December 21, 2005
Brief Biography of Josef Čapek
Thanks to Helen Sullivan, Head of the Slavic Reference Service at UIUC, for referring me to Grove Art Online--a great resource for artist bios and term definitions, among other things. Here is GAO's entry for Josef Čapek:
(b Hronov, 23 March 1887; d Bergen-Belsen, April 1945).
Czech painter, printmaker and writer. He studied weaving (1901–3) in Vrchlabí and then from 1904 to 1910 decorative painting at the School of Applied Arts in Prague, where he was influenced by the highly decorative art of the Secession. During this period he wrote stories with his brother, the novelist Karel Čapek (1890–1938). In 1910 they went to Paris for nearly a year, where Josef Čapek studied painting at the Académie Colarossi and became a friend of Apollinaire. In 1911 he and his brother co-founded the Cubist-orientated Group of Plastic Artists. Čapek attempted to modify Cubism by introducing elements of Expressionism and Symbolism. His efforts dumbfounded some members of the group, and in 1912 he and various of his friends parted company with it. From 1915 he began to achieve a synthesis of Cubism, Neo-classicism and a personal symbolism (e.g. the Man in the Hat, 1915; Hradec Králové, Reg. Gal.), and in 1917 he participated in the first and subsequent exhibitions of the group Tvrdošíjní (The Stubborn Ones) and began to produce a number of prints for the magazine Červen, including the poster design for Arnošt Dvořák’s Mrtvá at the Červná Sedma theatre in Prague (colour lithograph, 1920; Prague, Mus. App. A.). [NB: This poster design is mentioned in the 12/12/05 weblog posting.] In the 1920s his paintings and prints became more densely woven, more expressive and more concerned with issues of civilian and suburban life. He also undertook theatre design, journalism and book illustration as well as publishing his own theoretical essays. In the late 1920s he became greatly influenced by folk art, painting simplified images of houses and countryside in bold strokes of bright colour. In 1933 he became a member of the editorial board of the magazine Život; by then his expressionistic painting had become somewhat oppressive, as in Cloud (1933; Ostrava, A.G.). In 1938 he painted the first pictures of his cycle Fire, whose large, gesturing figures played out a warning against war (e.g. Fire (1), 1938; Prague, N.G.). His last cycle of paintings, Longing, dating from 1939, is symbolic of a despair with contemporary events. On 1 September 1939 he was arrested by the Germans and taken to Dachau, and later to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where he died.
Vojtěch Lahoda: "Josef Čapek" Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press, 21 December 2005, http://www.groveart.com/
Posted by at December 21, 2005 3:43 PM