Failure as Success in Painting: Bram van Velde, the Invisible (Part 2)

Bram van Velde, “Untitled, Tardais” (1959), oil on canvas, 51 x 76-3/4 inches, private collection, Belgium (via

The postwar art scene in Paris was dominated on one side by a disproportionate humanist optimism (exemplified by Jean Bazaine, Alfred Manessier, Maurice Esteve, Vieira da Silva, et al.) bent on reconnecting with the great French tradition of Cubism and Fauvism, as if nothing had happened in between, and on the other by the dark broodings of the Existentialists, Miserabilists, (mostly figurative, such as Alberto Giacometti, Germaine Richier, Francis Gruber, Bernard Buffet) and Informel painters (Wols, Georges Matthieu, et al.). Bram van Velde’s own ambivalence towards Cubism and Fauvism, paired with a clear allegiance to an Existential type of abstraction, made him especially difficult for the critics to understand and categorize. Were it not for Samuel Beckett, Georges Duthuit and Jacques Putnam, the almost

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