Art criticism


Distinctive Style – Categorisations – Structures – Expressionism – Sensuality

Towards the end of the 1950’s Oscar Barblan developed and strengthened his distinctive style, particularly with his oil paintings. By their own account – and evidenced in the approximately 200 texts and articles written about his work –, art critics were challenged when they analysed and described his art as it eludes categorisation. Accordingly, alternately expressions like Classicism, Modernism, Primitivism, Metaphysical Painting, Impressionism, Cubism, Geometrism, Impressionism and Expressionism were used in reviews. Sometimes his works were rightfully allocated to one of these stylistic movements – e.g. if they related to isolated creative periods –, although most of the time the art critic community simply wanted to point to a possible and distant source of inspiration.
It is certainly legitimate to talk about a personal kind of Expressionism, a term, which at the same time must be amended by further keywords: solid architectural base, structure-giving lines, balance and harmony, sense for surface and space dynamics, the importance of contours, as well as bright and at the same time unobtrusive, condensed but still gradated colours. All these terms can be found in the published articles.
The clear structures are indeed found in many of Oscar Barblan’s works, especially in his oil paintings – the figures by themselves are also clearly contoured; and in the delicate mixed techniques as well as in the watercolours the artist subtly draws the picture frame with a fine pastel stroke. Within these clear structures the colours literally sparkle and the figures and landscapes boundlessly unfold in depth, intensity, emotionality and dream-like atmosphere.
The philosopher and writer Lanza del Vasto was the first to point out other aspects of the works – also often recurring in art critical statements –, such as sensuality of the figures or mysticism. He wrote : "When I saw his paintings, I was astonished and fell silent. (…) With no other painter have I found the challenge of connection between sensuality and mysticism, between sin and deliverance so dominantly presented. (…) He never talks about his painting, which presents itself in its final and complete form; one beholds it and those who have eyes to see, will see, that is all."
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Oscar Barblan (1909-1987)
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