Notebook

Cosmic Art by Piper/Piper/Swann (published 1975)

EMIL BISTTRAM

The artist must be a philosopher, a psychologist, a student through his entire life. The search for knowledge, not only of one's craft but of one's self and the world around, is necessary to his growth and to the maturity of his art.

 

 Emil Bisttram,  Oversoul , c. 1941, oil on masonite, 36" x 27"   Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York

Emil Bisttram, Oversoul, c. 1941, oil on masonite, 36" x 27"

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York

 Emil Bisttram,  Cosmic Egg Series no. 1 (Creative Forces)  , c. 1936, oil on canvas, 36" x 27"   Private Collection   Bisttram considered this one of his most important works. 

Emil Bisttram, Cosmic Egg Series no. 1 (Creative Forces) , c. 1936, oil on canvas, 36" x 27" 

Private Collection

Bisttram considered this one of his most important works. 

[images and words sourced from emil-bisttram.com]

Emil Bisttram’s artistic career is of special interest because of the fascinating array of spiritual, philosophical, and scientific traditions he brought to bear on his painting.  Profoundly spiritual and convinced that all intellectual disciplines lead to divine truth, Bisttram enriched his compositions with references to such varied subjects as electricity, rebirth, the growth of plants, the healing power of the dance, planetary forces, the fourth dimension, and the male and female principles of nature.

Bisttram’s essential goal in building his compositions, however, was personal redemption.  For Bisttram, dividing space on a blank sheet of paper replicated such proportional divisions as were made by the Creator when He separated day from night, and earth from water.  Bisttram’s essential belief was that harmony was proportional, and that making harmonious, proportional divisions on a sheet of paper was a productive, life-giving, redemptive enterprise that combated negativity and disharmony.

The manner that Bisttram used to proportionally divide his compositions was dynamic symmetry, a method of picture composition based on Euclidean geometry developed by Jay Hambidge (1867-1924).  Bisttram used dynamic symmetry for the structure of his representational, abstract (cubist and futurist), and transcendental (non-objective) compositions.  For Bisttram, dynamic symmetry functioned as a compass that guided him through the many stylistic experiments he undertook, and provides the essential coherency for his work as a whole.