Dec. 13, 2021

Mela muter. Passions, desires, ardencies

Paintings and biography of Mela Muter invariably fascinate all enthusiasts of beauty and intriguing stories. The painter's colorful life and her art saturated with emotions strongly affect the recipients and contribute to the gradual increase in their number. Over the decades, the artist developed her individual, unique style, which assimilated the tendencies in European art into her own, artistic vision of reality. In her rich oeuvre, Muter took up various topics, ranging from portraits, through landscapes, to still life. The offer of the second auction "Old Masters, 19th Century & Modern Art" includes as many as three unique works by the painter. They undoubtedly constitute an interesting element in the extensive legacy of Mela Muter - an outstanding artist, seasoned traveler, and representative of the international circle of École de Paris.


"It was Paris that gave me all the elements that make up for my art. Here I found my Slavic character, which I would probably not even notice in Poland, and which everyone here gladly recognizes in my canvases. And this, I believe, is the great strength of Paris. All the raw materials that we bring with us here are strengthened and melted into a uniform alloy, a kind of solid and homogeneous metal".

Mela Muter, "Bravo", October 1932


On December 16, a unique, two-sided work by Muter will appear at our auction. Although the auction offer does not include any of the artist's typical portraits, this canvas in a certain way compensates for this lack. In the structure of her landscapes, Muter embedded figures who, although deprived of individual features, may constitute an explicit reference to this genre. Both parts were created at different moments in the painter's life. The composition that today constitutes the recto side comes from the 1940s. The other side is more interesting from today's perspective. The verso depicts an intimate interior of a Basque house. So far, we do not know many compositions of such kind by the artist. One of the few analogical paintings may be found in the collection of the University Museum in Toruń, which is in the possession of a similar canvas. The paintings are the aftermath of the holidays spent in the small Basque town of Ondarroa in the years 1913-14. Additionally, the theme of motherhood, extremely important to the painter, is noticeable here. The woman standing in the doorway is holding a baby in her arms. Of course, this kind of depiction is not rare in Muter's oeuvre and seems almost natural when we take into consideration this particular period. Mela spent the hot summer in the Spanish province with her beloved son. The value of work is additionally influenced by its provenance. The painting was for many years in the collection of Lina and Bolesław Nawrocki. Later, it found its way to the collection of Wojciech Fibak and was displayed at one of the exhibitions in Krakow, at the Palace of Arts, in 1998.

Another work by the artist presented at the auction is one of Avignon's landscapes. The composition presents one of the city's iconic buildings, namely several of the preserved spans of the Saint-Bénézet Bridge. This place was very special for Muter, as her studio was located nearby. Avignon itself and its immediate vicinity became the painter's picturesque site for outdoor painting as early as the 1930s. After the evacuation of Paris in 1940, her bond with this place deepened even more. Muter enthusiastically "portrayed" the landscapes surrounding the city. She also created intimate vedutas saturated with light. The river landscape that is available at our auction is perfectly described by the following quote: "(...) the views from the vicinity of Avignon painted during the war and the post-war period employ a complementary juxtaposition of blue and yellow and seem to give to the viewer the feeling of a cold winter mistral rather than hot summer day" (Mela Muter, Malarstwo / Peinture. Katalog zbiorów Muzeum Uniwersyteckiego w Toruniu, edited by Mirosław Adam Supruniuk, Sławomir Majoch, Toruń 2010, p. 31). Indeed, the view radiates a kind of coolness. This is due to the saturated blues and greens that stand in opposition to the luminous yellows and reds known from other Muter works of the time.

A completely separate chapter in the painter's artistic oeuvre are her still life paintings. In these intimate depictions, imbued with a unique atmosphere, Muter brilliantly reflected the matter of objects that came to life under the touch of her brush. Her particular interest in this genre took place during the First World War. At that time, during her stay in Brittany, the artist enthusiastically recreated the silent world of her "models". As she herself said, "In those days, nobody had the time or patience to pose for me. Still life - seafood, shellfish, and fish, immune to human tragedies, to human madness, replaced the models." The painter explored this subject also in the later period. For her, still life was a field for extensive interpretations of reality. This aspect is probably best reflected in her own words when Mela spoke about the painting genre in the following way, "Beautiful landscapes are so captivating that you want to recreate them accurately, without your personal influence. In the case of "ungrateful nature", one tries to interpret it and shape it according to his or her will. In this instance, there is no dizziness and you keep your cool blood to put lumps, appropriate qualities, and colors in the right places, designated by art "(M. Muter, Memories, in: J. Malinowski, B. Brus-Malinowska, W kręgu École de Paris: malarze żydowscy z Polski, Warsaw 2007, p. 40). "Still Life with a Bottle", included in the auction catalog, belongs to the type of paintings in which Muter, next to dishes, vegetables, and fruit scattered on the table in disorder, also placed crumpled issues of daily newspapers. The peculiar way in which the painter looked at the objects surrounding her brings to mind the works of two outstanding masters who exerted a strong influence on the artistic activity of Mela Muter. We may find here a few inspirations taken from Vincent van Gogh's paintings, and also easily notice certain elements drawn from Paul Cézanne's compositions, whom Muter considered her master,

"When I was walking down the street, I saw a painting in the shop window that made a huge impression on me. When I entered the store after a long look, a stout gentleman welcomed me. It was Vollard himself, the patron of Impressionist art. The painting that touched me so much was the work of Gauguin. Next to it I saw works by Cézanne, Van Gogh, and other Gauguin's paintings. The paintings of Gauguin and the above-mentioned Impressionists made a breakthrough in me. Cézanne taught me to think visually".



Old Masters. 19th Century and Modern Art • 2nd Session
Auction Catalogue