Kastel Gallery

Fritz Brandtner-“the Man, the Artist, the Genius”

Fritz Brandtner(1896-1969)



Fritz Brandtner was a pioneer of abstraction in Canada, a draftsman, painter, printmaker, sculptor, and a singular artist. He was born in Danzig, Germany (now, Gdańsk, Poland), in 1898 where he studied under the unremarkable Fritz August Pfuhle (1878-1969). His studies and travels though Europe in the early 1920s instilled a catholic approach to art via his first-hand awareness of artists such as Max Beckmann, Giorgio De Chirico, Lionel Feininger and Wassily Kandinsky.

When he emigrated from Germany to Winnipeg in 1928, neither the city nor the artist was ready for the other. Fortunately, Brandtner soon met Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald who became a key contact and confidante. Unfortunately, Winnipeg’s critics inadequately recognized Brandtner’s European sources. Even when critics acknowledged his ambition, they never fully understood it.

FitzGerald urged Brandtner to move to Montreal where its larger art scene and cosmopolitanism offered more opportunities. With FitzGerald’s letter of introduction to art critic Robert Ayre, Brandtner had an important entrée. He exhibited in the Art Association of Montreal’s Spring Exhibitions from the 1930s through the 1950s, he also exhibited with Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, he was a founding member of Montreal’s Contemporary Arts Society, and a member of the Canadian Group of Painters.

Brandtner’s February 1936 exhibition at Montreal’s Henry Morgan & Company department store was the city’s first solo exhibition of abstract art. The dedication of the exhibition’s proceeds to its sponsor, the Canadian League Against War and Fascism, announced another important and abiding aspect of Brandtner’s identity, his social justice. That year he, Marian Scott, and Dr. Norman Bethune also founded the Children’s Art Centre that offered classes to children who otherwise might never receive art instruction. He broadened his impact through the 1950s by teaching at McGill University and the University of New Brunswick, and completing major mural projects.

In the late 1950s Brandtner made the acquaintance of fellow German immigrant, and art dealer, Paul Kastel that became a steadfast personal and professional relationship lasting beyond his death in 1969. Kastel was a committed dealer and custodian of the artist’s estate who continued to mount exhibitions and made strategic dispositions to public collections for decades after. With distance, Brandtner comes into focus as a singular immigrant artist whose background helped and hindered his Canadian experience. His diverse media and mélange of influences made it impossible to summarize him in the moment. He was too advanced for Winnipeg, and too resolutely central European – neither English nor French enough – for Montreal. A half-century after his death, Brandtner’s career and accomplishment can be seen and understood more sharply than ever.



 
Paul Kastel (1927-2020)

Paul Kastel was born in Kalsour Germany in 1927. He started working at 13 years old as an apprentice upholsterer and after a couple of years, he mastered the profession. He was a Prisoner of war in France and worked for the Peugeot family helping out in whatever chores needed to be accomplished. It was in France where he fell in love with art and he tells a story when he was once walking the streets of Paris, he saw a DeSoto car and then an impressionist painting in a gallery window and said if given the choice he would buy the painting before the car. This thought process stayed with him during his lifetime when there were many instances that his first choice was always to buy a painting over anything else especially early in his career when both purchases were not an option. Eventually Paul found his way to Canada in mid 50’s where he began working at the Laurentian Hotel renting rooms. His brother finally joined him in Canada, and they opened an upholstery shop on St. Catherine street near Greene Avenue in Westmount named Kastel Upholstering known for quality drapes, furniture etc. The opportunity presented itself to purchase a building of his own which became the new upholstery shop. All the while Paul always had a love and passion for art, and I always remember him telling me the story when he arrived in Canada and moved into his own apartment that the first thing he purchased even before a bed were prints to decorate the walls as in his mind having art on the walls was his first priority as it gave him an immense amount of pleasure even more so than a comfortable bed. “Art on the walls made my apartment a true home”. It was in the upholstery shop where he would eventually purchase works of art with the profits and he amassed quite a number of Canadian and European paintings which he purchased for pleasure and not for resale until one day his sister in need of money for some dental work, and then sold a Clarence Gagnon painting for $10,000.00 which he purchased for $250.00 in 1960. The new shop was furnished with many paintings and he eventually started selling as interested buyers kept increasing. As time progressed, Kastel Gallery with the help of Tony Nevin his lifelong partner, became a leading force in Canadian Art. His interest in art was truly driven by a passion for things of beauty where the monetary gain never was a driving force as he truly wanted his client to learn and appreciate the beauty in each painting and if it appreciated in value then that was a bonus. Paul went onto become one of the most knowledgeable and well-respected art dealers and was always a genuine and humble person. I am so fortunate to have been a colleague and eventually a friend to Paul for many years.

