Piet Leutsch’s paintings capture life’s mystery with an enthusiasm that is at once intimate and imaginative. The brilliant colors, strongly moving lines, and rich contrasts we see in Leutsch’s work, his acrylics, egg tempera and wood bloc prints are imbued with a sensitive and controlled spontaneity. Whether painting the ever changing beauty of a Laurentian landscape scene, a fragrant floral bouquet or a musical extravaganza. Leutsch is an artist who bestows a spiritual quality to these subjects so that they take on new meanings. Luminosity and transparency, the way a composition is arranged, even the sketchy character of his drawings, are techniques that enable us to share in the intensity of his experience.
Many of the subjects we see in his paintings were inspired by the family property Leutsch lived on in a village in the Laurentians, north of Montreal - a place of tranquility, happiness, contemplation and activity.
The wilderness landscape of the Canadian Shield with its endless rolling hills, forests and lakes, its migrating geese and wildflowers is a seemingly inexhaustible source of inspiration and creativity for the artist. Leutsch expresses his love and admiration for nature in his paintings and shares it with others.
The flock of geese that wheels across the sky while violin quartet plays in The Fiddlers (1991) becomes a painterly elegy to sound - both man made and natural - that strikes a universal chord. This fantastic expression of the subtle interactions between humanity and the environment is echoed elsewhere in Suite Boréale (1991), where a gigantesque owl showers like a phantom above the pianist, and Troubadour (1992) where the flow of air around a minstrel becomes a paraphrase for Leutsch’s fascination to reach beyond the visible.
In preparing for a sill life painting and with a specific idea in his mind, Leutsch begins by choosing and arranging various objects to create a composition. He then changes and rearranges them until he is satisfied with the way they look. It is only then that he begins to draw, to depict the details, background and build this into an overall composition, usually in one sitting.
Happy accidents occur from his compositional arrangements of these anecdotal details. In Rendez-vous (1992), the head of a young man, just a decorative feature on a Hispano-Moorish plate, stares wistfully at a bronze statue of a Roman dancer to its left, thus establishing a fascinating visual dialogue between these two singular elements. The Porcelain Eagle (1990) does the same by simply juxtaposing an orange and knife on aplate with an eagle and a stack of books.
Scale plays an important role in Leutsch’s painting as well. As Henry Moore once put it: “There is a right physical size for every idea.” So for Piet, an image of a flower bouquet is life-size at its inception, but then becomes larger than life. The scale ultimately depends on the density of the composition. The more compact the composition is, the more it can be enlarged. The colors and shapes in Leutsch’s floral compositions have a sensual immediacy that awakens our extra-sensory imagination to the point we feel we can actually smell the fragrance of these flowers. Above all, the floral bouquets, whether on, in a vase, on a table or beside a piano, are a tribute to the aesthetic beauty of these remarkable creations of nature.
Leutsch fantasizes, even plays games with the objects and subjects he paints so as to invite us to follow their transformation in our minds eye: a teapot becomes a hen nesting her eggs; a cat staring at a fish becomes partially transparent; and various plants are combined to suggest new forms of beings.
Other themes are treated using a traditional black and white wood block technique, a graphic medium printed on half-transparent Japanese paper that, for its unique variation of expressive tonalities, Leutsch feels is better suited to these subjects. In Bird Hair (1992) the emotional content of the violinist’s inner imaginings hybridizes to become a surreal bird form shaped out of her hair.
Lively, expressive and creatively diverse, Piet Leutsch’s art embodies a desire to stimulate awareness and imagination in us all. He invites us to partake in the discovery and experience of the everyday wonders that surround us. His art is an ode to joy, harmony and peace. Above all it is life-affirming.
1932 – Born in Shanghai, China into a family of Dutch and German origin. Raised in China, Holland, Switzerland and Germany. Early influences from Chinese and Japanese painting, calligraphy and pottery. First works abstract and colourful. Travels in France and Italy. Art studies in Sicily.
1956 – Completion of art studies at the ‘Hochschule für Bildende Künste’ in Berlin, Germany, in Graphic arts, lithography and calligraphy. Period of Matisse influenced drawings. First woodblock prints. 1968 Period of Braque influenced still life paintings.
1973 – Creation of tempera and acrylic paintings in Switzerland. ‘Waves’ series, ‘Universe’ series, ‘Perforated’ series. First serigraphy prints. Influences from surrealism and Japanese woodblock prints. First flower drawings and large format paintings on canvas.
1982 – Working in Val-Morin, Canada. Experimenting in relief drawing technique. Still lives, interior, landscapes. Medium and large format acrylics on paper and canvas. ‘Amaryllis’ series. 1989 Music as subject matter: ‘Grand Piano’ large format canvases. First intaglio prints. ‘Hotpoint’ on acrylique board technique. Group exhibitions in Montreal and New York.
1992 – Woodblock prints. ‘Music’ and ‘Figurative’ series. Group exhibitions in Montreal and Arles, (Prix d’Excellence).
1995 – Exhibition Galerie Mazarine, Montreal
1998 – Publication of art book “Leutsch, Works/Oeuvres/Arbeiten, 1983 - 1993”
2005 – First exhibition of his calligraphic ‘Word Paintings’ at Galerie Mazarine, Montreal: “Le Mot et l’Image” a group exhibition of asian and contemporary calligraphy.
2007 – Moving to Montreal
2015 – Working on the creation of children’s book: “Rockhopper”