Bram Bogart

Absolution

1959

Not on display

Artist
Bram Bogart 1921–2012
Original title
Absolutie
Medium
Mixed media paint on canvas attached to board
Dimensions
Support: 2410 x 1708 x 61 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented anonymously in honour of the artist Bram Bogart 2014
Reference
T14204

Summary

Absolution 1959 is a black monochrome painting by the American artist Bram Bogart. The surface of the work is highly textured – the edge of the canvas and the lower portion of the portrait orientated work are relatively flat, with minor modulations and small mounds of paint; as the central section nears the top of the canvas, the paint emerges more proudly from the canvas, with tightly packed globules of paint almost in the round.

Absolution reveals Bogarts shift into pure abstraction and his developing concern with the material surface of the painting and with paint as three-dimensional matter. The work was made in the year that Bogart began his transition from Paris to Brussels via Rome, when he stopped using an easel and began working on the floor. Just prior to this shift of location and method, Bogart made a number of monochrome paintings in 1958–9. He commented ‘even in those days, making a painting in one colour, either white, black or brown, evoked a kind of tranquillity in me’, and yet, he continued, ‘when making a painting in one colour – monochrome in other words – I want the field of tension to be retained.’ (Quoted in Museum voor Moderne Kunst 1995, p.245.)

Bogart began making his first oil paintings in 1939, having worked as a decorator and painter of cinema advertising, and went on to study at the Academy of Fine Art in The Hague. His early influences included the work of Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) and the Belgian expressionist Constant Permeke (1886–1952), and in Paris he got to know both Antoni Tapies (1912–2012) and Alberto Burri (1915–1995). In 1955 he saw an exhibition of American art held in Frankfurt in 1955 and another in Paris in 1959, through which he became familiar with the work of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline and Barnett Newman. These influences inform works such as Threatened Cockerel 1955 (Tate T14201) in its highly gestural near-abstract approach to its figurative subject, and Absolution. Moving from Paris to Rome and then back to Belgium, Bogart’s work went through a number of successive shifts, from early figuration to gesturalism and eventually to a thickly applied surface of pure and dense colour in works such as Rye Summer 1963 (Tate T14203) and the monochrome White Plane White 1974 (Tate T14202). Through constant experimentation, he developed a distinctive style of painting that nevertheless continually responded to his central preoccupation with the materiality of paint and its application on the picture plane.

Further reading
Bram Bogart: Retrospectief, exhibition catalogue, interview by W. Van den Bussche, PMMK, Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Oostende 1995, illustrated p.64.
Marcel Paquet, Bram Bogart, Paris 1998.
Sam Cornish, Bram Bogart, exhibition catalogue, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London 2011.

Tanya Barson
January 2014
Arthur Goodwin
March 2019

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Display caption

This highly textured black monochrome marks Bogart’s shift into pure abstraction, and his developing concern with the material surface of the painting. It was made in the year that Bogart left Paris for Rome, ultimately settling in Brussels. Around this time he also stopped using an easel and began working on the floor. ‘Making a painting in one colour, either white, black or brown, evoked a kind of tranquility in me’, he commented. However, he went on to say, ‘When making a painting in one colour – monochrome in other words – I want the field of tension to be retained’.

Gallery label, July 2015

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

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