Following brilliant studies in Prague, Frantisek Kupka became interested in spiritualism and made his living as a medium.
He then enrolled at the Vienna Academy (1892), joining the Theosophical circles, and was divided between portraits and symbolism.
After a trip to London and Scandinavia, he emigrated to Paris in 1896 and moved to Montmartre, close to his compatriot Mucha. He took classes at the Académie Julian and at the School of Fine Arts (1897), and participated in the universal exhibition of 1900, among the Austrians. At the beginning of the century, he sent drawings to the satirical newspaper “Assiette au beurre”.
In 1906, Jacques Villon convinced him to settle in Puteaux like him. The same year, he met Marcel Duchamp. First influenced by impressionism and Odilon Redon’s palette, Kupka moved towards fauvism, expressionism and orphism and participated in the Golden Section. He followed the latest contemporary scientific discoveries with interest. Piano keys resulted in a painting with vertical planes. Then a series of compositions followed “Around a point” (1911) and “Newton’s discs”.
His first personal exhibition was held in Paris in 1922 while he was appointed Professor at the School of Fine Arts in Prague. The following year, he published his main theoretical work, “Creation in plastic art”.
In 1926, he met Van Doesburg and published ‘Four stories of white and black’, an album of wood engravings. In1931 he joined Abstraction-Creation. After a series of paintings on the theme of machines (around 1927), music inspired others, including Jazz Hot no. 1 (1936).
In 1951, he signed his first contract with the Louis Carré Gallery. His role as a pioneer of abstraction was only fully recognized after his death, thanks to major exhibitions including the retrospective organized in 1958 by the national Museum of Modern Art of the city of Paris. He is the master of the orphism, a term coined by Apollinaire to characterise the purely chromatic lyricism of the colours. Kupka was convinced that painting should be as abstract as music.
Pioneer of abstraction
Grand Palais – Galeries Nationales, Paris
From March 21st to July 30th 2018
This retrospective is a journey back to Kupka’s entire career from the 19th Century up to the post-war era. It sheds light on the steps leading to his transformation from symbolism to abstraction.
A discovery of his artistic path, over 300 paintings, drawings, engravings, books and documents.
Video by Grand Palais, on YouTube (in french)