I was always suspicious of Galerie Moderna on the embankment behind the National theatre and Goethe Institute .Since it is a commercial gallery I always saw mostly works on paper by established modern Czech artists such as Lhoták or Jiří Kolář.As they never seemed to change very much I just assumed that that was their business, selling safe mid to high price art by sought after artists to locals eager to have some socially approved works in their possession.
|Image courtesy of:http://www.galeriemoderna.cz/cz/|
While recently visiting after a long time I was still confronted with an album of lithographs and prints by familiar artists but at the same time I was treated to a nice exhibition of Frantisek Kupka’s work.Till the last week of February the gallery is showing works on paper by Kupka spanning more than 50 years of his career from the turn of the century to the late 1950’s.The only decade missing are the 40’s but that does not detract from a good overview of the artists evolution and output.I had previously only seen Frantisek Kupka’s paintings in big museums such as the national gallery or Museum Kampa which tend to predominantly display his big works on canvas which gained him fame.
|Orange Circle (Cercle orangé),1945–46|
Image courtesy of:http://www.guggenheim.org
The works in Galerie Moderna are very small in comparison and show a very different side of his oeuvre. Although he has always been presented as an isolated abstract artist who worked mostly with bright colors and curves; this is an opportunity to see his less known works. An interesting point that came to mind while look around was the fact that he was influenced by the aesthetic movements sand changes which were taking place around him. In part this might have been due to his work as a commercial artists and illustrator who needed a steady source of income aside from his ‘’real” art.
|Black and white 1926|
His works before the WWI are magazine illustrations and works which give the impression of fin de siècle Paris the way we know it from popular images of the Moulin Rouge. By 1919 he was still commercially producing images with a Victorian nostalgia for historical exoticism of fictional maidens in ancient Egypt being cooled by ostrich feathers. It is only in the 1920’s that we begin to see a change in his works as his images become more geometric and angular .The decades following the Great War see his work become abstract with sharp lines and less color. Black and white alone enters his palette and stay there till the end of his life. By the late 50’s his works as seen in the show were all planes and verticals, very well balanced simple works. The 1930’s showed further signs of bold semicircular geometry as though he was reworking his most famous painting from before WWI but in a simplified more understandable way.
|Black and white1926|
This little exhibition is well work seeing as one gets a better perspective on some of his later works which make him a much more contemporary artist than I have always assumed. His artistic journey was on from chaos to serenity.
|František Kupka, Contrasts Series (IV?) (Série contrastes [IV?]), 1935–46|
Image courtesy of:http://www.guggenheim.org/