Monday, April 16, 2018

František Kupka

František Kupka (1871-1957) was a Czech artist who spent most of his adult life in Paris. During his long career he painted in many different styles. The works you are mostly likely to see online are symbolist paintings and engravings done around 1900; this is one of two works titled The Path of Silence, 1903.

Kupka trained at the Academy of Painting in Prague; according to the biographies at the Guggenheim and Centre Pompidou his early works were historical scenes in a realistic style. I suppose they look like this, A Papal Ceremony, which is dated 1904.

But certainly the first famous works are the Symbolist pieces. The Black Idol (Resistance), 1903.

Babylon, 1906. These were painted in Paris, where Kupka moved in 1896.

During his first decade in Paris Kupka did all sorts of illustration work, especially satirical pieces for left-wing publications. Money, 1902.

Kupka became a famous artist because of his involvement in the creation of Abstraction. He started working in this vein around 1910. Localization of Graphic Motifs, 1912.

There's a lecture in French on the Pompidou Center web site that argues the real aim of these early abstractions was telepathy:
Many pioneers of abstraction considered non-objective painting as a transitional step before the more radical solution of a direct transmission of emotions, "spirit-to-mind."
Study for the Language of Verticals, 1910-1912.

Kupka was certainly a highly spiritual man, into Anthroposophy and other cults as well as orthodox Catholicism, and many abstract painters aimed to bypass the rational brain and communicate directly with the subconscious. But whether Kupka really believe art might eventually evolve into telepathy I cannot tell you. Form of Blue B I, c. 1925.

Divertimento I, 1935.

Kupka continued to experiment with new approaches throughout his career; this is one of a series of paintings he based on machinery, Machine Drill, c. 1928.

A fascinating little look at the history of art in the Modern era.

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