What was the reason for this? That he, even while living in France, remained a Czech for everyone — his own, but not completely? Either the fact that he chose not to join any associations (Guillaume Apollinaire, for example, ranked him among the orphists, but Kupka decisively refused), remaining a lifelong loner who suffered from the persecution mania?Or maybe the damned communism is to blame? After all, after the accession of communists in Czechoslovakia in 1948, they preferred not to remember the Kupka in their homeland, and after the great exhibition of 1946 organized by the Union of Czech Artists "Manes", it was only started talking about twenty years later, during the Czech "thaw", before entering Soviet tanks. Then, in the late 60s, Lyudmila Vakhtova wrote a monograph on Kupka. In 1989 in France, where Frantisek Kupka lived most of his life, the first large personal exhibition of the artist was held. It happened in the Paris Museum of Modern Art (not in the one at the Georges Pompidou Center, but in the one from which in 2010 the paintings of Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Braque and Leger were stolen). After the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, Czech collectors, the founders of the Kampa Museum, Jan and Med Mladek exhibited several iconic works of Kupka in their museum. So the current exhibition, which opened on September 7 in Wallenstein Manege, the main exhibition hall of the National Gallery in Prague, is the first attempt in the last thirty years to show the creative legacy of Frantisek Kupka in all its diversity. Works for this exhibition, which before the Czech capital was shown in the Paris Grand Palais, are provided by many museum and private collections in Europe and the USA.Without any doubt. František Kupka was one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century. A wonderful draftsman, caricaturist, pioneer of abstract painting, who, like Malevich and Kandinsky, based his work in the book Creation in Plastic Arts. Art Nouveau, symbolism Symbolism (fr. Symbolisme) - the direction of art, which is reflected in painting, literature and music. It originated in France in the 1870s-80s and later spread to Belgium, Norway and the Russian Empire. The peak of popularity reached at the turn of the XІХ-XX centuries. Sadness, introspection, understatement are inherent in the symbolism: as if the author came into quiet despair, but he was ashamed to talk about these feelings, so he painted them. Read further, FauvismFovism is considered the very first avant-garde style of the twentieth century. This direction received its name in 1905 and existed for only a couple of years, after which the artists who called themselves Fauvists, each went deeper into their own creative explorations. The brightest representatives of this style are Henri Matisse, Andre Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck. To read further, OrphismOrphism (fr. Orphisme) was invented by Robert Delaunay, because within the framework of cubism he was close. The ability to experiment with the form of Delone attracted much less than playing with light and color. The characteristic features of Orphism are concentric circles and disks of contrasting colors, creating a sense of movement and rhythm. Orphist paintings are written either on the plane, or represent the intersection of different planes. Read further, abstraction - everything that he undertook came out perfectly from him. Even if Kupka had remained a symbolist, his name would have entered the history of art. But he was not enough. He sought truth in art, searched for himself and discovered more and more new worlds.Self-portraitFranishek Kupka1905MoneyFranteshek Kupka1899, 81 × 81 cmIn the biography of Kupka many mysterious. At the age of thirteen he was assigned to training for the saddle master Josef Šiška. The master taught him spiritualism at the same time, and Kupka was interested all his life in connections with the other world and continued to conduct seance sessions, already living in Austria and in France. During his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, his teacher was Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, a naturist, a pacifist and organizer of the commune Himmelhof, whose members lived in accordance with the rules developed by Diefenbach. Kupka also spent some time at Himmelhof. He also had the amazing ability to be at the right time at the right place. Having already moved to France, he settled in Montmartre, on Kolenkur Street, and his neighbor was Jacques Villon, Marcel Duchamp's elder brother. When Kupka moved to Pütto, a suburb of Paris in 1906, where he would live until the end of his life, it was there that Pütö Group (the Golden Section) was formed, which included Francis Picabia and Fernand Leger, Alba Glez and Jean Metzenge, Marcel Duchamp and the Jacques Villon, in whose apartment the artists gathered. Again, Villon turns out to be Kupka’s neighbor.
It was the work of Marcel Duchamp "Nude, descending the stairs" (1912), criticized by the group members, had a strong influence on Kupka and was the impetus for the creation of his pivotal, key work Amorph. Fugue in two colors ”, presented in the same 1912 at the Autumn Salon in Paris. Of course, Kupka’s painting, which became the first abstract work shown in public, was also criticized.Amorph. Fugue in two colors by Frante Kupka1912, 41 × 47 cmA. The first work exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1899 was the Biblioman, performed on the verge of impressionism and symbolism.BibliomanFranishek Kupka1897From the iconic symbolist works presented at the exhibition - “Ballad. Joy of life ”, portrait Portrait is a realistic genre depicting a person or a group of people who exist in reality. The portrait - in the French reading - portrait, from the old French portraire - "reproduce something line in line." Another facet of the name of the portrait lies in the outdated word "parsuna" - from the Latin. persona - "person; person". To read further on his two beloved ones, Maria Brun, a fashion designer from Denmark, who left him a legacy in Vienna, which allowed him to rent a studio in Montmartre, and a French model, Gabriel; as well as the work "Autumn Sun", first shown at the Autumn Salon in 1906.Ballad of Epona. JoyFrantišek Kupka1900Autumn sun, three goddesses Francois Kupka1906, 54 × 65 cm The artist's interest in the basic elements of the composition and geometrization of natural forms is clearly visible in the work “Water (Bathers)”, dated 1906−1909. In 1911 at the Autumn Salon Kupka shows several works made in the neo-Fauvist manner. This is the "Family Portrait", which depicts the artist's wife, Eugene-Cecilia Straube, and her daughter Adriana, as well as "The Big Nude". This is still figurative work, but it is only one step away from the “Women in Triangles” shown at the Salon of Independent in 1912, which became an important step towards abstraction. These works are the artist's reaction to the latest scientific discoveries in radiology and chronophotography.
One of the most important works was the work of 1909 “Piano Keys. The Lake ”- it also clearly shows the artist’s search for the transition from figurative to non-figurative painting.Bather Franzishek Kupka1907, 63 × 80 cmFamily portraitFrantišek Kupka1910, 103 × 112 cmReclining NudeFranties Kupka1910, 150 × 180 cmAfter the audience was presented “Amorph. Fugue in two colors "and" Amorph. Warm chromatic, Frantisek Kupka does not return to figurative painting. Some of his works of that time are very close to what the Delone spouses are doing, but then he finds his way and goes through it to the end.Piano keys (Lake) Frantisek Kupka1909, 72 × 78 cmIn 1914, Frantisek Kupka volunteered to the front, enrolling in the Foreign Legion, where he rose to the rank of captain, despite the fact that he was at that time a subject of Austria-Hungary. He did not become a French citizen, after 1918 and until the end of his life he remained a citizen of Czechoslovakia. Kupka actively participated in the creation of the Czechoslovak Legion in France, and in 1918, at the personal request of Tomas Masaryk, developed a military uniform and decals for soldiers of the young Czechoslovak state.
In 1919, he became an extraordinary professor at the Czechoslovak Academy of Arts, studying with students in France in his studio (and not only) on Thursdays during the 1920s and 30s. Jan Zrzawa, Vincent Makovski, Josef Shima visited the local cafe “Bonapart” on “Thursdays”.Then, in 1919, Frantisek Kupka met Jindrich Valdés, the owner of KOH-I-NOOR, who will become his main patron of the arts for many years. Valdez has collected a significant collection of works by the artist. Interestingly, Kupka was too proud to take money directly. Therefore, Valdez was inventing other ways, such as betting. There was a case when Valdez and Kupka argued about whether Kupka’s wife would eat a whole onion in one sitting. She did not eat, and Valdez lost a tidy sum.
In his abstract works, Kupka created new Universes, new worlds. He believed that the task of the master was to try to find visible analogs of a different, more important reality in the material world, to try to portray those types that in the visible world become images. From 1913 to 1928, Kupka worked on a large series of canvases Horizontal and Vertical Plans, and from 1925 to 1935 he was fond of compositions composed of machine-like structures and their fragments — this period was called machinism at the exhibition.Yellow verticals Franzishek Kupka1913, 70 × 70 cmMusicFrantek Kupka1932, 85 × 93 cmThe mechanismFrantesch Kupka1928, 75 × 85 cmIn 1921, his first personal exhibition "Painting: White and Black" is held in the Paris gallery Povolozky. In 1931 he became a member of the "Abstraction-Creativity" group. In 1936, an important exhibition of the works of Kupka and Alfons Mucha took place in Paris. In the same year, three of his works were selected for the exhibition of abstract and cubistic painting in MoMA.
After World War II, when Delaunay and Kandinsky left life, Kupka remained the only recognized master of abstractionism, and his paintings were regularly exhibited at the Paris Salon of New Realities.Only in 1951, when the artist turned eighty, he first signed a contract with the gallery owner. They became Louis Carre, who in the same year showed the work of Kupka in his gallery in New York.
František Kupka died in 1957. The artist was 85 years old. In life he was known, respected, secured. But his real place among other great artists of the 20th century is realized only now. The exhibition in the Wallenstein Manege will last until January 20, 2019. After this, the work of one of the greatest masters of abstract painting can be seen in Helsinki. Arthiv: read us in the Telegram and look at Instagram
The author of the text and photo: Yevgeny Demenok.
The title illustration: a fragment of the painting by Frantisek Kupka “Colored planes”.