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Pyke Koch

(1901—1991)


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Dutch painter, born in Beek. He was self-taught as an artist and throughout his life remained committed to sharp-focus Magic Realism, which he defined in the following terms in order to demonstrate his distance from Surrealism: ‘Magic Realism confronts us with situations that are possible, even commonplace but which contain an element of improbability…Magic Realism exists by the grace of ambiguity, which is the source of fascination on an entirely different level to that of beauty (or morality)’. He took some of his subject-matter from fair grounds: The Shooting Gallery (1931, Boymans–van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam) is probably his best-known painting and is characteristic of his perverse eroticism. The contrast between beauty of execution and lowly subject is most apparent in Nocturne (1930, Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Arnhem): an illuminated pissoir, a thinly veiled reference to prostitution, is treated like a lantern in a 17th-century religious painting. Koch was working in Utrecht, which had been a major centre for the Dutch followers of Caravaggio (1571–1610), so he could have been directly influenced by the dramatic interplay of light and shadow in painters such as Gerrit van Honthorst (1592–1656). Koch's work could be frankly autobiographical. Rhapsody of the Suburbs (1929, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam) has in the foreground discarded doll parts in a cart, still smiling and waving invitingly. The numbers 28 and 48 on the picture refer to the difference in age between the young painter and his lover. Although not a great traveller, he spent time in Italy during the 1930s, an admirer not just of its art, but of Mussolini's Fascist regime. Claims that his Self-Portrait with a Black Headband (1937, Centraal Museum, Utrecht) is without any political connotation seem disingenuous. He was a slow and meticulous worker. By 1982, after 55 years of painting, he had completed only about 80 pictures.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.


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