Josef Ongenae Belgian, 1921-1993

Overview

Josef Ongenae was one of the first abstract artists to emerge in post-war Holland and Belgian. Along with other painters such as André van der Vossen (1893-1963), Ongenae worked in the impersonal, geometric, and objective style reminiscent of the non-representational painting of such Dutch artists as Piet Mondrian and the De Stijl (The Style) or Neoplasticism Movements. Such experimentations with color theories and geometric designs as in our example were the direct result of the atrocities of the war and its aftermath which did not allow for Realism that had been very popular in the 1930's. An alternative was sought and Abstraction, which had been condemned by the Nazis as "degenerative art" appeared as a suitable alternative as well as a means to re-establish the foundation for a more hopeful society. William Sandberg, the Director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam at the time, staged a series of exhibitions featuring the works of these abstract artists like Ongenae, van der Vossen, Hans Ittman (1914-1972) and Willy Boers (1905-1978) which led to the maturation of this new style of artistic expression. These works initially scandalized both the public and the press, although these reactions would soon be tempered into acceptance.

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