Raoul De Keyser, 1930-2012


Belgian painter Raoul De Keyser died Friday at age 82. He created sparse, gestural abstract paintings, often small in scale, marked by shapes that are not easily identifiable and using a very limited palette.

Born in 1930 in Deinze, Belgium, De Keyser studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in that city in 1963-64. He worked as a sports journalist and served as an administrative assistant at Ghent University before turning to an artistic career, and gained significant notice after his inclusion in the 1992 Documenta in Kassel, Germany.

In his 2009 A.i.A. article “Provisional Painting,” Raphael Rubinstein classed De Keyser among one of the recent practitioners of “works that look casual, dashed-off, tentative, unfinished or self-cancelling.”

“In truth,” Rubinstein wrote, “when you encounter a De Keyser it doesn’t take too much imagination to attribute it to an amateur painter having a try at abstraction after seeing reproductions somewhere of paintings by Clyfford Still and Jean Arp.”

Most of De Keyser’s major exhibitions took place in Europe, including a 2009 paintings retrospective at the Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany; and a paintings survey that traveled in 2004 and 2005 to the Whitechapel Gallery, London; Musée de Rochechouart, France; De Pont Museum for Contemporary Art, Tilburg, The Netherlands; Museu Serralves, Porto, Portugal; and the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland.

His work is included in many major museum collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.