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Klar Otto

Klar Otto

Born: 1908 Vienna, Austria  (1908 – 1994)

Studies: Vienna Academy of Arts, Austria 

Born: 1908 Vienna, Austria  (1908 – 1994)

Studies: Vienna Academy of Arts, Austria 

Profile: A painter of landscapes, portraits, figures, religious themes and still life, particularly of flowers. From 1958 to the mid 1960’s painted a number of abstract works. Exhibited in Vienna, Munich and Berlin before coming to South Africa in 1939. Settled in Pretoria, painted and taught art. Interested in local landscape and Bantu figure-subjects. 1958 – experimented with non-figurative composition, but returned to representational painting in mid-Sixties. Honorary Professorship conferred on him by President Of Austria in 1962 on the recommendation of the Vienna Academy of Art.Reproduced by E Schweikerdt.

Exhibitions: Participated in numerous group exhibitions held throughout Europe and in South Africa; held several solo exhibitions in SA: In 1952 Van Riebeeck Tercentenary Exhibition; 1959 Sao Paulo Biannual; 1960 Quadrennial Exhibition; 1964 Milan,Italy, solo exhibition; 1966 Republic Festival Exhibition, Pretoria.

Represented: Durban Art Gallery; Pretoria Art Museum; Ann Bryant Gallery, East London; University of the Witwatersrant.

Otto Klar is a painter of confirmed ability, but one who has vacillated in his commitment to aesthetic principles. Soon after his arrival in South Africa he established a reputation by demonstrating command of the oil techniques and skill in descriptive landscape painting, which were well-received. As the years went by, Klar began to move away from the style which had made him popular and by the beginning of the Sixties the works which he exhibited, while still quite characteristic in colour and technique, were predominantly non-figurative in style. Despite their abstract nature there were, however, subtle suggestions of reservation, a resistance to committing himself entirely to the new direction, which prompted the following observations from the author, reviewing his 1964 Johannesburg exhibition in “Dagbreek” , 30 Aug 1964: “ …A painter of energy and strength, he could hurl thunderbolts across his canvases. His palette – black ( the colour of structural steel), white, golds, oranges and reds ( the colours of fire and lightning) – suggests furnaces and molten metal. His knowledgeable brush holds promise of powerful constructions, meteoric movement and dynamic clash of forces. Yet… repeatedly a powerful initial composition is reduced to banality by the imposition of forced literary images…”

Klar did not sustain the swing toward abstraction; the images continued to insinuate themselves between the formal shapes. By the late Sixties, he had retreated unrepentingly into descriptive figuration and was engrossed in the production of popular paintings – landscapes and native studies – for sale by platteland purveyors.