Paul Kastel and Fritz Brandtner As Kastel Gallery started to develop into a serious Gallery for collectors, Paul was looking for new artists and through a friend was introduced to Fritz Brandtner in the early 1960’s. Their initial encounter in the studio of Fritz Brandtner was the beginning of a wonderful friendship the lasted for a number of years until Brandtner’s death in 1969. Paul’s commitment to Fritz’s work and the well-being of Mieze (wife of Fritz Brandtner) was his first and foremost responsibility. When speaking of Fritz Brandtner, Paul’s eyes would light up as he was so emotional about the creative genius of Brandtner, as well the intellect that he possessed on any given subject. As we know Fritz Brandtner was way ahead of his time in his creations and at the same time Paul saw something in his creativity that prompted him to represent Brandtner during his entire career which spanned close to 60 years. Paul understood and supported Brandtner during his entire lifetime and never cared about the monetary gain, rather he had comfort in knowing collectors all over the world learn and eventually appreciate Fritz Brandtner - "the man, the artist, the genius". Paul was instrumental in placing many works of art into prominent corporate and private collections and as well donated may works to the National Gallery of Canada.

“The Blue Horse” - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Oil on canvas
Signed lower left; titled on the reverse
16” x 21”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
              Estate of the artist
Exhibited: Galérie Valentin, September 2011
            Confederation Art Gallery and Museum, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
$52,500.00

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The Calgary Herald’s reviewer was more impressed than comprehending when they described Fritz Brandtner’s Blue Horses in 1953 as, “a highly decorative careful primitivist composition in strong red and blue.” From a group exhibition of more than one-hundred works, organized by Winnipeg’s Richardson Brothers Art Gallery and held at Calgary’s Palliser Hotel, the reviewer first checked local names such as Maxwell Bates, Illingworth Kerr, and Douglas Morton, then major Canadian painters such as B.C. Binning, Paul-Émile Borduas, and Roy Kiyooka, Among this diverse and notable group, Brandtner’s audacious Blue Horse stood out then as it stands out now. In 1916 Brandtner was taken as a prisoner by the French and was discharged in March 1920. During these times he watched and looked after horses and the new love of horses is so apparent in many of his creations. He would sketch them quite often and would become a familiar theme in many of his paintings. “The potentially male monumentality of the horse as a prototype of pure earthiness, the relationship between the powerful but innocent animal and conscious human domination became for Brandtner a consistent source of inspiration"

“The Open Window”, 1939 - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Oil on canvas
34” x 22”
Signed lower right; Signed and titled on the reverse
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
Exhibited: Galére Valentin, Montreal, Fritz Brandtner Retrospective, September 10th -24th, 2011
            The National Gallery of Canada, “Esthetiques Modernes, cat.#71
$95,000.00

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The title of Fritz Brandtner’s stirring early Canadian abstraction is a sly deception. Open Windows instills the idea of representation while pulling away from any foundation in the observed world. The high-keyed vertical trapezoids in the painting effectively suggest the overlapping frames of open casement windows. Yet, upon what, and where, do they open? The answer is irrelevant. They open onto a fictional pictorial space. In Brandtner’s composition, geometric shapes lead our eyes and mind. Orbs suggest expanding illumination. Planes of black and deep green suggest night’s depths while planes of red, yellow and orange suggest contained illumination. Easily seen as an individual’s stylized nighttime view of the city, it is also an enchanting fiction.

