I have to confess I was not familiar with Bram Bogart until I saw this exhibition. That is perhaps surprising because he was born and brought up in Delft which is where I live. However, he left his home city soon after becoming a professional artist and, after the war, trod the well-worn paths to Paris and the South of France where he was among the founders of Art Informel.
He spent most of his later life in Belgium, becoming a Belgian citizen and dying there at Sint-Truiden in 2012 aged ninety. He found and rented incredible locations in and around Brussels in which to set up his studio including the beautiful c.14th Manoir de Ohain where he lived and worked for 24 years from 1963. He spent the remainder of his life, from 1988, at Chateau Kortenbos. He needed a lot of space because of the way he produced his often large and bulky paintings.
The first room in this exhibition is, in fact, dedicated to that aspect of his work with photos of him at work and little tableaux recreating small areas of his studio(s) containing tins of colours and paint-splattered objects that were in the line of fire from his restless brushes, palette knives and the many other implements he used to get paint onto canvas.
The main room shows his work more or less chronologically, starting with fairly predictable still-lifes and landscapes, including one with an obligatory windmill, albeit a very dark and sombre one, that was painted at the beginning of the German occupation of Holland in 1940 when Bogart was just nineteen.
But it was not paint per se that interested Bogart, it was texture. The main body of work from the eighties consisted of large, textured abstract compositions utilizing sand and, one imagines, anything else that came to hand. The colours are predominantly earthy, contrasting with the brighter, more colourful works, before and after and they put me in mind of the great Spanish artist Antoni Tàpies. These textured works, mainly from the 1980s, were my preferred paintings, landscapes in their own right. One could imagine them lying on a table and used for war games or as the basis for a wonderful model train layout.
As the paintings developed and became more mature they, like many of us when we get older, put on weight. The paintings became thick and three dimensional, sculptural even, employing bold swirls, dawbs and bright, gaudy colours. The more colourful ones are almost like giant pieces of confectionery or psychedelic duvets.
Bram Bogart was an important and influential Dutch/Belgian artist and if, like me, you did not know him, this exhibition at the Prinsenhof Museum in Delft is your chance to get acquainted. I am glad I did. Michael Hasted 18th February 2022
Bram Bogart, Painter of Measure continues at the Museum Prinsenhof in Delft until 7th August.