Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pyke Koch

Female Sleepwalker resting
oil on canvas
45 x 75 cm
location unknown
Fair use

The resting sleepwalker is an important theme in the oeuvre of Pyke Koch. He executed four versions of this subject since 1959. His oeuvre can be seen as a series of masquerades, metaphores, metamorphoses and mystifications, strongly influenced by painters like Henri Rousseau and Paul Delvaux.

Pieter Frans Christiaan Koch, known as Pyke Koch (1901-1991), was a Dutch artist who painted in a magic realist manner. He is considered to be one of the foremost representatives in the Netherlands of Magic Realism, a style of painting in which the scenes depicted seem realistic yet uncanny or unlikely. His paintings show many details. Some believe these details contain hidden messages and references to his personal life. The work does contain many references to earlier periods in the history of art. He was very much inspired by painters of the Italian quattrocento, most notably the work of Piero della Francesca. He was a perfectionist in the extreme. He worked slowly and destroyed many of his works because he was not satisfied with the result. His oeuvre is therefore quite small. Still it has been incorporated in all major collections in the Netherlands.

He was born in Beek, a small village near Nijmegen in the Netherlands as only son of the local doctor. He went to school first in Nijmegen, later to a boarding school in Zeist. There he was given the nickname Pike (as in the fish). The name stuck, even when he moved to Utrecht to study law at the University, although he changed the spelling to 'Pyke'. Music was an important part of Koch family life. He played the violin and was interested in music from Bach to gipsy music. During his student days he played with a student gypsy band.

From the very start his paintings were admired for their technical perfection, even though he had no formal training. In fact he had no practical training whatsoever. Koch was fond of his image as a self taught painter. He was most impressed with the painters of the Italian Renaissance Piero della Francesca, Masaccio and Mantegna. He also admired some modern painters, notably Chirico and Magritte. In 1931 one of the foremost museums in the Netherlands, the Museum Boymans van Beuningen bought one of his paintings. This meant he was considered one of the Great Painters of the Netherlands. During the 1930s his work became very popular. It was often called Magic Realism, a term he quite liked. After the war his work became less popular. Abstract expressionism and other more conceptual forms of art became the norm. All forms of realism were considered old fashioned. He was also active as a designer for graphic work. He designed postage stamps and for instance, the Utrecht street lights.