Marthe Wéry


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S. W. Hayter (1901—1988) painter and printmaker

Minimal art

lyrical abstraction


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Belgian painter, born in Brussels. Her studies in Paris included time at S.W. Hayter's Atelier 17. After passing through phases of Lyrical and geometric abstraction, she came under the influence of Minimal art and was especially impressed by the ‘Unism’ of Wladislaw Strzemiński. She subsequently devoted herself to monochrome work and exhibited at the important ‘Fundamental Painting’ exhibition, which consisted entirely of monochromes, at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, in 1975. For her, abstract painting was something which referred only to itself: flatness and colour were the essential elements. To this end she tended to treat paintings as objects. They could be propped against the wall, sometimes in close stacked groups, or even supported on low trestle tables at angles to the ground, as in her exhibition at the abbey of Tournus in Burgundy (1991). The undifferentiated surfaces for which she was best known were modified in some late paintings by the exploration of the scraped surface (2000, Musée d'Ixelles, Brussels). Wéry stated that the elements of painting included ‘the environment in which it is set’: the ways in which the works respond to changes in light and angle of viewing are crucial to their effect. Her last exhibition during her lifetime was held in the Musée des Beaux‐Arts, Tournai. The building is an architectural masterpiece by Victor Horta which uses balconies to allow the spectator to view works of art from unexpected directions, and Wéry took special pleasure in the consequences. The art historian Thierry de Duve expressed the hope that ‘Marthe Wéry's painting will be included among the work of painters who have managed to get painting through one of the most dangerous crises it has ever known.’

Further reading

T. de Duve et al., Marthe Wéry: A Debate in Painting (1999)

Subjects: Art.

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