Bram Bogart

Threatened Cockerel


Not on display

Bram Bogart 1921–2012
Mixed media paint on canvas
Support: 1337 × 1928 mm
Presented anonymously in honour of the artist Bram Bogart 2014


Threatened Cockerel 1956 is a rectangular painting by the Dutch born Belgian artist Bram Bogart. Swathes, drips and spatters of paint – primarily white on the left and dark grey on the right – are thickly applied on a background that contains areas of light red and pink towards the top of the canvas, and light brown and beige towards the bottom. Without the specificity of the title, the work would appear entirely abstract.

Threatened Cockerel is one of series of paintings Bogart made of the subject of fighting cockerels in Paris in the mid-1950s most of which, like this one, are dated 1956. Likewise, the majority of these compositions show an abstracted pair of birds – one white and one black. Threatened Cockerel is among the largest and most energetic of these works, revealing a concern with gesture and material through the emphatic, deep, impasto strokes and spatters of paint that Bogart has used to convey the violent and frenzied movement of the birds. The subject of a ‘combat between black and white’, the title of another work in the series, suggests that on another level these works were as much, if not more, about the abstract language of paint. The painting is executed in a manner that shows the influence of American abstract expressionism of which Bogart had become aware in Frankfurt in 1955, but also of tachiste painting, the non-geometric abstract style that developed in Europe in the 1940s and 1950s.

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 in its highly gestural near-abstract approach to its figurative subject. 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.
Marcel Paquet, Bram Bogart, Paris 1998, illustrated p.114.
Sam Cornish, Bram Bogart, exhibition catalogue, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London 2011.

Tanya Barson
January 2014
Arthur Goodwin
March 2019

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