Georges Papazoff (1894 -1972)
Light Bearers – Lucifers, 1929
oil on canvas, 162.2x129.8cm
At the time of his creative peak (from the mid 1920s to the late 1930s) Georges Papazoff was known as one of the most important modernists on a European scale. He has lived and worked in several European centres; in Prague, Munich, Vienna, Berlin and Paris. He studied painting in Hans Hoffmann’s studio in Munich, where he was introduced to the painting of Hans Reichel. After a short stay in Vienna he went to Berlin, where in 1923 he participated at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition in the section of expressionist painters Novembergruppe. In 1924 he moved to Paris where he met Jules Pascin and André Derain. He also participated in group exhibitions with Juan Miró, Max Ernst, Jean Arp, and then in 1926 he exhibited with Derain, Braque, Picasso and other artists in the Vavin-Raspail Gallery. Papazoff’s break with traditional Bulgarian painting was abrupt and dramatic, with no transitional phases. Surrealism was closest to his pictorial concept, as a movement that rose up against one-sided positivism and rationalism. Although he never formally belonged to the Surrealist movement, his contemporaries recognized him as a Surrealist before Surrealism (Jean-Paul Crespelle). Between 1925 and 1929, he worked on a series of paintings titled Light Bearers – Lucifers (original title Les Eclaireurs). These are images of identical beings who march relentlessly with cold metallic footsteps and send subconscious messages of discomfort, menace, insecurity and fear. The deep perspective and large dimensions of the beings in the foreground emphasise the drama of the scene of isolation, solitude – frequent themes of Parisian Surrealists. The three beings-machines march through an empty monochrome landscape with a low horizon. Apart from them, there are no other beings or objects in the painting. Who knows what to expect from these ominous robots, with their small horizontal eye slits! It is the same fear we encounter in the dehumanised, eerie world of Fritz Lang in the film Metropolis (1927).
Text: Dajana Vlaisavljević, Museum Advisor of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb