More Artwork by Carl Buchner
In the course of his career, a searching artist often bends in several directions, making classification in terms of well-known stereotypes an arbitrary and inexact procedure. Throughout all the phases of Carl Büchner’s career thus far, however, he has revealed himself unwaveringly as a romantic humanist. The human figure has provided the most frequently-recurrent motif of his work, but even where it is absent – in still-life and landscape compositions – the imprint of recent use or nostalgia pervades the picture.
Büchner’s early paintings were consistently devoted to human subject matter. His figures were sensitively portrayed: slightly elongated forms, expressionist distortion a romantic colour-usage contributing to the generally poetic effect. He made frequent use of the palette-knife, scrambling one colour over another to create textural and tonal variation in the flat colour areas which described both space and mass.
In later works Büchner began to model with his brush; the previously flat application of colour was replaced modulated strokes of juicy paint and the suggestion of three-dimensional plasticity was heightened by the elimination of his customary linear accents. He seemed to have been much influenced during his 1957-58 tour of Europe by the contemporary Italian school, particularly Morandi; and, in common with the latter, he gave most of his attention to still-life during the period which followed. Also like Morandi, his still-life groups, though simplified and monumentalised almost to the point of abstraction, were never merely assemblages of abstract forms: the elements remained objects, retaining their identification with humanity and the human purposes they served.
The early Sixties witnessed a phase of landscape painting and included several village scenes in the spirit of Karroo Village. Colour, by now, had lost its early saturation, but an appealing nostalgia persisted in his scenes.
Carl Büchner was associated over many years, first as a student, then a colleague, with Maurice van Essche. The two artists shared a natural affinity in their sympathetic view of human subjects and Büchner might have been expected to reflect more of his mentor’s influence in his initial style, but he successfully avoided manifest eclecticism. However, at various moments later in his career, the younger painter drew closer in style and subject matter to Van Essche – and in so doing temporarily obscured the individuality of his personal romantic vision. Images of the tragi-comic Harlequin portrayed so often by both artists, continued to be the best known and most popular aspects of Büchner’s work.
Source: Esmé Berman, Art and Artists of South Africa, An Illustrated biographical dictionary and historical survey of painters, sculptors and graphic artists since 1875; 1983 (75:76)