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Jules Schmalzigaug

In het middle of a prism

Jules Schmalzigaug is the first Belgian artist to have managed to operate, however briefly, within the (hard) core of a trend-setting avant-garde movement.

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Jules Schmalzigaug

Composition (1914-15)

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Jules Schmalzigaug

On the beach in Scheveningen (1915-17)

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Jules Schmalzigaug

On the beach in Scheveningen (1915-17)

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Jules Schmalzigaug in company of Juliette Loontjes, The Hague, 1916

Je vis au milieu d’un prisme. Et résultat de cette hypnose colorée? Quelque chose de charnel, de frisson du bas-ventre, une émotion testiculaire. Pourquoi? L’instinct du Carnaval [...]

– Jules Schmalzigaug

Impression du café Florian, Venice (1914)

A Belgian Futurist in Italy

Jules Schmalzigaug is the first Belgian artist to have managed to operate, however briefly, within the (hard) core of a trend-setting avant-garde movement. He was signaled on the admission ticket for the Sunday evening session of the Grande Convegno Futurista – a conference on the international ambitions of the Futurist movement organized in April 1914 at the Galleria Giuseppe Sprovieri in Rome. The name ‘Schmalzigaug’ – sounding in equal measure unique and strange – was notably conspicuous among the ringing names of Italian colleagues like Giacomo Balla, Enrico Prampolini, Luciano Folgore, Ugo Giannattasio, Mario Sironi and Fortunato Depero. The American artist Frances Simpson Stevens was the sole female participant in this dominical discussion.

The pressure of the First World War forced Schmalzigaug to leave Italy at the end of 1914.

(Catalogue raisonné, Ronny & Jessy Van de Velde, Antwerp 2020, p. 31-32)

Pier with fisherman in Scheveningen - The Hague (1915-17)

The Hague

Uprooted, Schmalzigaug and his family settled in The Hague in December of 1914. Although he established and maintained friendly contacts there with Belgian artists like Frans Smeers, Georges Vantongerloo, Rik Wouters and the naturalized Belgian Dutchman Willem Paerels, it was not easy to once again find his inner (painter’s) fire.

Schmalzigaug suffered from the ‘mental neurasthenia’ that artists were susceptible to during the war years. It is not far-fetched to assume that he missed the groundbreaking influence of a mentor-colleague like Balla. His artist friends in The Hague – in the main, of a rather Brabantine Fauvist bent – probably did not provide him the same sort of artistic challenge.

(Catalogue raisonné, Ronny & Jessy Van de Velde, Antwerp 2020, p.36)

Beach in Scheveningen – The Hague (1915-17)

Own technique

During his period of exile in The Netherlands, Schmalzigaug’s main subjects were color-rich views of bridges and streets in The Hague or the beach and Kursaal at Scheveningen, works oftentimes trusted to paper with gouache, pastel or watercolors. This said, he never completely abandoned experimental abstraction. For example, he developed an artistic procedure whereby he printed ‘wet’ drawings in watercolors on another sheet, so reducing the readability of the scene step by step, print after print, with the image thus becoming more abstract. He was an avant-gardist to his very core.

(Catalogue raisonné, Ronny & Jessy Van de Velde, Antwerp 2020, p.36)

Facades - The Hague (1915-17)

Uprooted

Wrenched from his Venetian habitat and the company of his Futurist colleagues, he was never again to recapture the same élan.12 This uprooting may have played a role in his decision to take his life in The Hague in 1917.

(Catalogue raisonné, Ronny & Jessy Van de Velde, Antwerp, 2020 p. 8)