Hans Mattis–Teutsch Collection at Braşov Art Museum
The collection reflects the troubled relationship of the avant-garde artist Hans Mattis-Teutsch with the communist regime due to his maladjustment to the official cultural policies, and in particular the ways in which his work was perceived and administered by the cultural institutions under communism. It includes paintings, sculptures, and graphic works created by Hans Mattis-Teutsch in the period from the 1910s to the 1950s.
Brașov Bulevardul Eroilor 21, Romania 500030
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Name of collection
- Hans Mattis–Teutsch Collection
Provenance and cultural activities
Hans Mattis-Teutsch (1884–1960) was a prominent avant-garde artist of German and Hungarian descent, who distinguished itself through his prodigious activity within various avant-garde movements in Europe, which were developed around cultural magazines such as Ma in Budapest, Der Sturm in Berlin, and Contimporanul and Integral in Bucharest. Thus, his work epitomises the transnational character of the European avant-garde and the cultural transfers that marked its evolution. Although he had adopted Marxist ideological convictions since the interwar period, Mattis-Teutsch had a troubled relationship with the communist regime in Romania due to his incapacity to adjust his work to the official cultural policies that promoted a rigid socialist realism.
After attending schools of art in Budapest and Munich (1901–1905) and experiencing direct contacts with various modernist artistic milieus in Europe, Mattis-Teutsch moved to Braşov, his native city, in 1909 and obtained a teaching post in a local vocational school. He tried to combine involvement in the local artistic life dominated by the conservative values of the Transylvanian Saxon bourgeoisie with collaborations with various avant-garde movements in Berlin, Budapest and Bucharest.
In order to develop these collaborations, Mattis-Teutsch travelled a lot during the 1910s and 1920s, displayed his works in numerous international exhibitions, and achieved an international reputation. After First World War, he was very active within the German expressionist movement Der Sturm and developed contacts with the left-orientated artistic milieus of Novembergruppe in Berlin. He was also involved during the 1920s in the Romanian avant-garde movements developed around the cultural magazines Contimporanul and Integral, an experience which shaped his constructivist vision of art, which he then theorised in the volume Kunstideologie. Stabilität und Aktivität im Kunstwerk, published in Germany în 1931 (Vida 2009, 80; Mattis-Teutsch 1931). In the late 1930s and early 1940s, he retired from public life and refused to embrace the art promoted by the local Nazi movement, which took control over the German minority in Romania (Popica 2009, 9). He displayed an anti-fascist attitude that was consistent with his leftwing credentials. In the period from 1944 to 1947, the avant-garde movement in Romania experienced a revival and Mattis-Teutsch was part of it (Cârneci 2013, 18). He also hoped that the end of Antonescu’s far-right dictatorship in Romania in 1944 would make room for a more equitable society. This enthusiasm was materialised in his initiatives to create a local trade union of artists in October 1944 and “the Braşov Free Academy of Arts” in 1945. After 1947, however, the communist authorities took control of the trade union of artists (Popica 2015, 5). Then, in 1950, the Romanian Artists’ Union (Uniunea Artiştilor Plastici) was created as an effective instrument of the state authorities for controlling the activities of artists (Cârneci 2013, 22). Consequently, the trade union created by Mattis-Teutsch was also merged in this institution (Popica 2015, 5; Almási 2001,87).
Although he was one of the first artists in Braşov to adopt Marxist beliefs, long before the communist regime seized power in Romania,and his interwar constructivist art prefigured the “New Man” promoted by socialist realism, Mattis-Teutsch refused to fully adopt socialist realism and give up his own style in art (Breaz 2013, 124). Some items from the Mattis-Teutsch Collection such as Muncitor forestier (Forestry Worker), painted in the late 1940s-early 1950s,illustrate his reluctance to adopt the new art promoted by the regime. Despite the fact that the topics of his paintings from the late 1940s and early 1950s were adequately chosen in order to meet the requirements of the canon of socialist realism, his modernist approach in terms of techniques of painting failed to do that (Breaz 2013, 124).Due to his maladjustment to the official cultural policies, Mattis-Teutsch was frequently criticised during Stalinism and his art was marginalised. In 1948, the cultural review Contemporanul, one of the official voices of the communist regime in the field of culture (which pretended to continue the former Contemporanul cultural magazine published at the end of the nineteenth century), vocally criticised the work of Mattis-Teutsch. His art was labelled, alongside that of avant-garde artists such as Constantin Brâncuşi and Victor Brauner, as “decadent” and “bourgeois” (Popica 2015, 3). The fact that his works were not displayed in the art gallery opened in February 1950 within the Braşov Regional Museum illustrate this marginalisation (Popica 2015, 3). He also lost the position of chairman of the artists’trade union in Braşov and the building of the art academy founded by him was nationalised (Almási 2001, 87). The de-Stalinisation of the mid–1950s led to his partial rehabilitation during late 1950s. Mattis-Teutsch was then allowed again to display his work in exhibitions and he became chairman of the local branch of the Romanian Artists’ Union in 1957. However, the works displayed by Mattis-Teutsch at his personal exhibition in Bucharest in 1957 were criticised by the official cultural press of the time due to the same failure to comply with the norms of socialist realism and the obvious reminiscences of avant-garde art (Macovescu 1985, 5–6).
