An exhibition of work by the major Czech modernist painter František Kupka has just got underway at the National Gallery in Prague. Entitled František Kupka 1871–1957, it is the first retrospective of the artist’s work since the 1989 exhibition in Paris and covers his entire career, from symbolism to abstraction.
The exhibition at Prague’s Waldstein Riding School includes Kupka’s early pieces from the 1890s as well as the non-figurative artworks of the 1950s, including his most famous picture, ‘Fugue in Two Colours’, from 1912.
The show is divided into five sections and allows viewers to follow the artist’s evolution from symbolism to abstraction, of which Kupka was one of the main pioneers. Anna Pravdová is the exhibition’s curator:
“Unlike the 2012 Kupka show, entitled ‘The Journey to Amorpha’, which focused on the artist’s early work, this exhibition displays his entire oeuvre and covers all stages and aspects of his work.”
All in all, visitors can see some 300 artworks from the National Gallery in Prague as well as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Albertina Museum in Vienna.
Along with his major pieces, the exhibition will also present Kupka as a satirical artist and brilliant illustrator and will highlight his taste for philosophy, religion, science, poetry and ancient and oriental cultures.
František Kupka, who spent most of his life in Paris and is buried at the Pere Lachaise cemetery, is one of the most respected Czech artists abroad, but according to Pravdová, Czechs have discovered the work with a certain delay:
“Although Kupka is probably the best-known Czech painter in the world, he wasn’t widely known in Czechoslovakia during the totalitarian regime and he wasn’t spoken about.
The Czech National Gallery has prepared the project in cooperation with colleagues from France and Finland. Before going on display in Prague, it was showcased at the Grand Palais in Paris, attracting around 230,000 visitors.
Brigitte Leal was the curator of the French exhibition:
“You could see that people in Paris were fascinated by Kupka’s work, because it reflects the complete freedom of expression, which was still common at the start of the 20th century. It was not a taboo subject, like it is today.
“By the way, Charlie Hebdo has issued an edition dedicated to Kupka’s caricatures. It was great, because it reminded us that freedom of expression is something essential and artists, whatever their opinions are, should be protected at all costs.”
The Kupka exhibition will be on display at Prague’s Waldstein Riding School until January 2019 before moving to Helsinki.
Meanwhile, the National Gallery is preparing several other projects for the upcoming season, including a major exhibition of Czech artists in Brittany, scheduled to go on display in November.