Kupka …Pioneer of Abstraction

The Grand Palais revisits the work of Czech painter and graphic artist František Kupka (1871–1957) one of the pioneers of abstract painting and Orphic Cubism. Kupka’s abstract works arose from a base of realism, but later evolved into pure abstraction. The retrospective traces Kupka’s career from his early Paris press illustrations of the 1890’s to his symbolist experiments to his final abstract paintings during the 1950’s (until July 30, 2018) The exhibition will be presented at the National Gallery in Prague next fall and then at the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki in 2019.

Much of Kupka’s work —driven by an existential quest— was informed by his interest in philosophy, ancient and Eastern cultures, religions, poetry and science. Before moving to Paris in 1896 he trained with the so-called “Nazarene” artists in Prague and Vienna who wanted to create work that could affect viewers similar to the experience of listening to religious music. In 1906, he settled in Puteaux, a suburb of Paris, and that same year exhibited for the first time at the Salon d’Autome. Kupka was impressed by the first Futurist Manifesto, published in 1909 in Le Figaro. His 1909 painting “Piano Keyboard/Lake” (in the exhibition) marked a break in his representational style. His work became increasingly abstract around 1910-11, reflecting his theories of motion, color and the relationship between music and painting. He said “It seems unnecessary to paint trees when people see more beautiful ones on the way to the exhibition.”

Combining a chronological and thematic approach the exhibition chronicles Kupka’s path from symbolism to abstraction with paintings, drawings, etchings, manuscripts, newspapers, illustrated books and photographs. It features key moments of the artist’s creative life including his symbolist masterpieces, his first Parisian expressionist portraits, the cycle of organic color-saturated paintings and his final geometric abstractions. The exhibition also includes some less well-known episodes such as his “Machinist” period in the late 1920s.

Kupka,, Pioneer de l’Abstraction, to July 30, 2018, Grand Palais, Paris