The items of the Mattis-Teutsch Collection entered into the custody of Braşov Art Museum from three different sources. Some items were donated by the local authorities during the 1950s. These authorities commissioned works from Mattis-Teutsch, which later entered into the custody of the museum. The greater part of the items were donated by the family of the artist in different periods. After his return to Braşov in 1909, Mattis-Teutsch collected his sculptures, paintings, graphic works, and drafts of writings on art. The process of collecting these items was marked by contextual and practical aspects, such as the available space to store them, the interest expressed over time by private art collectors, or later, by state institutions, in purchasing his works, or the artist’s attachment to some of them. Most of the items he collected had been created in the period from the 1910s to the 1930s, during which the painter was very prolific and involved in various avant-garde movements. During the late 1960s and in the 1980s, the family donated or sold a significant number of these items to the Braşov County Museum (from which Braşov Art Museum split in 1990), while the rest of them remained in the ownership of the artist’s family. The first part of this process of acquisition took place in a period of relative cultural liberalisation in Romania (Petrescu 2010, 143–155), when the attitude of the state cultural institutions towards avant-garde works such those of Mattis-Teutsch turned from rejection to public promotion. The third source is represented by a private collector of art, from whom the museum purchased a graphic work in 2000. After entering the custody of the museum, the items of the collection have been divided into three categories: paintings, sculptures, and graphic works.
The reception of Mattis-Teutsch’s work under communism varied from one period to another. During the 1950s, his work was vocally criticised and marginalised due to his inability to comply with the norms of socialist realism, alongside other avant-garde artists that failed to adopt the official style. The relative liberalisation of the late 1960s and early 1970s created the political and cultural conditions for a partial recuperation of Mattis-Teutsch’s work, which was reflected in the retrospective exhibitions organised in Braşov in 1968 and Bucharest in 1971 (Popica 2009, 9). This process has continued since 1989, with the organisation of various exhibitions in Hungary (Budapest, 2001), Germany (Munich, 2001), and Romania (Braşov,in 1994 and 2009, Sibiu in 1997 and 2009), in which the most important items of the Hans Mattis-Teutsch Collection have been displayed.
Description of content
The collection is made up of more than seventy items, including paintings, sculptures (made in wood, aluminium, and terracotta), and graphic works (linocuts) created by Hans Mattis-Teutsch in the period from the 1910s to the 1950s. Chronologically, the collection could be divided into two parts: items that were created before 1944, which make up the larger part, and those created after this year. The items dated before 1944 illustrate the artist’s involvement in the European avant-garde (expressionism, constructivism, and surrealism). During late 1940s and 1950s, these items were considered to be examples of “decadent” and “bourgeois” art and museums did not display or purchase works pertaining to the avant-garde movements because of their contradiction of socialist realism. These items were purchased or received as donations by Braşov Art Museum from the family of the artist during the late 1960s and 1980s. The second part of the items was created after 1944, and these reflect the failed attempt of Mattis-Teutsch to comply with the official style of socialist realism. These items follow the official cultural policies concerning the topic, but their techniques still preserve elements of the expressionist and constructivist vision of the artist. These reminiscences of avant-garde art attracted the criticism of the official cultural press concerning Mattis-Teutsch’s work and led to his marginalisation during the 1950s.
- graphics: 10-99
- paintings: 10-99
- sculptures: 10-99
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
- Popica, Radu
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Popica, Radu, and Anca Maria Zamfir, eds. 2009. Mattis-Teutsch, artist al avangardei (Mattis-Teutsch, avant-garde artist). Braşov: Muzeul de Artă Braşov.
Author(s) of this page
- Petrescu, Cristina
- Pintilescu, Corneliu
Almási, Tibor. 2001. The Other Mattis-Teutsch. Györ: Régió Art Publishig House.
