Kupka: the rehabilitation of the inventor of abstraction who wanted to transcribe the sounds of Bach in painting

 

Kupka

In his youth, before earning his living as a painter, he taught drawing but he also worked as a psychic medium. This is a way of situating the figure of Frantisek Kupka, born in 1871 into a modest family from Bohemia, who would spend most his life in France developing various aesthetic styles and evading fame.

It was this visionary, this endearing recluse, who one fine day in 1911 moved from representation to abstraction in painting.

Kupka

He was, therefore, one of the very first artists to get rid of the idea of a figurative subject.

The Grand Palais in Paris is dedicating a spectacular retrospective to him composed of nearly 300 artworks, curated by the deputy director of the Centre Pompidou, Brigitte Leal.

Kupka

She explains why Kupka is so important:

 

Kupka

In 1913 Kupka revealed:

“I am still feeling around in the darkness, but I believe I can find something in between sight and hearing, and I can produce a fugue of colours like Bach did with music.”

Kupka

Herein lies his secret. His pictorial oeuvre, after having flirted with symbolism, sought to transcribe, at least in the early days of his abstraction, the sounds of Bach while also drawing inspiration from scientific theories on the decomposition of colour or the transformation of matter.

He lived in Puteaux (1) and his studio adjoined that of Jacques Villon, the painter who was the brother of Marcel Duchamp.

Kupka

Kupka and Duchamp began corresponding regularly up until the 1950s.

But Kupka was not as cynical as Duchamp.

Kupka

He was happy to work a great deal, while ceaselessly exploring, at the risk of repeating himself a little too much.

That said, since the selection at the Grand Palais is good, the result is extraordinary.

Kupka

When faced with a number of his paintings one would believe Kupka to be under the influence of drugs, but he was simply a genius.

Where did he get this boldness from?

Kupka

Certain abstract paintings of his from the 1920s and ’30s are on an impressive scale, which allows for a dazzling polychrome plunge into the painter’s deliriums.

Spiral columns with effects of matter, great flows, explosions and transformations, entire architectures of colour.

Kupka

To arrive at “abstract painting” in 1932: a white canvas marked with a few black lines.

Kupka went right to the limits of abstraction: he eliminated everything, or almost, on the canvas.

Kupka

It was only in 1951, at the age of 81, that he would get his first dealer. He died six years later.

 

Kupka

Until 30 July. Paris . www.grandpalais.fr

(1) Incidentally, one of the towers at La Défense very near to where the district of Puteaux is located bears his name.

Kupka

- juillet 22, 2018

Kupka