Painting by Czech artist from small gallery in Jihlava loaned to Paris’ Pompidou Centre

'A Variant of Truth' by Vojtěch Hynais

Vojtěch Hynais is one of the lesser-known Czech artists, at least abroad. But recently a painting of his aroused the interest of the world-famous Pompidou Centre in Paris.

The Vysočina Regional Gallery in Jihlava isn’t used to international attention. The last time they received a request from abroad for the loan of a painting was at least ten years ago, says curator Jana Bianovská.

“Usually when we loan paintings it’s to other galleries within Czechia, so we are pleased that a painting which we have in our permanent exhibition has significance for our whole collection and for the entire history of Czech art, I would say. We are happy to loan it so that people abroad can also see it.”

'A Variant of Truth' by Vojtěch Hynais | Photo: František Jirků,  Czech Radio

The artwork, by Czech painter Vojtěch Hynais, depicts a naked female figure sitting on a well. The title ‘A Variant of Truth’ points to the usual depiction of ‘Truth’ in allegorical paintings as a female figure, often fully or partially unclothed, to represent the idea that she has nothing to hide. The ‘Variant’ in the title refers to the fact that Hynais did indeed paint several versions of this painting, something which was typical for how he worked, says Jana Bianovská.

“Hynais typically prepared several variants and studies of his paintings, with different compositions, which he would sometimes return to later.”

Two other variants of the painting feature the figure of the woman in profile and in elaborate detail. But the version that is in the Vysočina Regional Gallery’s collection differs in a couple of ways, says Jana Bianovská.

“Our version differs a little in composition from the other two because it is painted from the front view rather than the side, with the subject facing the viewer, and because the subject is sitting on a well. It also has more of the character of a study – the painting isn’t finished, only the female figure is painted in detail, and the surrounding garden isn’t finished at all.”

Suzanne Valadon | Photo: Ville de Paris/Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand/Wikimedia Commons,  CC0 1.0 DEED

French painter Suzanne Valadon posed as Hynais’ model for the painting, which is precisely why it aroused the interest of the Pompidou Centre in Paris – they are putting on an exhibition dedicated to Suzanne Valadon. Hynais lived in Paris from 1878 to 1893, which is where he met Valadon, says Bianovská.

“Suzanne Valadon had quite a difficult life – at the age of 15 she joined the circus and had various jobs, but after suffering an injury, she couldn’t continue working for the circus anymore. So she became a model for various painters – Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec, for example, with whom she had a close friendship. So she was well-known in the Paris art world as a model, and since Hynais was also a friend of these painters, that was probably how he met her.”

The painting will be on loan to the Pompidou Centre for a year and a half, and will return to Jihlava next autumn.