–  Clemens Sels Museum Neuss

Walter Ophey

Calligraphic landscapes

The Rhenish artist Walter Ophey (1882 -1930) began his studies at the Düsseldorf Art Academy at the age of 18. Together with the painters Julius Bretz, Max Clarenbach, Wilhelm Schmurr and others, he founded the Sonderbund group in 1909. The fourth International Art Exhibition of the Sonderbund, which opened in Cologne in May 1912, is considered the most important presentation of works of European modernism before the First World War. It showed - together with works by its own group of artists - works by van Gogh, Cézanne, Gauguin, Picasso, Bonnard and Paul Signac.

An important event for understanding the special expressive quality of the landscape drawings presented in our cabinet exhibition is Ophey's stay in Paris in the fall of 1911. Here, in addition to the Louvre, he visited the Paris Autumn Salon, where paintings by Heinrich Nauen were also on display. Ophey now increasingly shared the general enthusiasm for Japan (Japonism) that had gripped European artists since the end of the 19th century.

In Paris, for example, he acquired several Japanese woodblock prints, whose "decorative" and simplistic conception of the image excited him. The colored moving line on a bright picture surface now appeared to him as the most radical form of an exciting relationship between figure and ground. Thus, his examination of the stylistic peculiarities of Japanese woodblock prints also led him to an individual and expressive style of drawing.

Starting in 1912, he created landscapes and vedute from colored, often washed chalk lines, whose moving lightness fascinates. These colorful scores, whose formal simplification the artist continued to intensify in the following years, appear to the viewer as successful designs of timeless and almost visionary quality.


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