Franz Sedlacek and Magic Realism

Twitter is useful for finding artworks and artists that I have not come across before…and it strikes again with Franz Sedlacek.

Biog details first:

Born in 1891 in Breslau and moved to Linz when he was 6.

Sedlacek was already showing a talent for drawing, especially characters and after graduating he moved to Vienna whete you would have thought he would have attended art school, but no. Agriculture was his chosen subject initially and he switched to chemistry a year later. Both of these subjects are reflected in his later works.

Sedlacek carried on drawing part time, teaching himself along the way. The switch to oil painting occurred after his return from the war. After finishing his chemistry studies he began work at the Technical Museum, becoming head of department.

In 1927 he became a member of the Viennese Secession and, in 1929, he exhibited in “Neo-Romanticism and New Objectivity in Upper Austria” in Linz. This was the first time his work came under a category and, as we shall see, he is difficult to categorize as there are elements of the surreal and absurd in his work, we can also see the influences of Bruegel, Bosch and even De Chirico in his works.

His work, however, was difficult to categorize, a cross between “New Objectivity”, the German movement that was the fire runner of expressionism, and “Magical Realism”.

From the 30s onwards, he began to receive recognition for his work with awards and international fame beckoned when his work was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

When war broke out, Sedalech was called back into the military and, in the chaos that surrounded the end of the war, Sedalech was posted as missing in action.

The works

Here is a selection that really stand out for me.

Ship of Fools

A popular subject and one that you can never fail to comprehend. It reminded me of Durer’s version.

St Antony

Again, a popular subject but can’t you tell Bosch was an influence?

Landscape with painter

Bruegel was another influence, especially with the high horizon line allowing us to wander through the foreground at our leisure.

Ghosts on a Tree

This is stunning. You can almost feel the dampness of the mist surrounding the vultures nesting on the bare branches. Dawn is breaking and the harbingers of death are ready to take flight. Chilling!

The Chemist

This screams “De Chirico”. The repetitive archways bring a sense of the unreal combined with the order that chemistry brings. With Sedalech being a chemist, I’d like to think this is a self portrait.

The Soothsayer’s Recompense, oil on canvas by Giorgio de Chirico, 1913; in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection

Nocturnal Homecoming

Finally, this sinister group of people and this definitely falls under the banner of New Objectivity, and particularly George Grosz and his Pillars of Society:

It is a real tragedy that Sedalech did not return from the war; his style was still developing and he would, no doubt, have become a world renowned artist.

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