907
This was also on display in Seattle. Again, a large painting displaying much skill with the seldom-seen technique. Apologies for the small illustration (which doesn't do the original any justice), but it was the best I could locate.

Looking at the images posted above, I feel frustration that they don't offer much of a clue as to how the paintings actually appear. For example, the final two exhibit a fascinating lesson in color selection and brushwork on the faces, especially. Putz's brushstrokes did not result in color patches akin to cutting and pasting bits of colored paper. The paint is applied thickly so that the marks of the bristles often show. Moreover, the brush pressure on the stokes is not always uniform; a stroke might start hard and thick while ending in a somewhat feathered manner. Nor are the strokes aligned the same way (as can be seen in some of Cézanne's work). Instead, their orientation varies in such a way that the solidity and form of the subject is mimicked. Finally, brushstrokes in other parts of the painting than the subject are applied more conventionally.

Putz's style wasn't created in an artistic vacuum, of course; he latched onto existing concepts and executed them extremely well. I won't go into all the possible influences, only citing Wilhelm Trübner (1851-1917) as one. One way of considering the style is as follows: Portrait painters such as Carolus-Durand and his student Sargent strove to see the head of a subject as a structure to some degree defined by planes (the same idea can be found in many how-to-draw-heads books today). What Putz (and no doubt others) did was paint faces and other features as collections of facets or planes, taking the concept to an extreme. Doing this while getting colors and values (dark-light relationships) right is not easy, and this is why Putz interests me -- aside from my opinion that many of his paintings are fine in their own right, though not on par with the best of the Masters.

I consider Leo Putz a real "find" and am puzzled why I didn't encounter his work earlier.



posted by Donald at March 1, 2009


What extraordinary paintings. I'd love the opportunity to see them in person. I'm curious - how big are the canvases in real life? Lisl and Calm Day are my two favorites.

Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: Cullen Gallagher on March 1, 2009 3:17 PM

Gorgeous pics. I'd never heard of Putz, thanks for calling attention to him. Smart responses to him too. I wonder if the poor guy has been doomed to art-history oblivion because of his last name ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 1, 2009 5:30 PM

I say, Donald, you seem quite fascinated with the bodies of germanic females. Could this be b/c no self-respecting white woman would let you anywhere near her in real life?

I bet I know who Donald is... LOL If only you had asked the wizard for personality, you wouldn't have to engage in such puerile interests.

Posted by: shiva on March 1, 2009 6:21 PM

Renaming the site 2 boobs?

Posted by: marty on March 1, 2009 7:07 PM

Cullen -- Off hand, I don't know the sizes of the paintings you mentioned. (You might want to Google on the German titles coupled with the artist's name; an image might have associated data nearby.) The last two paintings (the ones I saw in person -- Am Ufer and Sommertraeume) were about four feet wide, if that's any help.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on March 1, 2009 10:12 PM

The one thing I noticed was the weird perspective in Friedliche Tage: it looks as though the girl's left arm is about five feet long.

But this was an early painting, and presumably he learned better.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on March 2, 2009 2:04 AM

shiva flicks a booger again.

Go away you waste of time.

Posted by: PatrickH on March 3, 2009 12:04 PM

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