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Detail

Dexel, Walter
Komposition IV
Composition IV
1925
Object description Reverse painting on glass
Object category painting
Material
Support: glass
Object: paint
Technique
Dimensions
frame dimension: height: 57 cm, width: 43 cm, depth: 3,5 cm
object size: height: 42 cm, width: 29 cm
Year of acquisition 1960
Inventory number B 4/0
Creditline mumok - Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien
Rights reference Nachlass Walter Dexel
Further information about the person Dexel, Walter [GND]
Literature Laboratorium Moderne/Bildende Kunst, Fotografie und Film im Aufbruch

Walter Dexel’s “Composition IV” is a reverse glass painting, an unusual technique in modern art. The layers of paint are applied to the back of a pane of glass, and the artist has to work in reverse, painting the foundation layer last. This is a surprising technique for 1925, as the heyday of reverse glass painting was in around the year 1500, when it was used for devotional images and votive tablets. It flourished again in the second quarter of the eighteenth century in religious folk art. It was by means of these “simple” and non-academic genres that it found its way into modernist trends after 1900. Members of the Munich Blue Rider artists group, led by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, produced expressionist reverse glass paintings, with which Walter Dexel probably became acquainted through his study of art history and his work as the director of the Jena Art Association. As a painter, Dexel himself was close to the Dutch De-Stijl artists and Theo van Doesburg. His pictures are constructivist compositions with harmonious arrangements of simple geometrical shapes. In “Composition IV” a black rectangle stretches from the upper margin to the middle of the left half of the picture. Colored stripes link this rectangle with a black semi-circle in the lower right third. By way of emphasis, another thin dark rectangle leads our gaze out beyond the margin of the composition. Dexel was convinced that modern art should have no sense of the individual. He avoided visible brushstrokes and he applied paint as homogeneously as possible. His reverse glass works in particular bear no trace of brushwork. For Dexel, it was important for artists to take on social responsibility by means of the aesthetic design of everyday environments. Artists at the German Bauhaus or in the Russian avant-garde held similar views. Walter Dexel‘s main interest in this respect was in advertising and typography, and in 1925 he began to work as a freelance consultant for advertising design in Frankfurt am Main. There he also experimented with new technical processes in industrial manufacturing. In 1926, for example, he designed colorful illuminated glass sculptures for the central marketplace in the German city of Jena. This was the beginning of modern illuminated advertising.