Subscribe to our newsletter


Futurist Schmalzigaug

Futurist Schmalzigaug - Lyklema Fine Art

Jules Schmalzigaug (Antwerp 1882 -1917 The Hague) was a Belgian painter and draftsman of Jewish German descent. Schmalzigaug was one of the first Belgian avant-garde artists to emerge within Italian futurism. He sought to depict light, color, vibrations, and movement in all their variations. Through futurism, he evolved towards abstract art.

At a young age, scoliosis was diagnosed in him. He was sent abroad for treatment. At a boarding school in Dessau, his talent for drawing was discovered by landscape painter Paul Riess. He then enrolled at the Brussels Academy of Fine Arts and took lessons from Isidore Verheyden, among others.

In 1905, he embarked on a nine-month journey through Italy. The atmosphere and light of Venice had a profound influence on his sketches and, for the first time, etchings. In Rome, he became the correspondent for the art magazine "L'Art Contemporain." In 1907, he toured France, where he became captivated by French art.

Back in Antwerp in 1908, he became the assistant secretary of Kunst van Heden, actively involved in organizing international exhibitions. During this period, Antwerp had a Jewish elite that played a significant role in cultural life: besides Schmalzigaug, there were also Marten Rudelsheim, Maurits Nykerk, Jozef Posenaer, Leo J. Kryn, and Victor Hageman. He found the Belgian art scene to be conservative and narrow-minded. Only James Ensor impressed him, and in 1908, he agreed to contribute work to the "Ausstellung Belgischer Kunst" in Berlin at Ensor's urging.

After visiting the 1910 World's Fair in Brussels, he decided to continue his art education in Paris. There, he admired the works of Cubist artists like Georges Braque and Fernand Léger, but his preference was for the French Fauvists such as Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard. Schmalzigaug exhibited for the first time at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris in 1911. In 1912, he visited the exhibition of Italian futurists at the Berneim-Jeune Gallery, particularly admiring the paintings of Gino Severini. He attended a lecture by Filippo Marinetti, the leader of Italian futurism, and decided to move to Venice. His stay in Italy from 1912 to 1914 was the happiest and most productive period of his life.

Back in Antwerp, he visited the painter Jakob Smits, who taught him how to control light in his studio from direct light to indirect light, which he referred to as light colors and felt colors. Returning to Venice, Schmalzigaug set up his studio according to these principles. He became interested in a scientific approach to light and color and applied this approach in his works. Inspired by the works of Umberto Boccioni, he sought to depict movement, mixed with abstract forms and rhythms, inspired by the works of Giacomo Balla. His peak came in 1914 at the international group exhibition of futurism "Esposizione Libera Futurista Internazionale" in Rome with six of his works.

When World War I broke out in 1914, he returned to Antwerp but was deemed unfit for military service and moved with his family to The Hague. There, he met Dutch and (exiled) Belgian artists, such as Georges Vantongerloo and Rik Wouters. He was very productive during this period, producing both abstract and figurative works.

Based on the color theory of American physicist Ogden Rood, Jules published a treatise "La Panchromie" on the use of light in artwork. He missed the atmosphere of Venice and the contact with major art movements. The death of his friend and painter Umberto Boccioni deeply affected him. His works no longer reached the level of his Italian period and became (partly) figurative. He became depressed and took his own life on May 13, 1917. He could not see the light anymore.

Only after his death in 1917 did some Belgian artists briefly show an interest in futurism, such as Paul Joostens, Pierre-Louis Flouquet, Prosper De Troyer, and Edmond van Dooren. A tribute in Antwerp in 1923 by Kunst van Heden to their former secretary made little impression on art critics and the general public. British art critic Michael Palmer writes in his book From Ensor to Magritte, Belgian Art 1880 - 1940 on page 182: "Schmalzigaug did not receive much recognition in Belgium or elsewhere. Nevertheless, he was one of the most skilled and original modern Belgian artists." His works are held in institutions such as the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (seven paintings donated in 1928 by his brother Walter 'Schmalzigaug' Malgaud), the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels, and Mu.ZEE in Ostend.

The work of Jules Schmalzigaug was rediscovered in 1980 and several of his works were included in the major Futurismo & Futurismi retrospective held at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 1986. Through exhibitions in Brussels, Ghent and Ostend, he was belatedly recognized in his native country too as one of the key Belgian precursors of the modernist avant-garde.
1913 Dynamic Dance
1916 Baron Francis van Delbeke
San Marco square

Last two works are in the 825 page book by Van de Velde a.o. about this Artist with a capital A as he did something remarkable and noticable. 

Previous Article Next Article