bolto referenced in current art exhibitions

Marvick's "The Dancing Men 2" seems to be a response to the art of Bolto

The American notebooks of the late Franco-Russian modernist painter Bolto were cited in a recent exhibition of art in the southern Utah area of the United States. Painter Andrew Marvick, a professor of art history at Southern Utah University, has apparently been reading Bolto's diaries from the early part of the master's career, and referenced some of Bolto's comments in the titles of an oil painting (Nor Black Motive Drawn, 2009) which appeared in last year's faculty art exhibition at the Braithwaite Fine Art Gallery in Cedar City. When asked for an update, Dr. Marvick filled us in that his next major exhibit, scheduled for the 2010 faculty show scheduled to open in January of next year, will also refer to Bolto's American period: "The theme of this year's exhibition is a continuation of last year's which began a series of shows investigating the natural landmarks of Southern Utah with a group of works on the subject of Zion National Park. This new collection is a response to the Parowan Gap. My contribution is entitled "The Dancing Men 2: 'Neither Was the Good Nor Even . . . '" Professor Marvick emailed the explanatory label that will accompany his painting -- a large-scale non-objective oil on canvas:

> Andrew Bolton Marvick
> The Dancing Men 2
> ("Neither was the good nor even . . .")
> oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches, 2009
> Bolto, the Franco-Russian modernist painter and
> collage artist (1904-2008) wrote tellingly of
> Parowan's famous landmark in his
> American notebooks of 1932-34:
> "I beheld the Great Gap yawning mysteriously before
> me, and knew all at once that neither was the good
> nor even the malevolence of the Nature I was wont
> to imagine present here, only Her overpowering
> indifference . . ."

Marvick's 2009 painting was a response to Bolto's visit to Zion National Park in the early 1930s

Professor Marvick suggested that there may be more to the painting's title than at first meets the eye. He would not elaborate; instead he offered the equally curious text that accompanied his Zion painting in January of 2009 as explanation:

> Andrew B. Marvick

> Nor Black Motive Drawn

> 2009
> oil on canvas
> 48 x 48 inches

> This painting seeks to reflect my memories of a
> childhood visit to Zion National Park. Its
> predominant earth tones are derived from a
> range of pigments ground from actual Zion earth.
> I should mention also that I was inspired by the
> following passage in the American notebooks
> (The Mourning Echo, 1932) of the Russian-born
> French modernist painter Bolto: "Scanning the
> canyon [of Zion], I saw laid out before my plane
> of vision a vast and warm array of earthen
> shadow from which I felt no foul purpose
> could be engendered, nor black motive drawn."


En souvenir

A retrospective online exhibition of Bolto's work is now available at
The Saatchi Gallery


Bolto, Summer 2008

This summer Bolto took up residence, for the last time, in a little studio in the Rue du Dragon, not twenty paces from the Eglise de Saint-Germain. Throughout May and June one found him as usual in the late evenings sharing a plat de poireaux and nursing a marc with his longtime companion Jane at Balzar. These pleasant times have at last come to an end. Messages of condolence to Jane and Bolto's other friends may be left at the website of his longtime student at www.andrewmarvick.com.


The Valmier Rift

Bolto's unpleasant experience with Georges Valmier (1885 - 1937), cubism's tragic figure, is already well known. Recently the artist was induced to explain the reason for the rift, which many historians cite as the reason for Valmier's unfortunate early death. He pointed to a reproduction of Valmier's "Cubist Still Life" of 1919 -- then extracted a dusty painting from the back of a storage room. The date of the latter, unquestionably the work of Bolto, was still clearly legible at bottom left: 1918. Bolto gave a meaningful shrug, then returned to his work.

Bolto's 'Composition 0301' (apparently signed and dated 1918)

Georges Valmier: 'Cubist Still Life' (signed and dated 1919)


Bolto and Klee

These two closely related works, one by Bolto, one by Paul Klee, date from 1914, during the two men's chance meeting and subsequent work session in Tunisia. Klee's famous remark in reference to the Tunisia trip ("Color and I are one; I am a painter") is said to have angered the young Bolto (he will not confirm this now). August Macke, who was travelling with Klee in Tunisia at the time, called the collaboration one-sided, but refused to explain. In conversation with Metzinger in 1948 Bolto commented that it hadn't so much been color in general with which Klee had become one, but Bolto's color in particular.

Bolto: Composition With Red X, January 1914 (2007)

Paul Klee: With the Red X (1914)

Accounts of Klee's desperate appeal to Bolto for a collaborative studio session in 1927 seem scarcely credible, considering their sources. Nevertheless, the grid composition of Klee's watercolor 'Sand auf Flora' of that year is unquestionably presaged in Bolto's much busier (and, of course, darker) 'Composition 2' of the previous autumn.

Bolto's 'Composition 2,' probably from November 1926

Klee's 'Sand auf Flora' of 1927

Much has been written elsewhere of Bolto's brief and unfortunate final encounter with Paul Klee, which occurred at some point during the early months of 1940; but there is no question that the meeting was fruitful for both artists, at least with respect to their exploration of meaningful form. Both Bolto and Klee were then independently revisiting Kandinsky's earlier ambitions (ca. 1911 - 1913) to express in visual terms Schoenberg's 12-note method of composition. Working together one afternoon that fateful spring, they approached their shared task earnestly, although Bolto's alternately ironic and nostalgic perspective predominates in the resulting productions. It is instructive to compare Bolto's early composition (No. 1 of 1938) with Klee's own take on the theme (which he called 'Music Unter Tag'), and with Bolto's integration of the two men's ideas in the 'No. 2' of 1940.

Bolto's 'No. 1' 1938 - 1940 (? -- thought to have been referred to by Klee as 'Musik Unter Tag No. 1')

Paul Klee's 'Musik Unter Tag' of 1940

Bolto's 'No. 2' of 1940 (this is the painting about which Grohmann alleged that Klee, on the point of death in June of that year, angrily remarked, 'Musik, vieleicht -- aber unter Nacht!')


three compositions, ca. 1922

two still life studies from the period 1922 - 25


a portrait photograph of Bolto taken in 1968


from the Significant Form series, 210.35 (1946-1948)


two oil compositions from the 1930s

A large part of Bolto's output of the 1930s was lost at sea during the artist's emigration to the United States in 1938. These two small oil paintings, both in very poor condition, were to prove pivotal in the stylistic development of two younger artists. The first (1936?) was much admired by Ellsworth Kelly when, in 1942, Bolto projected a slide of the work during one of his now legendary Pratt Institute lectures. A fellow Pratt alumnus recalled Kelly exclaiming: "Sharp edges! I'll make sharper ones still . . . . "

Sales records indicate that the second painting (1937), seen below, is known to have been briefly in the possession of the family of Keith Haring during the spring of 1968. Bolto's stay in Kutztown, Pennsylvania during the mid-1960s has been documented, but remains unexplained.


Composition (1990s)


two compositions from the mid-1950s


Declaration Square (photogram, 1955 - 1956)

In 1956 Bolto took up residence in a small brownstone in Greenwich Village, where he made the acquaintance of many figures of the art world, including Robert Indiana and Agnes Martin, the latter of whom, it has been reported, was struck by a series of prints involving quiet, gridlike compositional elements, on which Bolto had been working. A day later Bolto's entire New York production was lost in a mysterious fire. This print, part of a private collection, is the only known extant work from Bolto's Village period.

Soothing Cholesterol (digital collage, 2004)




three compositions from 2002




Bolto (second from right) with the Surrealists, Paris 1924


Nature morte 1919


a photograph of the artist Bolto (1950)

Le Boucher (revision, 2006)

Following the editors' decision to post two versions of an early work, "Le Boucher," Bolto was prompted to revisit the composition, using his newly developed skills with digital media. The result is a representative example of recent experiments in what the editors would categorize as post-post-Maximalism.


Bolto and Soulages: tangencies

Bolto first encountered Pierre Soulages in 1943 following the latter's first solo Paris show. The two men found much in common, but aside from a few casual encounters at cafés in the Montparnasse district, their contact was slight untli at least 1957. During the late 1950s Bolto's experiments in what would later become known as Minimalism (another major innovation for which he has received insufficient credit), he entered into a prolonged series of discussions with Soulages on the subject of the color black. The specific content and outcome of these meetings have not been documented. During the past 10 years Bolto is known to have worked on a group of prints with Soulages at the latter's Denfert-Rochereau studio, but for reasons unknown to the public Soulages has refused to exhibit any of their collaborations, nor will he even acknowledge their work; nor indeed have recent promptings elicited comment from the elder artist (Bolto was born ca. 1902 - 1905, Soulages not until 1918).

Caricature of Bolto by Soulages (?), ca. 1950

Portrait of Soulages by Bolto (digital media collage), 1998

Among Bolto's many hobbies is the writing of sonnets. He kindly consented to share one with us for the blogsite. He has asked us to remind the readers that English is not his native language. Bolto worked directly from John Donne's model (Holy Sonnet XIV), as the scansion is very nearly identical.

Sonnet on seeing a new painting by Soulages

Pierre Soulages, Painting, 1957

Finer the core without than that within.
From there the deep, black, broad-inflected stroke
Extends its weight beyond the wash of oak,
Then homes to day's slack, darkling end, its twin.
Walnut, a noisome stream, will infect the pool,
Staining, now embalm'd in a raw vein of life,
Weakening toxins expos'd by painter's knife,
Parching, breathless, like gills straining at wool.
Yet wriggling again, it collides with death's train,
Too like itself to see or sense its wake,
And bleeding, it bleats with neither breath nor brain.
Spitting exhaust, it sputters up again,
Excretes yeasty curds of murk-amber moss,
A drunken, whorling gout of blackened dross.

Bolto, 1959 (with thanks to Louis)


Le Boucher (final state, after 1918)

Le Boucher (first state: photograph made in 1917)


Composition Kubizmos 2a, 1909 (the artist was aged seven)


Composition Kubizmos 3004.3b, 1926

Composition (for Alfred Manessier) 1961

Composition (for Jean Bazaine) 1961


49 pages in a sketchbook of 16 June 1962: extensions of a single idea

Portrait sketch of Bolto by Metzinger on La Coupole napkin, ca. 1951


"Le Jazz Hot" 1935-1936 (destroyed)

Bolto (far right, partly obscured by woman) at La Coupole, Paris 1936 (note 'Le Jazz Hot' installed on rear wall)


L'Envolee 3

L'Envolee 2

L'Envolee 1