Jozef Peeters
Collection House of Literature, Antwerp (Archive of Jozef Peeters)
© photographer unknown

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Jozef Peeters is one of the pioneers of Abstract Art in Belgium. Just as with Piet Mondriaan (1872 - 1944), Peeters evolves from Post-Impressionism to a symbolism that is heavily influenced by Theosophy. Gradually, his city images take on a strong, abstract character. The ‘animation of the surface’ was then the illustrative principle of Jozef Peeters’ Pure Plasticism, the Belgian variant of the Netherlandish Neo Plasticism. In his paintings, Peeters allows for a dynamic experiment of form along with an extensive colour palette. He distinguishes himself here from the strict horizontal-vertical compositions of the artists of De Stijl such as Mondriaan. In addition to being an artist, Peeters was also active as a promoter and organiser. Primarily his ideas and theories on Community art were influential. Abstraction was for Peeters not only a new language of images, but also a new ethical stance that must serve the community.

In September of 1918, Peeters, along with Academy fellows Edmond Van Dooren (1896 - 1965) and Jan Cockx (1891 - 1976), establishes the Kring Moderne Kunst. During this period, he emerges as the frontman of the avant-garde in Belgium. Under his impetus three congresses are organised between 1920 and 1922. The most important, the ‘2nd Congress for Modern Art’ (1922) is accompanied by an exhibition with an impressive international delegation with exciting names such as Alexander Archipenko (1887 – 1964), Paul Klee (1879 – 1940) en Kurt Schwitters (1887 – 1948).

By invitation from Michel Seuphor, as co-Director Peeters shall reform the Flemish-originated polemical paper Het Overzicht into an international avant-garde publication. Thus contact was maintained with the French Manomètre and the Austrian MA. The highpoint of this period forms the Flemish-themed edition (March 1924) that Peeters and Seuphor assemble for Der Sturm. In 1925, Het Overzicht dissolves to be immediately replaced by De Driehoek, of which Jozef Peeters and Edgard du Perron (1899 - 1940) are the founders.

In addition to being a painter, Peeters is also active as a linotype cutter and poster and textile designer. He paints practical and decorative objects and furniture. In 1926, he quits due to familial reasons. The fallout of this mouthpiece for Constructivism in Belgium falls in line with the implosion of the first wave of Abstract Art in Belgium.

Between 1957 and his death in 1960, he briefly takes up the thread again when he is rediscovered by Jo Delahaut and the group G58. Along with René Guiette (1893 - 1976), Peeters is an honorary member of the young Neo-avant-garde group. The preserved studio flat of Peeters at the Antwerp Gerlachkaai can, along with his geometrical murals and the self-designed furniture stand as a symbol for the constructivist fusion of art and life.

1895

Birth of Josephus Henricus Peeters on 24 July in Antwerp.

1909

Peeters studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.

1914

After he had a studio at Floris Jespers (1889 – 1965) in Antwerp, he establishes himself along with Edmond Van Dooren in Burcht. He paints Post-Impressionist landscapes and draws political caricatures.

First meeting with Paul Van Ostaijen (1896 – 1928).

1915 - 1917

Under the influence of Theosophy, Jozef Peeters paints stylised portraits with geometrical forms that are used symbolically. Peeters marries Pelagia Pruym.

1918

Jozef Peeters takes part in the summer exhibition of Doe Stil Voort in the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels. Here he meets a portion of the later companions of the historical avant-garde in Belgium, inter alia, Felix De Boeck, Prosper De Troyer, Victor Servranckx and Albert Daenens (1883 – 1952). A large number of them are affiliated with the Kring Moderne Kunst that Peeters founds.

Appearance of the first abstract aquarelles, named Fantaisies.

1919 - 1920

Peeters corresponds with Filippo Marinetti (1876 – 1944) and Theo Van Doesburg (1883 – 1931). Van Doesburg’s presentation, 'Klassiek, barok, modern’ is organised by Peeters in February 1920.

Peeters becomes one of the two vice-chairmen for the establishment of the Syndicate for Artists.

Roger Avermaete (1893 – 1988) dedicates a premier article to Peeters in Lumière.

On 10 and 11 October of 1920, Peeters organises the ‘First Congress for Modern Art’ along with Huib Hoste in the Belpaire Institute in Antwerp.

Designs posters, makes linotypes and paints the first geometric, abstract works.

1921

Inspired by the Arbeitsrat für Kunst, Peeters promotes the idea to establish an Antwerp art council with a strong emphasis on the applied arts. One year later, Peeters publishes the article ‘Over kunstenaarsraden’ in Vlaamsche Arbeid.

Peeters travels with his wife to Paris where is comes in contact with prominent artists such as Piet Mondriaan, Albert Gleizes (1881 – 1953) and Fernand Léger (1881 – 1955). By appointment of the latter, Peeters becomes a member of the Société des Artistes Indépendants in Paris. He corresponds with the editors of Der Sturm, Frantiske Kupka (1871 – 1957) and J.J. Oud (1890 – 1963), among others.

Publication of a folder with 6 linocuts.

On 1 December, Theo Van Doesburg gives his second Antwerp lecture, ‘Tot Stijl’. That evening, Peeters meets Fernand Berckelaers, who is later Michel Seuphor. This same month Peeters publishes his article ‘Community art’ in Het Overzicht.

1922

From 21 to 23 January, Peeters organises the ‘2nd Congress for Modern Art’ in Antwerp. The lectures take place in the Royal Atheneum while the international exhibitions is to be seen in the El Bardo hall above the Vlaams Huis on the Sint-Jacobsmarkt. His ‘Introduction to the Modern Plastic’ is published in September in Het Overzicht.

Peeters takes part in the Eerste Internationale Kunstausstellung in Düsselfdorf.

From 30 July until 15 August, the ‘3rd Congress for Modern Art’ takes place in Bruges in collaboration with the scientific congresses.

Peeters formally takes on the co-directorship of the journal Het Overzicht with dominion over the expressive arts. The first edition under his leadership contains a linotype by him as well as his text ‘Futurism’.

First individual exhibition in the Galleria Bragaglia in Rome.

1923

‘Impressions from Berlin’ appears in the May-June number of Het Overzicht. Herein Peeters tells about the trip that he had taken a year before with Seuphor. During the journey, he met Adolf Behne (1890 – 1963), László Moholy-Nagy (1895 – 1946), El Lissitzky (1890 – 1941) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944).

In March, 7 Arts publishes a long article by Maurice Casteels (1890 – 1962) on Jozef Peeters. In December of that same year he is invited to take part in the 7 Arts booth along with Felix De Boeck, Victor Servranckx, Pierre-Louis Flouquet and Karel Maes. The architect Victor Bourgeois (1897 – 1962) designs the booth.

Designs and realises decorative objects, tapestries, furniture and interiors.

1924

Peeters moves to the Statiekaai 10 (now Gerlachkaai). He remains there until the end of his life. Shortly after this move his two children are born. In the period of 1927-1937 he implements the interior.

1937

As his wife becomes terminally ill, Peeters takes on her care himself. He paints traditional landscapes and still lives to provide a living, sometimes under the pseudonym H. Angtze.

1953 - 1959

Thanks to a new generation of artists and art promoters such as Jo Delahaut and Maurits Bilcke (1913 – 1993), the first abstracts are rediscovered. Peeters becomes an honorary member of the group G58 and takes up again his production of abstract works from the 1920’s.

1960

Jozef Peeters dies on 10 September in the Stuivenberg Hospital in Antwerp.

Text: Sergio Servellón

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RKD https://rkd.nl/explore/artists/62373
Wikidata https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q965075
VIAF https://viaf.org/viaf/33176006

Works by Jozef Peeters

Oil Painting IV
Museum of Fine Arts Ghent
Portfolio with six linocuts
Museum of Fine Arts Ghent
Nationalestraat te Antwerpen
Mu.ZEE, Art Museum by the Sea
Ontwerptekeningen voor meubelen
Mu.ZEE, Art Museum by the Sea
Ontwerptekeningen voor lampenkap
Mu.ZEE, Art Museum by the Sea
Schouwburglijnen
Mu.ZEE, Art Museum by the Sea
Vaas nr. 1
Mu.ZEE, Art Museum by the Sea
Zonder titel (Polders)
Mu.ZEE, Art Museum by the Sea
Composition
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp
Composition
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp
The Painter Edmond Van Dooren
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp
Vlaamse Kunstcollectie - EN

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