Thursday, 22 April 2010

Frantisek Kupka (1871- 1957), Czech painter and graphic artist

In one sense, the invention of photography (1839) had a tremendous influence on the history of painting since it provided a means by which the real world might be recorded. While some artists actually used photography to record the detail and the incident that could be transferred to the painting medium, others saw photography as the instrument of their liberation. Since light could be divided into the colours of the prism, colours were seen as the constituents of light itself, and new emphasis was placed on colour rather than tone (light and dark). From the early 20th century. color reigned supreme and invaded the contours of recognizable objects with the brilliant patterns of fauvism (1905–8), dominated by Matisse and Rouault in France, the orphism of Robert Delaunay and Frank Kupka, and the explosive hues of the German group Die Brücke, with its members such as Kirchner and Nolde.
The earliest painters who are recognized today as the pioneers of abstraction were Frantisek Kupka (along with K.Malevich) and Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944).Both were interested in spiritualism and transformed color into a completely abstract art, absolutely divorced from subject matter. Kupka, in his passionate quest for light and movement, exhibited "non-objective compositions" as early as in 1910 and continued exploring the newly discovered world for several following decades. His mature works contributed much to the foundations of purely abstract painting in the 20th century,
Frantisek Kupka was born in 1871, in Opocno in eastern Bohemia . He studied at the Prague art academy and. Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna.He concentrated on historical and patriotic themes, symbolic and allegorical subjects.He was involved with theosophy and Eastern philosophy (also extensively red philosophers such as Kant, Shoppenhauer and Nietzsche) and worked as a medium himself. By1896, Kupka had settled in Paris ; there he attended the Académie Julian and Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He worked as an illustrator of books and posters in the beginning and became known for his satirical drawings for newspapers and magazines. In 1906, he settled in Puteaux and that same year exhibited for the first time at the Salon d’Automne.
He was deeply impressed by the first Futurist manifesto, published in 1909 in Le Figaro and in his early years in Paris, he was a next-door neighbor to Jacques Villon,( modernist painter and Marcel Duchamp’s brother) and attended regular Sunday meetings in his home with some other artists.Yet his Bohemian origins, mysticism,eccentric and narcissistic personality kept him at a distance from the avant-garde circles of the artistic capital. His work shows undeniable affinities with Fauvism, the work of Henri Matisse, as well as with Orphism but in a highly inventive manner, Kupka combined many modern trends including futurism and cubism to create his own idea of abstraction. Kupka´s abstract works reflect his theories of motion, color, and the relationship between music and painting with cosmic themes and rhythms, intersecting arabesques, rectilinear vertical planes. In 1912, he exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in the Cubist room, although he did not wish to be identified with any movement( he had also denied all institutions that he studied in) and wrote a book on his theories “La creation dans les Arts Plastiques”in 1913 (first published in 1923).
In 1931, he was a founding member of Abstraction-Création together with Jean Arp, Albert Gleizes, Jean Hélion, Auguste Herbin, Theo van Doesburg, and Georges Vantongerloo. In 1936, his work was included in the exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art at the Museum of Modern Art , New York , and in an important show with Alphonse Mucha at the Jeu de Paume, Paris . The same year, Kupka participated in the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, Paris, where he continued to exhibit regularly until his death. During the early 1950s, he gained general recognition and had several solo shows in New York . Kupka died in Puteaux on June 24, 1957.
Beginning of the abstract painting: “ Newton Discs. Study for a Fugue in two Colors”1911-2,(oil on canvas, 49,5/65 cm, Musée National d Art Moderne Centre George Pompidou, Paris)
To 'abstract' means to draw away from, to separate, not to refer to something particular anymore. A movement of conscious and methodical destruction of particular and recognizable in appearance. Artistic elimination of rational visual association. In a way it is synthetical purification and intensification of colors, forms and ideas that leads to creation of artwork that either resembles a direct print of a soul that refused to undergo rational filters of mind or a quasi-scientific, almost mathematical picture that looks so rational it's difficult to believe how irrational it actually is.
For Kupka “. There is a much bigger and more exciting world of art than realism, and with a little education, anyone can enjoy it. This is because he strives to find scientific and theoretical basis for his work such as experimented from 1909 on with ways of rendering figures in motion inspired by high-speed photography.
In fact, his inspiration had two basic sources. One was music, the other one could be traced to science.1905, he began attending lectures of mathematics, biology, physics and physiology at the Sorbonne, including lectures by H. Poincare. Some suggest that his canvases give a similar aesthetical impression of modern quantum mechanics graphical results.
Concerning color, he had a strong interest in color theory; around 1910 he began developing his own color wheels, adapting a format previously explored by Sir Isaac Newton and Hermann von Helmholtz.
This in turn led Kupka to execute a series of paintings he called "Discs of Newton" (1911-12). Kupka was interested in freeing colors from descriptive associations. He said “I do not think it is necessary to paint trees, as people on their way to the exhibition can see better ones in reality, I do paint but I paint only the conception, the synthesis: if you like, the chords"
A new non-objective artistic language, based on harmony and rhythm made explicit his belief that abstract colour, like music, is capable of evoking profound feeling. In these abstract forms, the sounds evolve like veritable physical entities, intertwine, come and go, like the rhythmic patterns of a fugue.
Besides intersection of primary colors,Kupka’s white segments may refer to mixing all colors to make white in a spinning disc.
Shapes are generated in space through a geometric structure which maintains the principle of the picture's melody.It is also expressing a motif from the inner self of the artist and not from the perceived world. He said. "In our inner visions, fragments of images float before our eyes. Unconsciously, we trace lines between them, so that having a net of relations built, we perceive it as a coherent whole. Such lines, drawn to organise our visions, are like stereoscopic bridges between fragments in space".
His work in this area, especially starting with “Discs of Newton” is thought to have influenced other artists like Robert Delaunay (in his similar Disks 1912 )and Orphism and are considered the earliest exponents of curvilinear pure abstraction.
A devoted mystic, Kupka spent his life in search of a transcendental other reality, or “fourth dimension.” One of the first non-objective artists, he extended his clairvoyant practice to his art as well, by uniting a metaphysical investigation of the human body and nature with daring color and abstract form.

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