Saturday, July 10, 2010

Painting Holes

That the most important things are done through tubes. Evidence: first, the reproductive organs, the pen and our gun (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Sudelbücher, 1770)
 Troops of the Kapp-putschists on Potsdamer Platz, Berlin

During street-fighting in Dresden during the 1920 right-wing Kapp Putsch, a shot fired by defending workers damaged Rubens' painting Bathsheba.  Ignoring the casualties (35 workers were killed and 151 wounded in the fighting) Oscar Kokoschka distributed a leaflet to defend the Rubens, beseeching the workers to fight elsewhere, because "the saving of such elevating works of art was in the end much greater than any political action.

Franz W. Seiwert, Klassenkampf (Class warfare), 1922. Published in the radical newspaper, Die Aktion.

The progressive artist Frans Seiwert responded immediately: "Rubens' art had long been dead. For a few hundred years we have had enormous holes in gigantic frames. Such art paralysed the will of the present generation: it weighs heavily on us and prevents us from acting". 

 Eva Švankmajerová, The making of a hole, 1987 

Eleven years later, in an 1931 article for Die Weltbühne ("The Social Psychology of Holes"), Kurt Tucholsky found a kind of dialectic solution: 

"The hole is a permanent companion of the non-hole; I'm sorry, but there is no such thing as a hole in itself. If there were something everywhere, there would be no holes, but there wouldn't be any philosophy either, not to mention religion, which is holey in origin. A mouse couldn't exist without a hole, nor could man. It is the final salvation for both when they are hard-pressed by matter. A hole is always a Good Thing."

Philippe Rousseau, The Rat Who Withdrew From The World, 1885

 George Grosz, The Painter of the Hole I, 1948

Mark Tansey, Discarding The Frame, 1980s


  1. Very interesting post! Thanks! Do you know where one could find the Tucholsky quote in German? I assume he uses the German word "Loch" for hole, which means the holey/holy pun won't work.

  2. Dear Cathie,
    thanks for your interest. Yes, in German it would be Loch. The text in German (and many others of T.) is here: