‘Tribute to Tonny van Bragt’

In 1962, Tonny van Bragt moved from Amsterdam to Maastricht. While in Amsterdam, he was a free lance artist; in Maastricht he got a tenure as a lecturer in colours and materials at the Jan van Eyck Academy. At that time, Tonny and Mathieu didn’t know each other, because it was 9 years ago that Tonny graduated at the Jan van Eyck.

Marianne van der Heijden brought Mathieu into contact with Van Bragt; she knew Tonny from her time as a student in Amsterdam. In her opinion, Mathieu had to know Tonny. “I think the two of you will get on very well”. During 14 years, until his death, he has been a loyal friend to Mathieu and Mathieu’s wife Riet. He has assisted students and graduates of the Jan van Eyck Academy by word and deed, sometimes until deep at night. He thought nothing too much trouble. The amateur too could get from Tonny all the information he needed. Not counting the fruitful discussions on graphical matters, particularly with respect to colour, the two friends have spent many a pleasant evening. He is one of those people who live on in one’s memory.

To him, colour was a phenomenon, coupled to form. When he talked about colour, then he did so with such anardurous conviction and fascination that later in life he has not been able to detach himself from it. To him, the white, the black and especially the grey are pivotal. “Grey”, he said, “is at the heart of the art of painting. Just look at the heart of the colour sphere: it is grey, in accordance with the theorem”. He also often talked about the effect of contrast colours and the suggested colour: to evoke a colour that isn’t there. Many a time he has said: “colour is a subtle matter, so handle it subtly”.

What he strived after, also in his own paintings, was not the spectacular, but the inconspicious, the self-evident, the silence. He highly respected the small, quiet and simple paintings of the Italian painter Morandi, who got wellknown later in life.

When Tonny painted – and in his last years that happened only during the holiday season – he started with a 12 cm wide brush and finished – as a matter of speech – with a one hair pencil; Mathieu has lived to see it, on a journey, right across Spain. According to Mathieu, it was the image of a spiral, he started at the outer rings and finished at the depth of the core. In ‘Tribute to Tonny van Bragt’, Mathieu has tried to express what Tonny was so inspired about, namely the pure image. In September 1976 (half a year after Tonny’s death), Mathieu started on ‘Tribute’ and since then he created approximately 145 variations.

When he looked back at his earlier work such as the stations of the cross in Brunssum and Old Valkenburg, a dramatic subject, he reached the conclusion that Tonny van Bragt has made him discover especially via the laws of colour that next to only greyness, there is lightness too. Earlier the colours were preponderantly dark, dramatic, now they were mostly light and cheerful, where the dark shades, insofar as necessary, kept their dramatic function as contrast.

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