Bram Bogart

White plane white


In Tate Modern

Bram Bogart 1921–2012
Original title
Mixed media paint on canvas attached to board
Support: 2045 x 2790 x 150 mm
Presented anonymously in honour of the artist Bram Bogart 2014


White plane white 1974 is a very large monochrome white painting in which a thick layer of paint has been applied to the surface of the support and pulled to the edges. The middle area of the work remains relatively flat and smooth, with just the margins of each broad stroke visible, running vertically. However, the painting displays a frame of thick, impasto paint accumulations around the edges. Bogart described how, in the 1970s, ‘I started to see how important the borders of a painting were … extending the material over the borders of the painting. It gave me a certain looseness or broad outline’ (quoted in Museum voor Moderne Kunst 1995, p.250).

Bogart was born Abraham van den Boogaart in Delft. Between the ages of twelve and fifteen he took a correspondence course in drawing in his free time, while attending the technical school in Delft where he was training as a house painter. In his early years he also worked as a cinema publicity canvas painter in Rotterdam. Bogart began making his first oil paintings in 1939. He settled in Paris for almost a decade (1951–60) and also spent time in Rome (1959–61). In 1960 he moved to Belgium, first to Brussels, then Ohain and afterwards Kortenbos. He took Belgian citizenship in 1969.

Bogart’s early influences included the work of Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) and the Belgian expressionist Constant Permeke (1886–1952). However, in Paris he got to know both Antoni Tapies and Alberto Burri. In 1955 he saw an exhibition of American art held in Frankfurt 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 1956 (Tate T14201), which demonstrates a 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). 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.

White plane white was made after Bogart had moved from Brussels (where his studio had become too small for his work) to Ohain, where his work went through another shift. Keeping one of the largest rooms in his residence at the Manoir d’Ohain empty, he described how ‘the influence of this emptiness was soon noticeable in my work’ (quoted in Museum voor Moderne Kunst 1995, p.249). At over two metres high and nearly three metres wide, this painting is illustrative of this expansive sense of space.

Further reading
Bram Bogart: Retrospectief, exhibition catalogue, Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Oostende 1995.
Marcel Paquet, Bram Bogart, Paris 1998, reproduced p.212.
Sam Cornish, Bram Bogart, exhibition catalogue, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London 2011.

Tanya Barson
January 2014

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Display caption

Bogart trained as a house painter before finding success as an artist. His work foregrounds paint as a physical substance, and he became particularly interested in the borders of his paintings. A curator observed Bogart’s method: ‘Working on the floor, he spreads his unique, cement-like, paint substance…over a surface of jute attached to canvas and wood. For this he employs huge brushes and trowels which can be up to six feet wide. A giant of a man, Bogart likes the width of his largest paintings to be within his own wingspan.’

Gallery label, October 2016

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