Belgian Avant-garde

GHELDERODE (Michel de) - SERVRANCKX (Victor)Beeldekens uit het leven van Sint Franciskus van Assisi. Vlaamse tekst van Willem Doevenspeck.

(Antwerp), Vlaamsche Volkstooneel-Uitgaven, Nr. 4 (Borgerhout-Antw., Drukkerij Uitgeverij Regenboog), (1927).

Large 8vo, publisher’s light blue printed wrappers, large abstract Modernist linocut composition on the front cover signed Servranckx in the plate, (light fading to front cover and spine). 111 pp. Complete.

First edition of the Dutch translation of Ghelderode’s book (1st French Edition, 1926), published in the Vlaamsche Volkstooneel series for which Victor Sevranckx designed the covers. In contrast to the three previous publications (Tyl, Reinaert de Vos and De Paradijsvloek), this one has an interesting Modernist mise en page (possibly by Jos Leonard, the name of the typographer is unfortunately not mentioned) showing the influence of Paul Van Ostaijen’s “Bezette Stad” published in 1921. Text, font sizes and black rules are combined in various ways.

Victor Servranckx (1897-1965) was one of the first Belgian artists to espouse abstraction. He studied at the Brussels Académie des Beaux-Arts from 1913 to 1917 and, after completing his studies, began working at the Peters-Lacroix (U.P.L.) wallpaper factory, where he designed abstract motifs. Servranckx’s lengthy collaboration with this firm (until 1925), where he met René Magritte, spurred him to take an interest in interior decoration and interior design. Also during this period, he exhibited his paintings for the first time at the Giroux gallery in Brussels in 1917. In 1918 Servranckx began to exhibit his oeuvre in L’Effort Moderne, Léonce Rosenberg’s Paris gallery, which had been a meeting place for the members of the Cubist movement since the First World War. He met Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Theo van Doesburg, Fernand Léger and Marcel Duchamp, and thereafter his work was shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions. In 1926, thanks to Marcel Duchamp, he took part in the exhibitions of the Société Anonyme in the United States and received an invitation from László Moholy-Nagy to teach at the New Bauhaus in Chicago, which he rejected. Servranckx produced abstract sculptures and collages and was an active contributor to the magazines 7 Arts and Opbouwen. From 1932 to 1935 he taught at the Ecole des Arts Industriels et Décoratifs d’Ixelles and, although his work had a largely hostile reception in Belgium, his influence on subsequent generations of artists was significant. He was selected at the 1948 and 1954 Venice Biennales and in 1965, shortly before his death, the Musée d’Ixelles held a retrospective of his work (Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum).

Jos Leonard (1892-1957), noted Belgian artist, graphic designer and typographer, member of avant-garde circles (such as Moderne Kunst for example), contributor to several periodicals (the Expressionist literary journal “Ruimte” among others), and founder of the graphic studio “Studio Novio” in 1924. Although his early plastic work often looks eclectic, Jos Léonard soon evolved towards abstract art. Together with Jozef Peeters and other artists of the Antwerp avant-garde, his fascination with Constructivism, the Bauhaus and De Stijl brought him into contact with the idea of an art for the community and as from 1924 he dedicated himself almost entirely to graphic design and advertising. “As a graphic designer and typographer, Léonard occupied a unique position in Belgium. Not only did his career as a graphic designer cover the whole period of historic Modernism, but it is also notable that all the aspects mentioned seem to converge in this artist’s oeuvre: contact with leading figures in the national and international avant-garde movements, a bridge between artisthood and craftsmanship, connections with different ideological circles, alliance with and influence on graphic education, knowledge of typography, etc.” (Katrien van Haute).

The Vlaamsche Volkstooneel [Flemish Popular Theatre] was a Belgian travelling theatre company that had an innovative influence on Flemish theatre life between the two world wars. It was founded in 1920 by Jan Oscar De Gruyter (1885-1929) with the express intention of playing a role in the cultural emancipation of the Flemish. In 1927 the company performed in Paris. Activities stopped in 1930.

A very good copy, with the fragile cover well preserved.

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