The Marchutz Tapes — Reflections on Art

The Light That Penetrates from Within

-- Rembrandt van Rijn, Two Women Teaching a Child to Walk (c. 1635-37)

Discussions with Leo Marchutz about art usually covered a wide range of topics such as light, mass (gravity), volume, and most importantly unity. Essentially, unity is the vision an artist achieves when the artwork has realization of form. As Marchutz put it, “the maximum of relationships”.

Solid objects in a painting, one can say, are not necessary. If an attempted unity is considered art, I think one could say yes. Only, the thing is that the attempt at unity cannot come afterwards, you know. The unity, well is with the artist and one should rather say he can attempt unity.

What is form? I would say relationships is the word, the maximum of relationships.

Leo Marchutz,
Excerpt from The Marchutz Tapes, 1974-1976

In the images above and to the right, by Rembrandt and Leo Marchutz, there are the maximum of relationships, light, shadow, mass, volume, unity, and significantly, humanity. As with the women teaching a toddler to walk, or imagining oneself joined with artists of the past and learning to see by their forms and expression, we find a means forward.

It is striking in Rembrandt’s Self Portrait, that he sits in costume of artists preceding him, with a silver tipped cane (his sceptre) as if upon a throne. His hands push towards the picture plane and envelop a void so poignantly expressive of his own situation. Here is a man, confident in his place, regal and yet we understand by the truth in his countenance that in spite of bankruptcy and personal loss, this void does not diminish his insight and determination.

Similarly, with Leo Marchutz’s lithograph, we understand facing forward or looking back, that the lessons from our choices are as true and clear as the light (is it inspiration?) that penetrates from within.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait (1658)

Leo Marchutz, He Who Lives by the Sword Perishes by the Sword​ (1950)

Excerpt chosen by
Cole Carothers
Cole attended the Institute for American Universities 1969-70 and returned to Aix in 1972-3 for independent study. He attended the second summer session at the Leo Marchutz School in the summer of 1973. Currently, he is a full-time artist residing in Milford, Ohio and Cross Village, Michigan.

You are invited to his website >