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Antwerp (Belgium) 1882 - The Hague (Netherlands) 1917


Schmalzigaug came from a well-to-do family in Antwerp and was sent abroad at an early age to be treated for scoliosis. At the age of seventeen, his teachers discovered his talent for drawing and pushed him towards an artistic education. In 1901, he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels where he studied under Isidore Verheyden. He then spent a year in Karlsruhe, Germany, where he enrolled at the Academy of Arts. In 1905, he toured Italy for nine months. The atmosphere and light of Venice had a major influence on his work... In Rome, he was the correspondent of the art magazine L'Art Contemporain. In 1907, he toured throughout France, where he fell under the spell of French art.

Back in Antwerp, he became assistant secretary of the magazine Kunst van Heden. From 1910 to 1912 he lived mainly in the French capital, where he studied with Lucien Simon and Emile René Ménard. He admires the works of the cubist artists Georges Braque and Fernand Léger. Schmalzigaug exhibited for the first time at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris in 1911.

He went to the exhibition of the Italian Futurists in 1912 and was won over by this artistic movement and in particular by the paintings of Gino Severini. He attended a conference by Filippo Marinetti, the leader of Italian Futurism and decided to move to Venice. Setting up his studio according to the principles of the painter Jakob Smits, his palette becomes clearer with more intense colours. He then became interested in the scientific approach to light and colour which he applies in his work. He then abandons all perspective. Inspired by the works of Umberto Boccioni, the artist tries to represent movement, while mixing abstract forms and rhythms inspired by Giacomo Balla into his compositions.

He exhibited six canvases in 1914 at the Esposizione Libera Futurista Internazionale international futurism exhibition in Rome, which was a consecration for him.

He moved with his family to The Hague, where he met Dutch artists, but also compatriots such as Georges Vantongerloo and Rik Wouters. He was very productive during this period and created both abstract and figurative works. In 1914, he discovered the colour theory of the American physicist Ogden Rood, which is described in the book Modern Chromatics, with Applications to Art and Industry (published in 1879, with a French translation in 1881).  He took up this theory in the leaflet La Panchromie. In 1915, he founded the Belgian School of Domestic Art in The Hague and became its artistic adviser. 

He participated with two paintings and a few drawings in the Exhibition of Belgian Art at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam . The critical reception of his work was mixed.

In the Netherlands, where he was isolated by the war, he missed the atmosphere of Venice and the contact with the great artistic movements. He was greatly affected by the death of his friend Umberto Boccioni. His last works do not reach the level of his Italian period and he returns to figurative art. Schmalzigaug fell into depression and committed suicide on 13th May 1917.

This watercolour on paper was made in 1914. Returning to Belgium because of the war, Jules Schmalzigaug settled in The Hague. In this painting, he shows his belonging to the Futurist movement through a play of rhythm and light. The composition is dynamic thanks to the oblique lines but also to his quick and spontaneous touch. This work also makes reference to the French simultaneity because the painter shows us the difference between what he calls light colours and felt colours, i.e. the colours that reflect light and those that absorb it. He expresses this idea thanks to a palette composed of yellow and blue lit up with white facing a black area, the colours delimit the shapes. This is a perfect combination of his taste for French art and futuristic art and is part of the important research work carried out by the artist for "La Panchromie". 

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