Wassily Kandinsky, František Kupka, and Arnold Schönberg
Museum Kampa, Prague
12 May–31 July 2011 (extended to 31 August 2011)
by ANNA McNAY
It is not surprising, therefore, that their recent exhibition – successful enough to be extended by a month – focused largely on his story, with Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) and Arnold Schönberg (1874–1951) as peripheral figures. This did not, however, detract from the show, for which the driving concept was an examination of the relationship between abstraction and atonality, or patterns of music and visual composition.
“Kupka wants painting to sounds like music,” said Czech poet Richard Weiner, after visiting his friend in Paris in 1912, and, indeed, this was the underlying hope of the artist, whose search for “beautiful forms” led him from the Central European Symbolism of his native Bohemia, to Paris at the turn of the century, where he was inspired by the “vertiginous musicality” of the architecture of the Gothic cathedrals. Believing, like Gauguin, that an artist had to be a revolutionary in order not to become a plagiarist, Kupka cast aside any form of painting with which he had tried to express his feelings symbolically, and began to work with his series of Circulars and Verticals, and, later, Lines, Planes and Spaces. This progression is documented clearly, and the inclusion of comparable works by Kandinsky (along with some less critically praiseworthy portraits by mutual friend and composer Schönberg), relates the Czech’s works to what was going on around him at the time.
In 1913, Kupka proclaimed: “I am still groping in the dark, but I believe I can find something between sight and hearing and I can produce a fugue in colours as Bach has done in music.” By the end of this short journey through his career development, one certainly appreciates the achievements he made in pursuit of this goal.
František Kupka from the Jan and Meda Mladek Collection, published by Museum Kampa, 2007.
Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900
Covering the period during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1867 to 1918, Facing the Modern charts the portraiture of Vienna at a time of intense change and shifting fortunes for both the new Viennese middle class and the artists who painted them.
The Russian Avant-Garde: Siberia and The East
Kandinsky was spot on. The 130 Russian works of art displayed in the elegant rooms of the Palazzo Strozzi, embracing the east rather than the west, flaunt a truly eclectic mixture, ranging from paintings and watercolours to sculptures, oriental artefacts and ethnographical objects from 1890 to 1930.
With Great Force, Swiftly and Surely
During her life, Swedish mystic Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) believed the abstract art she made as part of her spiritual quest would not be understood by most people, whose awareness is limited to the material plane.