André Verlon

Roads to Eternity


Not on display
André Verlon 1917–1993
Oil paint on paper
Support: 864 x 622 mm
Presented by the artist 1980

Catalogue entry


Inscribed ‘verlon’ bottom right
Montage of paper and oil on paper mounted on board, 34×24 1/2 (86.5×62.5)
Presented by the artist 1980
Exh: Verlon, Galerie Klihm, Munich, April–May 1961 (21); First London Exhibition of Paintings and Collages by Verlon, Brook Street Gallery, June–July 1962 (9); Der Fotograph und der Maler, Galerie ‘Die Brücke’, Vienna, 1974 (no catalogue)
Lit: André Verlon, ‘Montage-Painting’ in Leonardo, 1, no.4, 1968, p.387, repr.p.385
Repr: Werner Hofmann, Verlon, New York 1961, pl.18; P.M.T. Sheldon-Williams, Verlon-Situation humaine, Vienna 1963, pl.18

Verlon has given a detailed account of his preoccupations, influences and techniques in an article entitled ‘Montage-Painting’ published in Leonardo in 1968, pp.383–92. His art, he says, is an attempt to express his concern with man's fate which is at present fraught with great uncertainty. ‘We live between promises of tremendous material development on the one hand and threats of total extinction on the other...My intention is not only to bring out the quintessence of the polarity of the problems of modern reality: construction - destruction, security - fear, civilisation-barbarity, man-machine, movement-blockage, etc; but also to probe the fundamental interplay beneath the conflicting forces of technology, profit, fear, violence and man's hope for a better world.’

In order to communicate these ideas to the widest possible public, he has tried to make full use of modern media and the discoveries that have been made in art and technology, and this has led him since 1958 to make extensive use of the technique of montage with its varied possibilities. ‘My own appreciation of the conflicts of our times instilled in me as an artist an inclination to take portions of our visual reality and reassemble them anew ... One of the reasons I was attracted to the montage technique was, that I found oil painting tends to stress continuity over discontinuity. It tends to force the artist towards harmonization. For this reason it ignores the heterogeneous aspects of reality, the confrontation of formal contradictions in life and the shock effect of unexpected juxtapositions an artist can make. It was not until I broke with the idea of a surface uniformly covered with paint that it became possible for me to show the dialectically changing nature of reality. There is no doubt in my mind that the technique of montage has played a decisive role in bringing conflict into the sphere of art.’

'Roads to Eternity’ (no.19 in his work catalogue) is an example of his use of montage in its purest and most classical form. That is to say it is a composite picture made out of printed pictures or photographs or parts of them, and consists simply of paper pasted on paper; the only part that has been painted is the background. (There are other montages that include additional pieces made by himself, or areas of drawing or painting, or which incorporate materials such as wood or iron). He writes in a letter of 30 December 1982 that the figures on a sort of ladder - actually figures on a rack - were taken from the ‘Folterordnung’ (torture manual) of Maria Theresa, the eighteenth-century Empress of Austria, the ‘Folterordnung’ being a section of the ‘Constitutio Criminalis Theresiana’ of 1768. Parts of this ‘Folterordnung’ can also be found in the following works, and together they form a series which he calls ‘Reges et Imperato’:

'Mont Calv.’ 1961
‘The Degree of Thumbscrews’ 1961
‘Reges et Imperato I’ 1962 (Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris)
‘The Degree of Tying Up’ 1962
‘Reges et Imperato II’ 1963
‘Reges et Imperato III’ 1967

The images which make up the other forms are parts of classical columns, windows, stairs and railway lines taken from architectural journals and the like. The second background is oil painting on which the collages are integrated. At this period he tried to make a systematic archive of his clippings and classify them according to theme, but he found that this took up far too much of his time, so he gave it up after two or three years.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984

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