There’s no need to go to Paris to see the paintings of František Kupka, one of the most famous Czech artists and also a founder of modern abstract art. The autumn exhibition in the Wallenstein Riding School presents Kupka’s works as a whole, ranging from his early works from the 1890s up to his abstract works from the 1950s. Until now these paintings could only be seen in the Grand Palais in Paris; the exhibition will visit Helsinki in 2019.
František Kupka, Amorpha, and the Year 1912František Kupka (1871–1957) was a Czech artist and graphic designer of global significance, and a founder and pioneer of abstract art. Despite his roots, his connection to the Czech Republic later in his life are negligible: he was born and studied in Bohemia for a relatively short time before leaving to Vienna, then travelling to Paris in 1895. He spent most of his life in Puteaux, a Parisian suburb, and he is buried at the Père-Lachaise Cemetery.
Kupka’s exhibitions have been organised quite regularly in recent years; in particular, the exhibition in the Salm Palace in Prague, entitled The Journey to Amorpha – Kupka’s Salons 1899–1913, received a great response. With this show, the National Gallery commemorated the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Parisian Autumn Salon in 1912, where Kupka showed his two of his works, Amorpha, Fugue in Two Colours, and Amorpha, Warm Chromatic, and in so doing marked the year as the birth of abstract painting. Both works can still be found in the Czech Republic: the former is owned by the National Gallery, the latter by Museum Kampa at Malá Strana. These museums, as well as others around the country, hold distinct collections of Kupka’s other paintings and studies. The reconstructed building that formerly housed Sova’s Mills on the romantic island of Kampa also has an extensive collection of works by František Kupka, alongside the works of cubist sculptor Otto Gutfreund.
From Paris to PragueThe exhibition of Kupka’s paintings in the Grand Palais in Paris lasted from March through July of 2018, and over 230 thousand visitors saw it. From 7 September to 20 January, the same exhibition on František Kupka (1871–1957) will be presented in Prague’s Wallenstein Riding School. The National Gallery in Prague opened the exhibition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia. You can see paintings there that have never before been displayed in the Czech Republic. For the first time in too long, Prague once again is able to show all stages and aspects of the entire body of Kupka’s work .
The exhibition comprises oil paintings, works on paper, printed materials, and documentary materials organised chronologically, comprehensively mapping the artist’s journey from symbolism to abstraction, as well as other important topics of his lifetime. Included are see Kupka’s symbolist paintings and first expressionist portraits, his satirical drawings and illustrations, works drawn from the collections of the National Gallery in Prague, Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Albertina in Vienna. In spring 2019, the Kupka exhibition, with some modifications, will be displayed in the Ateneum in Helsinki.
Did you know that…?František Kupka was born in the small town of Opočno in East Bohemia in 1871 and lived in Dobruška near the Orlické Mountains. His first works of art are displayed in the Dobruška town hall at F. L. Věk Square, and there is a commemorative plaque on House No. 323 opposite the church in Fr. Kupky Street stating that the artist lived there between 1872 and 1889.
Kupka’s works are very popular among collectors. The most expensive of his abstract paintings was sold for more than 60 million Czech crowns, and his older paintings in general are usually priced above 10 million Czech crowns. The prices of his works on paper are also increasing: a pastel and a watercolour by Kupka were sold in Christie’s auction house in London for the equivalent of one million Czech crowns each in February 2018.
The exhibition of the works by František Kupka, The Journey to Amorpha – Kupka’s Salons 1899–1913 in 2012 was the first exposition to be held in the Salm Palace, which the National Gallery had just opened as a new exhibition space. At present, the opening of a similar centre for contemporary art in cooperation with Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) is under way.