THREE SCULPTURES :  what they are to me

Modernism, in a mere forty years, transformed Western culture.  I offer examples of three sculptures that illustrate this change,  what they mean for me.

Public sculptures were traditionally political or cultural.  The work of Henry Moore changes this.  These “Ovals”, placed in a beautiful park as public works, are for me like a chord of music.  As forms, the one echoes the other; the other anticipates one.   For me, it is an evocation of feeling and this is new in the history of public sculpture.   The symmetry of this work, though organic in form, goes beyond nature.

Constantin Brancusi is considered by some as the father of modern sculpture.  For me, he distills an essence,  seeks out an original form.  He relieves me of complexity, reaching back to what is prime, reaching forward to what is an ethereal purity.   He sheds the clutter of detail, returning to the simple, the pure.

Barbara Hepworth expressed herself in abstraction, a characteristic mode of modernism.   These forms though, do have a representative feel for me – they are somehow a gathering of beings.  The lighting lends a unifying glow, while the figures themselves are individualistic.  The rounded marble evokes a warmth, a spirit of sympathy.  It has a whiff of otherworldliness.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

May, 2018



The sources of the images have been lost.

My photograph

My “Sleeping Head”; after Brancusi








Modernism put its own stamp on the traditional and much-respected art of stained glass windows.  The Côte d’Azur is no exception.  Déco designers in the first decades of the 20th-century in Nice heralded the departure from the traditions.

They often abandoned figurative form characteristic of a thousand years of stained glass.  Stained glass windows now became part of secular buildings.

In the early-1950s, Matisse, inspired by the ideas of Sister Jacques-Marie, simplified the designs as they had never been.  His theme was light.


The Notre Dame de l’Assomption , Rue de Grasse, Antibes, was built in the 1950s.  The stained glass design is abstract.  I was struck by the large fluted window which is strangely radiant according to your position in the church.

Galerie Maeght, near St Paul de Vence, was completed in the early-1960s.  The inspirational window by Georges Braque is in the chapel on the grounds of the Gallery.

Elsewhere in the building there are two rather entertaining secular windows by Joan Miro.


                        Stained Glass by Miro

In the afternoons, when I take my walk, I pass the little Eglise de Ste Marguerite, in which I once photographed the remarkable window.  The church dates from the early-1960s.

There is a return to traditional form in the auditorium windows of L’Eglise du Sacre Coeur, Antibes.  This church, strikingly modern in its design, was built from 1969 to 1972.  On the porch, though, there are windows with abstract design.



© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2018



Wikipedia – Stained glass windows in the modern era



Deco image – Paul Castela: Splendeurs de Nice (Editions Giletta. Nice, 1991.)

My photographs


See also “Gekleurde glas” –




PAUL KLEE – the otherness of art

Bern, Switzerland

I remember the clock tower in Bern, Switzerland, the trams and the almost Piedmontese arches in the architecture.  On the way to the Paul Klee Foundation, I grabbed a cup of coffee at a café where there was an unusually large photograph of Albert Einstein on the wall.  It is in Bern, the café owner informed me, that Einstein rounded off the Theory of Relativity.

Albert Einstein, 1904

In the Paul Klee Foundation I stood before the original paintings.  As a twelve-year-old I saw them in an art book, the beginning of a lifelong interest.

Blue Pyramid

A Swiss-German, Paul Klee was a musician, poet, academic and a philosopher in art theory.  His work has been linked with various art movements, but, as has often been said, his work resists any simplistic opinions.  His art is an otherness.


His book “On Modern Art” (1925) has been compared with the writings of Leonardo da Vinci.

“Senecio”, 1922

When his art was mocked, along with many other “decadent” artists in 1937 in Nazi Germany, Klee returned to Switzerland.  This rejection weighed heavily on his mind until his death in 1940 at the age of 61.

Paul Klee, 1911

With Klee’s paintings and especially his drawings you are never far from irony, even a playful spirit.  The captions of his canvases are cryptic, witty.  And for me — I’m supposed to be colour blind — he is a master of colour.  The calling to colour came to him during a reconnaissance in Tunisia.  He became a leading figure amongst modernists in the creative use of colour, breaking long traditions.  Picasso himself had great respect for what Klee did.

The Garden at Lu – , 1939

I sat for a long time looking at “The Garden at Lu – ”  The icon forms rising from dream blue is for me one of the most peaceful images in the storms of modern art.

Fire in the Evening, 1929

“I will not be understood in this world,” he said, probably depressed by the events of the late-1930s, the last years of his life.  But if appreciation and love of his work may be seen as understanding, then Paul Klee was, with respect, wrong.

Nocturnal Growth


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

January, 2018



Werner Haftmann :  The Mind and Work of Paul Klee.  Faber and Faber. London, 1967.

Will Grohman :  Paul Klee.  Lund Humphries.  London, 1969.




