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Axl Leskoschek and Patrick Heron
January 31, 2011 - May 1, 2011
Axl Leskoschek (1889-1975) was one of a group of foreign artists who took refuge in Brazil as a result of World War II and the rise of Nazism. The arrival of these artists and their impact on the Brazilian artistic milieu marks a decisive moment in the nation’s visual history. Born in Graz, Austria, Leskoschek studied at the Graz School of Fine Art and later the Vienna Graphic Arts School. Fleeing the Nazis, he traveled first to Switzerland and finally arrived in Rio de Janeiro in late 1939 where he remained until 1948. During those years he worked as a book illustrator, interpreting classic and modern works of Brazilian and Portuguese literature for Livaria e Editor- ia José Olympio. He became famous for his illustrations in the Brazilian editions of Dostoevsky’s novels. A prominent teacher, Leskoschek established a course in advertising design and graphic arts via the Fundação Getúlio Vargas. The class—which met in his neighborhood studio—provided formative experiences for a number of Brazilian artists, including Ivan Serpa, Decio Vieira, Edith Behring, Teresa Nicolao, and Fayga Ostrower among others.
The works in the Brazilian Miniatures portfolio (Circle Press, Guildford, England, 1974) were made during or after Leskoschek’s sojourn in Brazil as illustrations to Ulrich Becher’s O Romanceiro do Brasil (The Romance of Brazil). Essayist José Neistein of the Brazilian- American Cultural Institute comments, “…these engravings stand on their own as an illustrative cycle, independent of the text that motivated them. [They] provide us with a miniature visual anthology of uses and customs in Brazil… some of which have disappeared or are about to disappear in the face of technological and industrial development. More than anything else, this cycle of prints shows the artist’s own identification with the Brazilian way of life, the fascination he must have felt for the country’s fauna and flora, its quality of light, its daily rhythm, during a dialog which lasted eight years in actual time, but whose intensity of feeling stayed with him ever after.”
Patrick Heron (1920–1999), was an English painter, writer and designer, based in St. Ives, Cornwall. At the age of thirteen, on a school visit to the National Gallery, he saw paintings by Paul Cézanne for the first time. He immediately began to paint in a Cézanne-influenced style. When he was seventeen, he attended The Slade School of Art for two days a week, returning to the West Country to draw the landscape. In World War II he registered as a conscientious objector and worked as an agricultural labourer for three years, then at the Leach Pottery at St. Ives between 1944-45, where he met Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and many other leading artists of the St. Ives School.
The effect on Heron of the New York School painters, together with his move to live at Eagles Nest, overlooking the cliffs at Zennor, was a pivotal point in the transformation into his now characteristic language of interlinking forms; his balancing of colour and space. “Heron used that most rare and uncanny of gifts: the ability to invent an imagery that was unmistakenly his own, and yet which connects immediately with the natural world as we perceive it, and transforms our vision of it. Like those of his acknowledged masters, Braque, Matisse and Bonnard, his paintings are at once evocations and celebrations of the visible, discoveries of what he called ‘the reality of the eye’ “—Mel Gooding.
Patrick Heron began writing about art professionally in 1945 when he was invited by Philip Mairet, editor of The New English Weekly to contribute to the journal. Two years later he became art critic of the New Statesman until 1950. He became London correspondent to Arts Digest, New York, (later renamed Arts(NY). Heron’s writings were admired by American art critic Clement Greenberg who sought him out in London in 1954. The friendship they formed eventually disintegrated when they disagreed as judges of the John Moores Prize Exhibition in 1965.
In 1979, Heron’s wife Delia died suddenly and unexpectedly at Eagles Nest. For some years Heron was unable to paint. Eventually, he began a series of paintings which retained the images of his later work but returned to the misty effect of the garden paintings of the early 1950s. “His last paintings were full-on, risky, filled with bright squiggles, painterly flurries and cartoon doodles. They should have been chaotic and absurd, but they were instead open and vital, eye-rocking and beautiful. Heron’s retrospective was ravishing, and had the vitality of a much younger artist.” —Adrian Searle.
On 24 May 2004, a number of Heron’s most important works were destroyed in a warehouse fire at Momart.