The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
'Giant' by the Dutch artist Lucebert is a dark painting. A head consisting of thin white lines can be discerned against a background of mainly brown and black paint. The eyes are right at the top; the mouth is above the centre of the head, which fills the painting. It is difficult to determine exactly what forms the mouth – the black outline with vertical lines or the thin white lines and colours between them, or everything together. At any rate, an image of a large mouth with teeth is evoked.
In 1949 Lucebert’s work was part of an exhibition of the Cobra movement. In fact, that movement, which was established in 1948, existed for only three years. Afterwards the artists each went their own way, though they continued to carry their traces of Cobra with them. The Cobra painters often used mythological creatures, fabulous animals or tortured characters as a starting point for a painting and these creatures were represented in a childlike or naïve way. The Cobra painters were very interested in the visual expressions of people who directly expressed their feelings, unhindered by artistic rules and conventions. They related this to children, the mentally ill, and “primitive” people. They aimed for the same direct approach in their own work, also devoting attention to the materials with which they worked: how paint drips or splashes, how stains merge together, how colours and forms behave as independent elements.
The Cobra influence is clearly present in 'Giant'. The work is very much part of the movement in terms of the subject and method of painting. Lucebert used the possibilities of his materials. In one place he allowed the paint to drip freely, in other places he deliberately painted a firm line. Some of the lines result from pouring the paint over the canvas and letting it run, while others are scratched into the paint. The way the materials are used contributes to the expressive force of the painting: the dark colours, the spots and scratches emphasize the threatening and “ugly” aspects evoked by the subject of a giant. The eyes placed high up in the face are typical of a child’s drawing.
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