Paintings by Klee from Will Grohman : Paul Klee

Bern – TourismSwiss

Albert Einstein –





Fondation Maeght revisited

I rendezvous-ed with my two South African friends in Antibes and was spirited off to St Paul de Vence, north-west of Nice.  I told them of Fondation Maeght and before long we were motoring up the hill into the forest where this gallery perches on a cliff overlooking the Côte d’Azur.

This gallery, inaugurated in 1964 by André Malraux, was designed by the Catalonian architect Lluis Sert (no, that double l is not a typo).  It was my third visit and for the first time I saw (I think I saw) the motif in the form of the building:  it is the head of a bull.

                            Fondation Maeght

At my first visit many years ago I was struck by the quirky creativity of the place itself and the marvelous obsession with art.  The artists, at an invitation, ran full tilt ahead of that white-horned bull – Miro, Giacometti, Braque, Chagall, Léger, Arp, Bonnard, Nash, Calder, Hepworth.  It reads like a Who’s Who of modernist and contemporary art.

Alexander Calder 1963

Jean Arp Le Pepin géant 1956

Marc Chagall mural (detail)

Joan Miro Labyrinthe

There is currently an exhibition by the Spanish artist Eduard Arroyo.  His work is a revelation to me.  From powerful sculptures to his thought-provoking paintings, often cryptic, his styles draw from a bewildering number of sources.

Orroyo painting

Orroyo rhino

Yes, I get lyrical about the place.  A family with the means created something astounding here.  For art lovers it must be like leaping wildly into an icy rushing mountain stream.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2017



Museum pamphlet



My photographs


Dedicated, with gratitude, to Graham and Elna

EMILE NOLDE – expressionist

It is the flattest landscape I’ve yet seen, the road to Seëbull, on the border between Germany and Denmark.  The roads are arrows; the poplar trees that line them are organ pipes.  The Free State is mountainous, by comparison. Here, in Seëbull, we find the Emile Nolde Foundation, a building in the style of the Bauhaus, which Nolde designed as his home in the 1920s.

                  The Emile Nolde Foundation

                   Emile Nolde, 1929

Today it is an art gallery, surrounded by gardens, also his design.  The spacious gallery displays a hearty number of his works.

                    Self-portrait, 1917

He was an expressionist, part of a movement that was paralleled by the Fauves in France, a movement that was suppressed by the Nazis in the late-1930s.  In this regard there is a painful irony in the life of Emile Nolde.

                Red and yellow sunflowers, 1920

In the chaos and bitterness after the First World War, he was attracted to the new political party of the Nazis, with anti-semitism to boot.  But after they had taken power in 1933, Nolde found himself officially declared as a “decadent” artist, with over a thousand of his works confiscated. Some were displayed in the exhibition of Entartete Kunst in 1937 to be mocked.

   Poster for the 1937 exhibition

The Nazis forbid him to do any further painting, but he worked on in secret.  These works he called his “unpainted paintings”.

“The Argument” – one of the unpainted paintings 1938 – 1945

After the war the honour Emile Nolde deserved was restored.  He died in 1956 at the age of 89.

     The Prophet, etching, 1911

For me his work touches abstraction at times, a characteristic mode of modernist painting.  The planes of colour surprise.  His human figures, most often earthy, even childlike and primitive, sabre the painting traditions away.  What he does sometimes moves under a dark cloud.

          “Landscape with young horses”, 1916

His painting is not detailed.  His spirit shatters that.  His world bursts open, full and rich.  His paintbrush is broad, as a landscape.

                          “Underway”, 19 –


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2017



Wikipedia :  Emile Nolde



The gallery – Emile Nolde-Stift

Photo – Emile Nolde-Stift

Red and yellow sunflowers – PerformArts

Self-portrait – PerformArts

“Entartete Kunst”-poster – Nolde Stift

Prophet etching – PerformArts

“Underway” – PerformArts







Nicolas de Staël

 Through a half-open door I see a painting on the wall of a consulting room  ̶  a close-to-abstract nude with long black hair.  It’s a work by Nicolas de Staël and inspection shows it’s the original, which says something about the income of this eye specialist.

Nu couché bleu, Antibes, 1955

Nu couché bleu, Antibes, 1955

It is this image which was used as a poster for a retrospective on the artist’s work.  And that in House Grimaldi, a 15th-century building constructed on Greek and Roman foundations, and it’s fitting:  the studio of the artist in his final years was literally around the corner from this museum, “seventy paces,” in his own words.

Seagulls, Antibes, 1955

Seagulls, Antibes, 1955

I saw the exhibition.  He was known for abstract work, the form characteristic of modernism.  One critic says that De Staël tightropes between abstraction and figurative painting.  Another says his painting works like “superb iceberg, with the beauty of frozen crystalline forms …”  I saw falling, rising blocks of autumn colours, grey against black … I confess that it moved me not.  Abstract painters that speak more to me are Delaunay, Mondriaan and Kandinsky.  Perhaps if I lived with a De Staël, viewed it each morning with my coffee, I’d see the inner logic.

