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Rudolf Jahns

Komposition (Konstr.), 1924

Watercolour on Fabriano laid paper

23,5 x 18 cm

© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

Photo: Gerhard Sauer

Self-taught artist Rudolf Jahns was one of the pioneers of German Constructivism. And he is often referred to as its poet because his work always aspired towards harmony in its appearance and musicality in its form. For him art was a means to cast colour, light and his personal experiences of nature in a sublimated form by the means of constructive abstraction.


This small watercolour Composition (Constr.) dates from 1924, by which time Jahns had developed his style and arrived at his own path after experimenting with various forms of abstraction. Done in portrait format, the work has been filled in its entirety with a composition consisting of small squares and rectangles of different sizes and colours, which overlap at their edges in such a way that the superimposed layers produce a modest sense of space. Tender and muted shades of green and blue dominate the picture, while at times drifting into shades of brown. To this basic earthy coloration with its suggestion of nature, the artist has introduced a few splashes of colour: a red square, a rectangle in a powerful blue, two yellow and two orange rectangles, and a number of pale rose shapes. The most striking of these is the red square in the upper half of the painting, which marks the centre of the composition and brings together the other colour highlights in the lower half. All in all the few shapes done in these stronger colours have been carefully attuned to one another, so that none of them breaks from the overall ensemble but joins together with the others and the surrounding shades of blue and green to produce an overall harmonious but lively impression.


The difficulty in studying a composition like this is that it seems so obvious and natural that one scarcely realizes how much concentrated work was required in its making. Apart from the meticulous planning of the composition, what above all was necessary was an enormous feeling for creating a balance between the elements, which is only to some extent learnable and thus nameable. Yet even a passing viewer will be able to ascribe a certain mood to the work that might loosely be connected with nature and the countryside and the light at a certain time of day. And it is precisely such moods in the works of Rudolf Jahns that earned him the label of poet, because for him a square was not simply a shape that stood in relation to other shapes, but the expression of a fundamental experience of his life in this world.


Rudolf Jahns

1896 born in Wolfenbüttel

1983 died in Holzminden