Survey Siegward Sprotte’s landscapes and you will quickly spot when the late German artist simplified his paintings and drawings by representing objects in nature with lines and ideographs, similar to the way Chinese calligraphy uses organic symbols as linear messengers.
It was the late ’50s when critics sometimes asserted that Sprotte’s work offered little innovation in an art history context. However, his paintings have passed the test of time. Sprotte proved impermeable to trends by staying true to himself until he stopped painting five days before he died last year at age 91.
“From the end of the 1930s, landscape drawing became initially freer, through which the artist detached himself from detailed naturalism and concentrated on fewer features of the landscape,” Christoph Becker asserted in the monograph Sprotte: Cycles Dialogues. “His fame grew in the 1950s and ’60s with the large-format watercolors in intensely bright colors, which show the highest competence of brushstroke, a finely differentiating colorfulness, and the characteristic of reduction to ‘the essentials.’ This group of works is Sprotte’s contribution to post-war German art.”
Viewers see Sprotte’s fast, single gestures as a true, or real, representation. Yet, he always said that he was not a landscape painter — that he aligned more with the Chinese and Japanese ink drawings, which strive to become one with reality rather than a representation of it. He called the process “organic abstraction” — a legacy worthy of a celebration.
Indeed, the artist’s multidimensional character — Sprotte was a painter, a linguist, and a philosopher — enabled him to communicate in a distinct way. It seems unfair to criticize his soulful works (particularly those after his early Impressionist landscapes) as lacking in innovation. His midcentury paintings and drawings evoke the metaphysical with exacting linear representations that test the boundaries of abstraction.
Eleonore Austerer Gallery presents an exhibition of Sprotte’s works throughout January.
Eleonore Austerer Gallery, 73-660 El Paseo, Palm Desert; (760) 346-3695; www.austererfineart.com