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Narcissus, Hans Feibusch

Blue toned painting of a young man with dark curly hair completely absorbed in looking at his reflection in an unseen pool at the bottom of the painting.

Hans Feibusch, Narcissus, 1946, Oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Presented by the Artist, 1997) © By Permission of the The Werthwhile Foundation

At a glance

Artist: Hans Feibusch

Date: 1946

Materials: Oil on canvas

Acquisition: Presented by the Artist (1997)

This painting by Hans Feibusch is an interpretation of the Greek myth of Narcissus. Narcissus was a young man who was renowned for his extraordinary beauty. He rejected all romantic advances, including the mountain nymph Echo, until one day he saw his reflection in a pool of water and fell in love with himself. This unrequited love led to his death. Unable to leave the water’s edge and his reflection, he eventually died of starvation. On the ground where he died a flower grew which bore his name. A narcissus flower is a small daffodil that can be seen growing in British gardens during spring.

Feibusch was a German artist of Jewish heritage who studied art in Munich, Berlin and Paris, where he trained with the cubist artist André Lhote. He fought in the First World War for the German Army on the Russian front between 1916 and 1918. When the Nazi party came to power in 1933, Feibusch immigrated to Britain where he remained for the rest of his life. In 1937, four years after Feibusch left Germany, his work was included in the infamous ‘Entartete Kunst’ or ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition – an exhibition made up of largely modern art which was purged from German museums and public collections, and deemed offensive to Nazi ideals. Although Feibusch’s art was relatively conservative, his work was included because he was Jewish.

Feibusch joined the London Group in 1934, a group of modern artists that formed from the merging of the Camden Town Group and the Fitzroy Street Group, with the aim of offering exhibiting opportunities to artists outside of the Royal Academy.

Feibusch is best known for his wall murals which adorn the interiors of several churches in Britain – a number of which are in Sussex. It is possible to identify many of the qualities of his large-scale paintings in the bold use of colour and the strong modelling of the figure in this work. The subject of Narcissus is typical of the introspection of much post-war art.

In the 1960s, Feibusch converted to Christianity and then in his final years reverted back to Judaism. He believed that faith transcended religious groups; ‘that the chaos of life is only bearable with the faith of spiritual direction, irrespective of a specific religious community.’ Feibusch died four weeks before his 100th birthday.