František Kupka - ‘Amorpha: Fugue in Two Colours’

Today in Mailbox: The Czech composer Julius Fučík, the answer to our April competition question, a new quiz question for May. Listeners/readers quoted: Karl Strauss, Paul R Peacock, Li Ming, Charles Konecny, Mary Lou Krenek, Colin Law.

Julius Fučík
Hello and welcome to Mailbox. Before we get to your answers to our April quiz question, here’s a message from Karl Strauss from the United Kingdom:

“I have always enjoyed the music of the great Czech composer Julius Fučík. I would like to know if there is a plaque or anything to commemorate this man in Prague as I understand he was buried in the city.”

The house where Julius Fučík was born in Prague no longer exists. According to a Czech internet news site, the only plaque commemorating this composer is in Austria. He is buried in Prague’s Vinohradský hřbitov. Julius Fučík was our mystery man back in 2009 and you can look up on our website what Radio Prague’s listeners had to say about this remarkable musician.

But now onto last month’s question. Paul R Peacock from Australia writes:

“František Kupka was born on 23 September 1871 in [Opočno], Bohemia, the son of a small town notary. He often left home as he was not happy living with his father and stepmother. He studied in both Prague and Vienna and greatly admired Rodin and Touluse-Lautrec.”

František Kupka
“He worked as an illustrator of books and posters becoming known in his earlier years for his satirical drawings found in magazines and newspapers. During the First World War he joined an infantry company before becoming an officer in the Czech Legion and fought on the Somme being discharged in 1919 with the rank of Captain. After the war he worked in the French Department of Defense, taught students from Prague Academy of Fine Arts, and of course, he resumed painting. Later in life he would divide his works into thematic categories rather than chronological.”

“An extensive collection of his work can be found at the Kampa Museum, Prague. A tour through the museum can be done via:

Li Ming from China wrote:

“I searched on the internet and I think the mystery man you are looking for is František Kupka, who stands as one of the most important abstractionists of the early 20th century, as well as one of the first innovators of pure abstraction. He created a theory that painting could be articulated in chromatic relationships, and as musicians were free to create sounds not found in nature, artists should be able to explore these same freedoms with forms and colors. There has not been another artist since that has achieved the uniqueness of vision that Kupka brought forth although most abstractionists of the 20th century sought inspiration and were influenced by these avant-garde studies.”

This is what Charles Konecny from the United States wrote:

František Kupka - ‘The Movement’
“František had two artistic lives. He started in the traditional style of painting with reasonable success, and even then, some of his paintings seemed to have a touch of abstract look to them. Later, his second life started when the abstract urge really kicked in and he became a pioneer of the art and soon was considered as one of the most original and innovative abstract painters. So the abstract art world owes much to Kupka. I have often wondered what takes more art skills; a traditional painting of flowers in a pot, titled... ‘Flowers in a Pot’ or, the abstract painting with some globs of paint going everywhere, titled... ‘Flowers in a Pot’.”

Mary Lou Krenek from Texas adds a more personal note:

“His famous self portrait in 1907, ‘The Yellow Scale’ is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, a museum I visit quite often. It was a gift of Audrey Jones Beck.”

Colin Law from New Zealand included a lot of detail in his long answer:

“František Kupka was born on 23 September 1871 in Opočno, East Bohemia. He was the eldest of five children of public notary Václav Kupka and his wife Josephine Kupkova (born Špačková). The house at 6 Zámecká Street carries a tablet commemorating the birth of František Kupka...

“In 1891 František moved on from the Prague Academy of Arts to study in Vienna and subsequently to L’École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1895. His paintings ‘Amorpha: Fugue in Two Colours’ and ‘Warm Chromatics’ were exhibited at the Autumn Salon in Paris in 1912. František helped to organize the Czechoslovak legions in France during World War One and he became acquainted with Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (later the first President of Czechoslovakia.) He fought at the front and designed uniforms as well as painting posters that mocked the monarchy.

“František worked at the Ministry of Defence in 1919, was appointed professor at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts but soon returned to France. In 1920 Jindřich Waldes an industrialist and a prominent collector became patron to František, who in 1926 was awarded the French National Order of the Legion of Honour.

“František Kupka died in Puteaux, a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, on 24 June 1957. Since his funeral, the urn with his ashes has remained in obscurity in the columbarium of the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. However it was reported in March of this year that the Culture, Defence and Foreign Affairs ministries were arranging transport of the urn to Vyšehrad cemetery in Prague. It is not clear whether this has happened yet, but there is concern among art historians that as Kupka chose to live and remain in France it would be against the artist’s wishes for his ashes to be repatriated to Prague.”

And of course, Radio Prague will keep you updated on future developments. Thank you very much for taking the time to research the answer. This time our prize goes to Li Ming from China. Congratulations and here’s a question for the month of May.

This month we would like to know the name of the Czech-born British architect, author of a number of award-winning innovative designs, who was born in 1937 in Prague and died in 2009.

Please send your answers as always to [email protected] by the end of May. There will be a prize for the lucky winner whose name is picked out of the hat. In the meantime you can also send us your comments, questions and reception reports to the same address. We are looking forward to your feedback. Until next time, happy listening.