“Horses and Riders”, 1945 - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Watercolor and ink on paper
Signed and dated ‘45 lower right
6 1/4” x 9 3/4”
Exhibited: Galérie Valentin, September 2011
            The Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario
$8,500.00

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Horses and Riders - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Oil on canvas
Signed and dated ‘40 lower right
40” x 30”
Provenance:Paul Kastel
              Estate of the artist
Exhibited at Galérie Valentin, Fritz Brandtner retrospective, September 2011
$75,000.00

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Fritz Brandtner gave the ancient theme of horse and rider a modern inflection. Where it once embodied absolute leadership, here it is egalitarian. Individuals united by purpose pursue their destiny free from hierarchy. With this in mind, it is easy to understand how Brandtner worked with fellow Montreal artist Marian Scott, and humanitarian Dr. Norman Bethune to found the not-for-profit Children’s Art Centre in Montreal. In Brandtner’s words, the Centre’s purpose was to help children, “live richer, more satisfying lives through developing their imagination, their powers of observation, their appreciation of beauty, their characters.”

“Stella of B”, circa 1950 - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Oil on board
Signed lower right
9 1/2” x 5 1/2”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
Exhibited: Galérie Valentin, Montreal, Fritz Brandtner Retrospective, September 2011
SOLD

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“Seated Figure” - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Charcoals and felt pen on paper
Signed lower left
13 1/2” x 10”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel

SOLD

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Standing Nude - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Mixed media on paper
Signed lower right
15” x 10”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
$3,500.00

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“Clowns and Harlequins”, 1959 - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Mixed media on paper
4 1/2” x 18”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
Exhibited: The Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario, 1982/1983, cat.#74
$8,000.00

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“Gaspésie”, 4 drawings on one sheet - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Ink drawing
10” x 14”
Each drawing is signed
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
$1,400.00

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Dessin à l'encre 10" x 14" Chaque dessin est signé Provenance : Succession de Paul Kastel

Still Life - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Mixed media on paper
Signed lower right
10” x 7 1/2”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel

SOLD

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Untitled - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Original wood carving for woodcut prints
5 1/2” x 3 1/2”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel

SOLD

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“Danzig” - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Mixed media on paper
Signed and dated ‘25
5 1/4” x 3 1/2”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
$1,500.00

SOLD

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One of Brandtner"s earlier works to accompany him on his travels from his home in Danzig to his new found home in Canada. "Danzig" was a creation he held onto to remember his past and all the struggles he overcame. "When I arrived from Europe, I had a very good idea of what art should and could do. I knew all the latest works by Kandinsky, Moudrian, Chagall, Grosz, Klee, Marc,... Beckmann, Pechstein, Felinger, Nolde... Gris, Chirico, Bauer, Picasso, Leger, Matisse, etc. As for me before I came to Canada, I had been extremely interested in cubism, and its possibilities, textures, transparency, space relations, and for constructivist experiments. One can see all these interests in some way and in ones imagination "Danzig" opens our eyes to all of these experiments.

“Wild Horses” - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Coloured inks on paper
Signed lower center
5 3/4” x 6 1/4”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
$3,250.00

 

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“Road to Gaspé” - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Watercolours and ink on paper
Signed lower right
3 1/4” x 9 3/4”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel

SOLD

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Reunion in Danzig - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Watercolours and ink
Signed and dated ‘25 lower right
7” x 6”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
$1,500.00

SOLD

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“Portrait of Varley” - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Pen drawing
Signed and inscribed Fred Varley
4” x 6”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
              Kaspar Gallery,Toronto
$1,150.00

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“Canadian Vickers” - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Mixed Media
Signed and dated ‘43 lower right
8 1/2” x 11”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel

SOLD

At the height of the Second World War, Fritz Brandtner and fellow Montreal artist Louis Muhlstock portrayed industry’s support of the war effort in Montreal’s factories. Their work was exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada in 1943 and toured to Toronto, and Winnipeg. Canadian Vickers Worker typifies this body of small works with its outsized scale and power. At the time Brandtner’s expressive figures were well-received for their effective marriage of advanced art-making and their vital presentation of labour. Brandtner’s clean, compressed figure continues to hold the energy and power it had when it was painted more than seventy-five years ago.

Horse and Rider - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Mixed media on paper
Signed lower right
5 1/2” x 3 1/2”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel

SOLD

Sailboats in the Harbour - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Charcoals on paper
Signed and dated ‘25 lower right
12” x 16”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
$2,800.00

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Still Life, 1938 - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Watercolours
Signed lower left
7 1/8” x 8 1/2”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
Exhibited: Galérie Valentin, September 2011

SOLD

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Still Life is an arresting example of the stained glass-like images critics observed in some of Fritz Brandtner’s work. He delineated luminous patches and structured the composition with bold contours that sometimes do double-duty as shadows. They are Brandtner’s distinct manifestation of the effects of contemporary paintings by artists as diverse and, at first glance, irreconcilable as Max Beckmann and Pablo Picasso. Bold colouring and strong graphic renderings were distinct to Brandtner at this moment in Canada. They underscore his distinction in the late 1930s, and are reminders of his engagement with advanced European painting on the eve of the Second World War.

