Prof. Dr. Phil. Cav. Hanns Theodor Flemming and DAVOOD ROOSTAEI
" Davood Roostaei is the shimmering crown prince of painting in the 20th century"
Prof. Dr. Phil. cav. Hanns Theodor Flemming, Art historian and art critic, born in Hamburg, where he worked until his retirement. He studied art history, archeology and English at the Universities of Munich, Heidelberg, Hamburg, Oxford and Berlin and did his Ph.D. with a dissertation on the English Pre- Raephaelite painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In 1946 he became a freelance art critic for ”Die Welt” and permanent staff member of the ”Weltkunst” magazine, holding both positions for a great many years.
University lecturer from 1959 until 1981, then professor of art history, specialising in design, at the Fachhochschule (technical college) in Hamburg. Numerous books, essays, broadcasts and lectures on 19th and 20th century painting and plastic arts.
His most important work includes monographs on Ewald Matare, Henry Moore, Bernhard Heiliger, Gustav eitz, Friedrich Karl Gotsch, Rudolf Hausner, Arik Brauer and Bruno Bruni. Prof. Flemming numbers among the first interpreters of work by Bernhard Schulze, Horst Janssen and Paul Wunderlich. He was the discoverer of cryptorealism and its creator, Davood Roostaei.
He visited Picasso, Matisse, Chagal, Nolde, Schmidt-Rottluff, Heckel, Max Beckmann, Oskar Kokoschka, Henry Moore, Salvador Dali, and had talks with Max Ernst, Marzel Duchamp, Otto Dix, Eduard Bargheer, Rudolf Hausner, Ernst Fuchs, Hundertwasser, David Hockney, Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys, reported in both essays and lectures.
In 1951 Prof. Flemming was made a membre societaire of the International Association of Art Critics, AICA, in Paris. In 1972, following his publications on Italian art, in particular on Giorgio de Chirico and the Pittura metafisica, he was awarded the title of ”Cavalire” by the Italian President. In 1998, he received the Austrian Cross of Honour, 1st Class, for Science and Art. Prof. Flemming died on the 5th August 2005 in Reinbek nr. Hamburg at the age of 89 years.
Prof. Dr. Phil. Cav. Hanns Theodor Flemming on DAVOOD ROOSTAEI's Cryptorealism
Davood Roostaei is a painter of unusual intensity of expression – invariably filled with profound inspiration and that commitment to the cause of mankind which provides his work with a humane dimension, that has become rare in contemporary art. He is an artist committed to the human cause, to whom painting means life. He strives to convey to all people his message of fraternity and tolerance, representing it passionately with all his strength, enforced by his own bitter experiences with an intolerant totalitarian regime. He is a universal artist who, metaphorically speaking, paints with the blood of his own heart. A challenging and charismatic painter who has intuitively developed an individualistic painting concept.
From the very beginning Davood Roostaei‘s works were characterised by unusual artistic skill, which he acquired during his studies at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Teheran and later in Cologne. This continues to give him the groundwork for his artistic virtuosity and multifarious means of pictorial expression. in which Oriental and Occidental components combine in a dynamic fashion. Yet, above all, he acquired his abilities as a painter and graphic and fresco artist through autodidactic studies of the old masters and the art of past centuries. Thus he gained essential insight into the creative works of both the Orient and the Occident. Only after the intensive study of artistic styles of the past and their intrinsic expressions of craftsmanship and formation, did he begin to go his own way, which will be discussed in this first monograph.
As related in his personal accounts, mentioned elsewhere in this monograph, Davood Roostaei has been doing creative work since early childhood. In the exquisite garden of his Persian childhood he had many opportunities to watch the wonders of nature and to create small works of art. Davood Roostaei descends from a royal family of the south of Persia; his great-grandfather having been a courageous king. His ancestors held leading positions up until the end of the Qajar rule. After the Qajar dynasty had been divested of power, the family estates were confiscated and its members imprisoned or killed. Davood Roostaei grew up in the south of Persia where he attended high school and completed his university studies. His parents, who afforded him this very modern education, are, sadly, not able to participate in his success. His father, who died young, was a respected surgeon whose favourite hobby was painting. Because Davood Roostaei objected to war and killing and refused to do military service during the war between Iran and Iraq, he was imprisonded for 2 years.
