František Kupka: the birth of abstraction

František Kupka: the birth of abstraction

In the footsteps of the founder of abstract art František Kupka

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No other name of Czech origin resonates in the world in terms of modern art as strongly as that of František Kupka (1871–1957). One of the most important painters of the last century, globally acclaimed yet almost unknown in his own country, nowadays ranks among the artists whose works break records in the auction houses. The reason for this is simple: abstract art represents one of the key themes in the history of art of the 20th century and František Kupka is one of its founders. A large exhibition of his work is currently underway in the Salma Palace in Prague in Hradčany.

František Kupka was born in 1871 in the East Bohemia town of Opočno, but spent his youth in the nearby Dobruška – and it is precisely here, in the collections of the Homeland Museum, that Kupka’s earliest works are to be found. They constitute part of the permanent museum exhibition entitled The Youth of František Kupka.

From Vienna to Paris…

Kupka studied in Bohemia only briefly; he left for Vienna and from there travelled to Paris in 1895. In the city on the Seine, he soon made his name as a draughtsman, caricaturist and illustrator. Although Kupka’s path to abstract painting took more than a decade, the background to this was created by the most inspirational artistic environment of that time. In 1912, he exhibited the pictures Study for Amorpha, Fugue in Two Colours and Study for Amorpha, Warm Chromatics at the Autumn Salon, works which were of fundamental importance for the birth of abstract art. In them, the painter abandoned the traditional world of figures and objects and set out into the unexplored unknown, where the leading role is played only by colours, their strength and shapes, movement, mutual relations, harmony and composition.

Kupka’s “Amorpha” is one of the important milestones in abstract art – the others are works by Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian. It is precisely these four who are usually regarded as the founders of abstract painting – and so it was that the very first public presentation of abstract art was held in the Parisian Autumn Salon in 1912.

…and from Paris to Kampa

František Kupka is buried in a columbarium in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, so you really will have a long way to go to pay tribute to his memory, but a collection of his works constitutes one of the basic pillars of the Jan and Meda Mládek Collection. You can view the collection of 250 studies, drawings and pictures, which is one of the most comprehensive of its type in the world and has an almost inestimable value, in Museum Kampa housed in Sova’s Mills on Kampa island in Prague. Meda Mládková first met Kupka in person during her studies of the history of art in Paris in 1955 and from that time onwards became a passionate collector of his works. Nowadays, no large show of the artist’s work can get by without borrowing studies and pictures from her collection. You can discover mote of Kupka’s works in the Gallery of Modern Art in Hradec Králové and also of course in the National Gallery in Prague, in the Exhibition Palace.

The unique exhibition can only be viewed until 3 March

The exhibition of the currently most highly acclaimed Czech artist František Kupka commemorates the 100th anniversary of the artist’s presentation at the Autumn Salon in Paris in 1912. From amongst his most famous works, you can see here Fugue in Two Colours and Warm Chromatics. The exhibition František Kupka: Path to Amorpha. Kupka’s salons 1899–1913 in the Salma Palace presents the path which led to the abstract art of F. Kupka, and illustrates this using specific works of art. Thus, you have the possibility for a short while until 3 March 2013 to see the birth of abstract art in the works of František Kupka literally step by step.

At the exhibition, you can also visit the scientific and artistic laboratory – space set aside for children and adults to perform experiments. You will discover the relationships between the pictures of František Kupka and the physical principles of the world and enjoy the synthesis of art and technology, reason and emotion.