“Prince Rupert, B.C.” - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Mixed media on paper
Signed, titled and dated ‘30 lower right
15” x 11”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
Exhibited: Galérie Valentin, Montreal, September 2011

SOLD

“Still Life, Bottles”,1935 - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Watercolours on paper
Signed and dated ‘35
10 1/2” x 12”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
Exhibited:    Galerie Valentin, Montreal, September 2011
              The Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, The Brave New World of Fritz Brandtner, 1982/1983
SOLD

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Fritz Brandtner’s stylized Synthetic Cubist rendering of space is a powerful marker in the history of Canadian art. Painted a couple of years after the Group of Seven disbanded in Toronto, and prior to the formation of the Contemporary Arts Society in Montreal, Bottles, Still Life plays with space and form in ways none of the Group or John Lyman dared. Brandtner’s creative stroke was moving beyond using paint to describe the world he saw. Instead, he used paint to create images that paralleled the world he saw

Two Women, Circa 1942 - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Watercolours and ink on paper
Signed lower left
7” x 5”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel

SOLD

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Abstraction- Sunset - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Oil on masonite
Signed middle to lower left
20 1/2” x 18”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
$35,000.00

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Untitled- Revelation - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Original Woodcut, Circa 1930
Signed lower right
5” x 6 3/4”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel


SOLD

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“Sixteen Islands”, 1934/1935 - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Pastels on paper
Signed lower right
11” x 14”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
Exhibited: Galérie Valentin, Montreal, September 2011
            Art Gallery of Ontario
            Musée Marc Aurèle Fortin
$5,500.00

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Horses and Riders - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Mixed Media
Signed lower left
9 1/2” x 7 1/2”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
Exhibited: Galérie Valentin, Montreal, September 2011
$5,250.00

SOLD

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Two Women, 1938 - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Oil on board
Signed and dated ‘38 lower left
5 1/2” x 4 1/4”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
Exhibited: Galérie Valentin, Montreal, September 2011
$3,800.00

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The central European roots of Fritz Brandtner’s art are laid bare in Two Figures. Contemporary Canadian artists like Edwin Holgate, John Lyman and Frederick H. Varley regularly made the figure central to their painting, although none of them or any other Canadian painter of the time invested their figures with the uncomplicated drawing and emphatic colouring Brandtner did. By stripping away visual anecdote, such as trim on garments, jewellery or details of physiognomy, Brandtner took the viewer closer to the painting’s human content.

Sunflowers - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Watercolours on paper
Signed lower right
9” X 7 1/2”
Provenance; Estate of Paul Kastel
Exhibited: Galérie Valentin, Montreal, September 2011.
            Confederation Art Gallery and Museum, Charlottetown, P.E.I


SOLD

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Abstraction- Mosaic - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Oil and Glass on panel
Signed lower right
18” x 16”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel

$18,500.00

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“Reflection”, 1958 - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Oil on canvas
Signed lower right
24” x 30”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
Exhibited: Galérie Valentin, Montreal, September 2011
            Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario, Cat. #72

$59,500.00

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Abstract painting in Montreal was dizzying in its variety and achievement during the 1950s. In 1958, just into his sixties, Fritz Brandtner continued his artistic development with Reflection. It began with washes of oil paint on a gessoed ground, then passages of dense colour upon which a network of lines suggests structure and direction, and concluded with touches of opaque red, blue, and white to activate the image and our eyes. When others might have thought of retirement or slowing down, Brandtner remained a true artist, and furthered his allusive and individual abstraction.

“Fletcher’s Field” - Fritz Brandtner (1896-1969)

Details

Watercolours and ink on paper
Signed lower right
9 1/4” x 9 3/4”
Provenance: Estate of Paul Kastel
Exhibited: Galérie Valentin, Montreal, September 2011
          Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario, Cat. #77

SOLD

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