Then he to came to Germany where he continued his artistic work with tremendous energy, first in Cologne and later in The artist before one of his ceiling paintings in the Villa Höltigbaum Hamburg, developing his present excellence. As a restorer of the original, badly damaged, frescoes and creator of new ones in the Villa Höltigbaum and in the house “Wedells“ in Hamburg, both built towards the end of the 19th century, Davood Roostaei demonstrated his unusual skill as a craftsman and his empathy with the artistic work of past European eras.
Davood Roostaei‘s already amazingly comprehensive artistic work can be subdivided into various stages, illustrating his development from the beginning up to his present position and shown in this monograph mainly in chronological order. In his studies on the history of the arts, Davood Roostaei began with a close examination of cave paintings, reflecting the earliest visual forms of human expression – works which for the most part served hunting and fertility rituals; their magic practices and analogies being meant to secure the survival of prehistoric mankind. Davood Roostaei then made a great transition and concentrated on the painting of frescoes, an area in which, as already mentioned, he did amazing work.
The restoration of the almost obliterated wall and ceiling paintings and the creation of many new ones in the Villa Höltigbaum in Hamburg gave that villa new glory and is exclusively the work of Davood Roostaei. To complete this magnificent work single-handed, Davood Roostaei had to overcome with his undaunted idealism all the many hurdles in his way. The next stage in his artistic development illustrates the painter‘s occupation with the masters of impressionism and post impressionism His own account, mentioned elsewhere in this monograph, reveals how strongly impressed he was with the work of Vincent van Gogh, and how his conception of painting was completely changed by it. Davood Roostaei was also influenced by the painting technique of Claude Monet, and under his influence
created paintings having remarkable brushwork and colouration. However, it was in the following years that the artist developed motifs and forms that led beyond a purely visual experience. He then began to use symbolism in connection with mankind and its environment. With these paintings his art began to develop in an unmistakably individual fashion, already showing occasional surrealistic tendencies. Women are often featured in Davood Roostaei’s paintings. He portrays them as seen through his own mood fluctuations and under many mythological and erotic aspects. These works are a fascinating expression of his complex emotional life and his rootedness in both Oriental and Occidental traditions.
A separate section describes Davood Roostaei‘s encounters with a variety of famous contemporary personalities – especially painters, illustrators, actors, entertainers and exceptional people from the artistic scene. Photographs taken at those meetings will be contrasted with illustrations and paintings, some of which were produced much later by the artist. It is an amazing, truly unique fact that Davood Roostaei is able to paint a living likeness of a person after having met him or her only once, and without having made a sketch or having a photograph, but simply from memory. It is a special talent of his that he captures exactly the expression of the eyes. One of Davood Roostaei’s most empathetic and allusive pictures is dedicated to Pope John Paul II which is described in detail elsewhere in this book. The unusual diversity of Davood Roostaei‘s expressive means as a painter and draughtsman have an immediate effect on the observer. His artistic skill is reflected in the realisation of intense expression as well as in his virtuosic draughtsmanship. This is especially relevant for the following phase in Davood Roostaei‘s development which had its origin in classical Surrealism – the beginning of modern art, somewhere between Dali and Magritte. Davood Roostaei’s paintings of that time lead us into a fascinating world of surreal metamorpheses and cryptic alienation. Men and women, nature and the cosmos, but also themes of death and suppression, hope and freedom, eros and sensuality are the motifs which the artist paints in a versatile fashion full of poetry and alienation. Some of his works show elements of religious and contemporary issues as well as allusions to mythology and legend.
A nocturnal triptych painted in mysterious dark, blue-white colours reflects memories of terror, war and destruction, but also serves as a vanitas painting, a reminder of the transience of all earthly things: decaying skulls, bent feathers and a male head transforming into the shape of a skeleton form the surreal and alienating properties. Another series of paintings illustrate a new positive approach to life by the use of bright colours and a quasi-romantic painting technique with a varnish reminiscent of the old masters: a wide, panoramic ocean view with sun rays breaking through dark clouds or a cosmic globe with life growing out of it.