Breaz, Dan-Octavian. 2013. “Perspective actuale asupra avangardei istorice româneşti: modernizare artistică şi politizare în pictura avangardistă românească.” (Current perspectives on the historical Romanian avant-garde: artistic modernity and political immixture in Romanian avant-garde painting) PhD diss., Babeş-Bolyai University.
Cârneci, Magda. 2013. Artele plastice în România 1945–1989 (The visual arts in Romania 1945–1989). Iași: Polirom, 2013.
Deac, Mircea. 1985. Mattis-Teutsch și realismul constructiv (Mattis-Teutsch and constructive realism). Cluj-Napoca: Dacia.
Gassner, Hubertus. 2001. “Hans Mattis-Teutsch und Der Blaue Reiter.” In Mattis-Teutsch und Der Blaue Reiter, edited by Éva Bajkay, 37–67. München: Haus der Kunst.
Ittu, Gudrun-Liane. 2009. “Receptarea operelor lui Hans Mattis-Teutsch în periodicele germane din Transilvania.” (The reception of Hans Mattis-Teutsch’s work in the German-language periodicals in Transylvania). In Mattis-Teutsch, artist al avangardei (Mattis-Teutsch, artist of the avant-garde), edited by Radu Popica and Anca Maria Zamfir, 31–46. Braşov: Muzeul de Artă Braşov.
Macovescu, George. 1985. Introduction to Mattis-Teutsch și realismul constructiv (Mattis-Teutsch and constructive realism), by Mircea Deac, 5–6. Cluj-Napoca: Dacia.
Mattis-Teutsch, Hans. 1931. Kunstideologie: Stabilität und Aktivität im Kunstwerk. Potsdam: Müller u. J. Kiepenheuer Verlag.
Mattis-Teutsch, Hans. 1977. Kunstideologie: Stabilität und Aktivität im Kunstwerk (second edition). Bucureşti: Kriterion Verlag.
Mesea, Iulia. 2009. “Peisaj – Pe portativul emoţiei creatoare a lui Hans Mattis-Teutsch” (On the scale of Hans Mattis-Teutsch’s creative emotion). In Mattis-Teutsch, artist al avangardei (Mattis-Teutsch, artist of the avant-garde), edited by Radu Popica and Anca Maria Zamfir, 11–30. Braşov: Muzeul de Artă Braşov.
Popica, Radu. 2009. “Argument.” In Mattis-Teutsch, artist al avangardei (Mattis-Teutsch, avant-garde artist), edited by Radu Popica and Anca Maria Zamfir, 9–10. Braşov: Muzeul de Artă Braşov.
Popica, Radu. 2015. “Centrul artistic braşovean în perioada postbelică (1945-1989).” [Braşov as an artistic centre in the post-war period (1945–1989)]. In Arta braşoveană postbelică: 1945–1989. Repere din colecţia Muzeului de Artă Braşov (Post-war art in Braşov: 1945–1989. Landmarks in the collection of Braşov Art Museum), edited by Radu Popica, 4–23. Braşov: Editura Muzeului de Artă Braşov.
Popica, Radu. 2016. “Centrul artistic braşovean în perioada interbelică şi în anii celui de-al Doilea Război Mondial (1919–1944)” (Braşov as an artistic centre in the interwar period and during the Second World War (1919–1944)). In Arta braşoveană interbelică (Interwar art in Braşov), edited by Radu Popica, 4–57. Braşov: Editura Muzeului de Artă Braşov.
Petrescu, Dragoş. 2010. Explaining the Romanian Revolution of 1989: Culture, Structure and Contingency. Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică.
Vasile, Cristian. 2010. Literatura şi artele în România comunistă, 1949–1953 (Literature and the arts in communist Romania, 1949–1953). Bucharest: Humanitas, 2010.
Vida, Mariana, and Gheorghe Vida. 2001. “Mattis-Teutsch und die rumänische Avantgarde.” In Mattis-Teutsch und Der Blaue Reiter, edited by Éva Bajkay, 83–97. München: Haus der Kunst.
Vida, Gheorghe. 2009. “Hans Mattis-Teutsch şi dialogul european al formelor.” (Hans Mattis-Teutsch and the European dialogue of forms). In Mattis-Teutsch, artist al avangardei (Mattis-Teutsch, artist of the avant-garde), edited by Radu Popica and Anca Maria Zamfir, 71–82. Braşov: Muzeul de Artă Braşov.
Pocol, Andreea, interview by Pintilescu, Corneliu, February 13, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection
Popica, Radu, interview by Pintilescu, Corneliu, February 13, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection