Barthel Gilles

Barthel Gilles in the course of his artistic work, the painter, who lived in Cologne, experimented repeatedly with different painting techniques and styles. Influenced by studying the “Kölner Malerschule” and other masters of the 15th and 16th century, he predominantly carried out his works in a meticulous glazing technique with egg tempera on panel (cf. Eva Krabbe/Adam C. Oellers, Barthel Gilles, ein Maler der Neuen Sachlichkeit, Aachen 1982, p. 7 ff.).

A specific Rhenish characteristic of New Objectivity is evident in Gilles’ works: “The Cologne members of New Objectivity tend towards a classicistic direction which is surely also attributed to the genius loci, a Rhenish artistic tradition with a strong influence originating from the Middle Ages.” (cited from: Oellers/Euler-Schmidt, p. 46)

From 1937 onwards, Gilles revives his New Objectivist period and repeatedly takes up religious subjects again. The present portrait of a girl, executed in highly technical mastery as a half-length portrait, is partially derived from Christian iconography and features references to typical portraits of the Virgin Mary.

The painting can be distinguished by its particular attention to detail which is deliberately reminiscent of medieval portraits. Despite the young woman’s timid and sweet gaze, the portrait is able to evoke an uncertainty in the observer typical of the painting of the New Objectivity and which is emphasised by the dissonant triad of the colours lemon yellow, blue-green and orange.

He then settled down in Cologne and became part of a Düsseldorf artist group as well as the Ausstellungs-Gemeinschaft Kölner Maler. After having initially used expressionist color and brushwork, his works of the 1920s show a clear orientation towards New Objectivity. Gilles created portraits, landscapes and genre paintings, later also religious themes.

German Artist Barthel Gilles Painting
German Artist Barthel Gilles Painting

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Formally, he took up the traditions of the old German masters and the Pre-Raphaelites, whereby he used wood as painting support. He travelled Europe extensively from Spain to Scandinavia. A selection of his works are owned by the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen.