Carel Visser Dutch, 1928-2015


Carel Visser is one of the Netherlands' principal post war sculptors. An unconventional sculptor, standing on the shoulders of his great predecessors Brancusi and Giacometti, Carel Visser was always engaged with forms and materials, all materials. He worked with steel and glass, eggs and feathers, wool and leather, up to and including car tyres.


In the nineteen-fifties and sixties Visser built on the principles of Mondrian's Neoplasticism using robust iron sculptures in geometric shapes. Carel Visser's abstract visual language was a novelty, especially in the post-war Netherlands, where sculpture was still dominated by the figuration of the conservative Rijksacademie.


Carel Visser's oeuvre spans an entire lifetime: the early years with mostly studies in a more or less figurative visual language, the nineteen-fifties and sixties with mainly abstract works of geometric shapes in iron, stacks of sheet metal and beams, studies of angles and reflections and of experimental wall sculptures in aluminium. The nineteen-seventies and eighties are characterized by a completely free visual language and in an extraordinarily varied use of materials, whereby Visser embraced every possible substance.


He remained active and creative well into old age, although he did increasingly swap the heavy iron for the equally expressive and three-dimensional collage in lighter-weight cardboard.


As the son of a civil engineer Carel Visser was familiar with architectural materials and techniques from an early age. He first studied architecture at the Technical University of Delft, but his interest in the subject soon waned. Nor did he complete an art teacher training at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague. With his younger brother Geertjan he travelled widely to France, Spain and Italy. These trips had a great influence on the evolution of his interest from architecture to sculpture. The acclaimed and influential exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum under Sandberg are significant and prove formative for the young Visser. It was certainly true of the exhibition 13 Beeldhouwers uit Parijs (13 sculptors from Paris) in 1948, where he was first introduced to the work of Brancusi, Arp, Gonzalez and Giacometti, among others. With nature and figuration as a starting point Visser slowly but surely develops into a sculptor for whom abstraction and architecture will dominate his visual language. He is one of those modern sculptors for whom figuration is not the automatic outcome of the art of sculpture.


In the Netherlands his work was mainly represented by Nouvelles Images in The Hague and Art & Project in Amsterdam; chief international representation has been by Konrad Fischer in Düsseldorf and Galerie Durand-Dessert in Paris.