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1986? after Theo van Doesburg as “I.K. Bonset” – collage “Moritz Mädler”

1986? after Theo van Doesburg as “I.K. Bonset” – collage “Moritz Mädler”
Heart Disease
Pencil, ink and paper cut out from a catalogue, pasted onto a paper background, which is also pasted onto paper pasted onto cardboard.

320 x 225 mm (primary support)
241 x 220 mm (secondary support)

There’s a rather grubby mat, not shown, which I didn’t try to remove because it’s firmly glued on. It fluoresces under black light, so it was added in the 1950s or later. Modern white paper contains fibers of pulp washed in detergent. The pencil lines around the work are also drawn along the inside of the mat, so that’s a puzzle. Maybe some kid drew them?

Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931) was a Dutch painter who co-founded the "De Stijl" movement with Piet Mondrian in 1917 and became involved in dada before splitting with Mondrian to form his own movement called Elementarism, in 1924, Elementarism was like Mondrian’s Neo-Plasticism, only rotated 45 degrees. Van Doesburg also experimented with typography, poetry and architecture. He succumbed to heart disease in Davos in 1931.

The pseudonym I.K. Bonset is a play on "Ik ben zot" (Dutch for "I am silly") and is probably a homage to Marcel Duchamp’s altar ego "Rrose Selavy / Rose Mutt." Van Doesburg began producing work as Bonset in 1920, starting with experimental poetry he published in De Stijl. He also published another magazine, Meccano, under that name and made collages in the early 1920s, when he was touring Europe spreading the gospel of dada and trying to get into the Bauhaus in Weimar (he didn’t get in). Five of the eight known collages belong to the Kröller-Müller museum and sculpture garden in Oterloo, near Apeldoorn.

The Tate Modern in London is currently holding a retrospective on van Doesburg, through 16 May.

Moritz Mädler was a maker of fine suitcases, steamer trunks and other traveling gear. The Mädler-Passage in Leipzig has the famous Auerbachskeller restaurant, made famous by having a scene from Goethe’s "Faust" set there. I’ve been there.

UPDATE: Definitely fake, but a nice try (Moritz > Merz?). I was already becoming skeptical for a few reasons:

1) I learned it came from an auction house in which I’ve seen lots of work that’s by famous artists but doesn’t have any provenance.

2) the cardboard the collage is mounted on is definitely from the 1960s or later (glows under black light), and the mat is glued fast to the cardboard, which would never be done for a valuable work.

Through a friend of a friend, a couple of experts on van Doesburg kindly gave opinions on this collage. The first was dubious. The second said it was nice, but whoever made it didn’t really get what "I. K. Bonset" was about. Also, the catalog is very well researched, so any work found would have to have a watertight provenance. The second expert also had seen the collage that appears in the "attributed to" section of the catalog. That one also turned up in a lesser auction house, in 1986. I suspect it’s by the same "artist."

Anyway, it couldn’t have been created before April 1921, when van Doesburg first met Kurt Schwitters in Weimar.

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