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Raoul Ubac

Malmédy -

Malmédy 1910, Dieudonné 1985

Raoul Ubac was born as Rudolf Gustav Ernst Maria Ubach in Malmedy, Belgium on the 31st of August, 1910. He worked as a photographer, painter and sculptor. Ubac followed a drawing and photography course at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Cologne and was one of the youngest Belgian artists who took surrealist inspired photographs. He stumbled into surrealism when he settled in Paris in 1930 where he exhibited with the Surrealists in 1938. Through the surrealist circle to which he belonged as a photographer, he came into contact with Christian Dotremont (1922-1979) who introduced him later to CoBrA. Besides paintings Ubac made some slate carvings and sculptures that are related to Cobra expressions because of the influence of primitive cultures. When he began to engrave on slate, he allowed himself to be inspired by the runic script, which is a source of magic that was celebrated by Nietzsche as “the runic writing of myth.” (NW 21) The myth is able to be recognized in the slate engravings that he made for the cover of Cobra 7, which was published in Brussels in autumn 1950, where he created the motive of the head of the ‘spectacled’ CoBrA snake. Ubac, who because of his location in Paris was considered to be part of the Jeune Peinture Francaise, took on the role as representative of France when he participated at the CoBrA exhibition at Liège in 1951. During the Cobra years he painted under the influence of the leading École de Paris, a poetic abstract expressionism along the lines of the two idols Jean René Bazaine (1904-2001) and Roger Bissière (1886-1964). While Ubac maintained a fleeting contact with Cobra, the Cobra House Marais in Brussels, the hub of Cobra activities and residence of Dotremont and Pierre Alechinsky (1927), exerted great attraction. Many young artists like him focused strongly after the war on the leading Jeune Peinture Belge-Francaise, were invited by Dotremont and Alechinsky for exhibitions or other contributions when they sensed similarities with CoBrA art. The refined utilization of color and the powerful expressionism of the young avant-garde, were for Cobra the most important connecting points for cooperation.

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