His life story touches me.  He was unusually tall and Time magazine describes him as “husky” at the time of his exhibitions in America in the early-1950s.  He was born in Russia, his parents fleeing the Russian revolution in 1917.  Both of them died in Danzig and the boy was adopted by a Belgian family; hence, the Flemish surname.  They soon saw the talent and sent him to Paris.  For the next twenty years he took abstract painting to another level.  His untimely death, by his own hand, was a great loss for art.  He was 41 years old.


Two of his paintings haunt me.  The one is the nude in repose.  She is overwhelmed by a plane of unbroken red over her and it would seem if she (probably the artist’s wife) is tiring of this posing business and is about to turn over to sleep, if you look at the rising leg.  It was her spirit, her feeling, he painted, not her appearance.

The second is the image of Fort Carrée which he could see from his studio window over the harbour.  It’s almost abstract.  The little white blocks are probably yachts and the fort itself, brave and luminous on the promontory, stands against a deepening black and leaden grey which also darken the foreground.   These two works early in 1955 were amongst his last.

Fort Carrée, Antibes, 1955

Fort Carrée, Antibes, 1955


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

December, 2016


Source and images

Bruno Racine (ed.) –  Nicolas de Staël.  (Centre Pompidou, Paris.  2003)

Nicolas de Stael, un automne, un hiver – Musée Picasso, Antibes.  2003.  The quotation has been freely translated from: ” La peinture … enchante, à la maniere d’un superb iceberg, par la beauté des ses formes figées en cristaux …” (p. 33)  – Valentine Marcadé.






It was a Provençal meal, the more so for having Italian touches.  Simone Bottero, Claudie’s friend, and who had Italian parents, invited us to lunch.  She lives in Le Cannet, the name which probably means Little Cannes, a suburb.  For those not familiar with Provençal cuisine and for future generations, I would like to record the details.  As an aperitif we had vin des oranges, sweet and piquant, which was homemade.  We began with pisaladiére, slices of bread with marinaded onion.  It can be served with anchovettes as well, but we didn’t have that.   This was followed by a tomato salad on a blue ceramic plate with yellow salad tongs and strips of white goats milk cheese – a treat in primary colours.  This had a parsley vinaigrette dressing.  Next, there were slices of cold pork and gnocchis,  little pasta balls, with a pimenté sauce.   We brought it to a close with sorbet and Tanzanian arabica black coffee.  There now, even if this is not archived, I won’t forget it.


Self-portrait, 1889

I then had the pleasure of going to the Pierre Bonnard Museum in Le Cannet.  A starkly modern place for which you pay 7 euros (R70).  But I pleaded that I was A. a tourist guide and B. a pensioner and I got in for 3 euros.  And – I had a little audio gadget that purred about the paintings softly in my ear.

It might be pretentious to say that one discovers a painter, but, I confess, it was a little of that.  From the late-19th-century, Bonnard (born 1867) weaves his way amongst the other greats – Matisse, Monet, Vuillard.  It’s difficult to pin him down because he echoes the impressionists and there is a hint of the Fauves to come, works that have abandoned perspective and embrace new ways of using colour.


The Dining-room Table


La petite fenetre, 1946

In this museum there is currently an exhibition of his la fenêtre works, amongst others, together with paintings by Monet, Vuillard and Matisse.  The la fenêtre or window motif was often used by artists.  Even Picasso eventually succumbed.  In 1952, Matisse said, Les fenêtres m’out toujours intéressé car elles sont un passage entre l’interieur et l’exterieur  (Windows have always interested me because they are a passage between the interior and the exterior).  The landscape beyond is seen through additional framing structures. This motif also serves to contrast the inner objects, a kind of still life, with the openness outside.

Two of these paintings in particular will, like the Provençal meal, remain with me.  One, Nature mort et paysage, done in 1930, is a muted winter scene through a window above a ballustrade with pale greys and blues of the sky.  In the foreground, there are the warm fruits of the interior in generous bowls.  The other, Petite fenêtre, shows trees in a lilac haze, the suggestion of distant hills and in the foreground sun-yellow flowers – the inner and the outer in balance.  Both paintings are images of peace, the latter done the year before his death in 1947.

Looking at the many works he did in this museum, in books and on the internet, I have the impression that there was contentment in his life.  There is unmistakable warmth in what he does, a muted joie de vivre. Yet, the series of photographs of him in his last years shows a sad face.  The peace in his work was not necessarily the peace in himself.  In 1944, he wrote, Celui qui chante n’est pas toujours heureux – the one who sings is not always happy.


Self-portrait, 1940s


Will van der Walt ©

Vendredi  20 Juillet 2012

Image Sources: La Petite Fenetre – & Self-portrait 1940s –  

%d bloggers like this: