You probably don't recognize his name, but you will soon be seeing some of his works on the first floor at Robarts library. Carl Kohler (1919-2006) is not known by many outside his native Sweden, but this is something his children, Henry and Frida, hope to change. In the last few years, they have been introducing the their father's captivating works to other parts of the world.
The neo-Modernist painter was born in Stockholm, where he spent most of his life and produced the majority of his works. During the 1950s, he also lived and worked in Spain, France, and Canada.
What makes his 'author portraits so fascinating is the use of various methods and techniques in his creations. Each work is highly stylized in accordance to the individual he portrays. Kafka is portrayed through thick black blockprint - bold and alienating, much like his notorious works.
"[My father] used different techniques for different characters, whatever suited the character he worked on."
By mixing style with the individual's personality and works, Kohler expresses the authors and figures in a way that cannot be paralleled by simple realism. His diverse use media forms - paint, ink, blockprint, and collage - depict multiple aspects and the uniqueness of figure.
His subjects range from Artaud to Rilke, Dostoevsky to Michael Jackson, amongst many other American and European writers, popular artists, and intellectuals . Unlike many portrait artists, he didn't actually meet any of his subjects, but instead, Henry says "I think my father did all these portraits beacuse he was so interested in the characters. He looked up to the authors and characters he did portraits of, they really inspired him."
Kohler's literary influences include Joyce, Beckett, Woolf, Miller; classic French authors; he was also inspired by Russian authors, some of whose portraits will be among those at the exhibit. As well as being an avid reader, Kohler also wrote, though he never published.
Kohler completed well over one hundred works, including two self-portraits - one from Capri in 1980, and one from his time at the Swedish Royal Art Academy in 1945-51. Henry recalls growing up in the Kohler household: "We had a typical artistic childhood, with a lot of classical music, red wine and Ingmar Bergman movies!"
27 of Kohler's author portraits will be on display from January 10 until late March at Robarts library. You can learn more about Carl Kohler and his works at www.carlkohler.com.