30 October 2009

Jan Mankes

The lazy biographer's mistake is to read a life backwards, a special temptation when there is not much information available in English about an artist. Jan Mankes (1889-1920), who died on his 31st birthday from tuberculosis should not be reduced to one melancholy fact, especially when we consider the large body of work he left us, approximately two hundred fifty paintings, and one hundred twenty sketches.

Mankes was only 22 when he wrote about his work: "I paint or rather wish to paint paintings, silent but singing, singing indeed by their silence. " At this same time, he painted the Self-Portrait with his pet owl.
His large love of nature could have appeared sentimental but Mankes had a sure sense of composition and a lambent way of applying color. This, combined with close attention to his subjects makes each one individual to us, The Old Goat, Wyandotte the Rooster, and the rabbits.
Wyandotte, in his hungry self-absorption, is more than personable, out-sized, almost surreal, a character who makes a strong impression on the viewer. Mankes' settings, as you can see in the background of The Old Goat owe something to the Symbolists, too.

The Arnheim Museum of Modern Art presented The Mankes Perspective in 2007, a new look at the work.

http://www.mankes.nl/ (mostly in Flemish) is an admirable webiste with much more Mankes.

'Holland’s mostly tranquil painter' - Roland Hollowest, 1923.

6 comments:

Art said...

I especially like the self-portrait. I wonder what kind of pets owls make?

Neil said...

Well, I was going to say the same as Art - the self-portrait with an owl is really wonderful. I'll admit I'd never heard of Mankes, he's completely new to me, and I love the solemn complicity between artist and owl. We have a lot of owls around us, especially tawny owls, barn owls, and little owls, and they are all magical, but I can't imagine any of them submitting to the status of a pet.

Jane said...

Thank you, Neil, for answering the owl question. Aesthetics aside, or as part of them, I admire Mankes' attentiveness to the ways that animals behave. The trio of rabbits reminded me of the ones who used to nibble at my mother's marigolds when I was little. Often portrayed as fuzzy white balls, rabbits are quite angular-looking when they are busy.

Lucie G said...

I love these paintings too, the self portrait is gorgeous and the goose girl and and...all of them.

Jane said...

I find it difficult to choosse among Mankes' works, so do invetsigate the Mankes website. Even without understanding Flemish, it is wonderful.

Kathleen Shanley said...

Does anyone know where I could purchase a print of "The Goose Girl" by Jan Mankes? I would be interested in other prints of his work, but I find this painting so lovely and haunting.Thank you.