Vilmos Aba-Novák was a Hungarian expressionist with a very particular feeling for human form, color and shape. He was alive at the worst times for a European in the 20th century: during the two world wars. He survived the first one as a soldier, and died early into the second one from causes that I can’t quite figure out. But a 47 year old dying in 1941 in Austro-Hungarian Empire might be related to the politics of the time, don’t you think? Artists are sensitive to injustice, besides, expressionism was considered by the Nazis to be the degenerate art movement.
While I’m not able to establish whether Aba-Novák suffered from the Nazi regime, the communist regime that came to power in Hungary after WWII destroyed a lot of his beautiful works in churches. Some still remain, though, but Aba-Novák remains to be best known for his expressionist paintings that often depicted comedians and street artists, an unending source of fascination to him.
I love the sleeping women in this painting so much. And the monkeys! Note the red cap on the right monkey’s head and the red light reflecting off the top mask. Those particular splotches of color are the artist’s signature touch, not necessarily but often in red. A stark juxtaposition to the otherwise muted tonality off the painting, a hysterical sight for the hysterical times.