Kupka - Čtyři příběhy bílé a černé

Woodcut, set of 26 prints on handmade paper (1926), 20×15 cm, 42,5×34,5 (including frame), without signature, framed

Origin: private collection Prague

In the book Frank Kupka in white & black Arnauld Pierre Artists Bookworks, Liverpool University Press, 1998
in the catalogue František Kupka: Pioneer of abstraction, painter of Universe, Dallas – Wolfsburg – Prague 1997-1998, pages 166-170
in the catalogue František Kupka, from the collection of Jan and Meda Mládkových, ČMVU, Prague 1996, pictures numbered 159-195
in the catalogue František Kupka, Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1989-1990
in the catalogue Kupka, Kunsthaus Zürich, 1976, pages 214-215
in the monograph František Kupka, Vachtová, 1968, page 206
in the catalogue František Kupka, NG Praha 1968, picture number 322

Francouzský institut Praha, 14th Sept – 3rd Nov 2016

The highest achieved auction price for painting by Kupka – 56 million CZK in the year 2012, Adolf Loos Apartment and Gallery, Praha
The highest achieved auction price for graphics by Kupka – 8 thousand USD, Sotheby’s New York
The highest known achieved price in gallery sale – 500 thousand CZK in the year 2016, Prague

The abstract work of František Kupka was favourably accepted by critics after the World War I for the first time. In the year 1925, Kupka stops painting completely to be able to prepare himself for the cycle Quatre Histoires de blanc et noir. He created hundreds of studies, nevertheless, most of them he destroyed. Kupka – in this cycle – tries to recapitulate his whole work on abstract form so far: he wants to express the set of rules which he came to not by intuition only but by long-term research. This Album fulfils the role of explanation of forms, morphological changes and relationships between them, and in fact it is the answer to the aspiration of his critics to put him to a category
Quatre Histoires de blanc et noir correspond to four different formal solutions. The cycle is formed by four sub cycles: organic, triangular, cosmic and vertical. Two of them research the motifs created – organic, the other two motifs given by geometry. The album has a book character – frontispiece, title page and four chapters with introductory smaller woodcuts. Kupka wrote to this album his own story, which had the character of manifesto and which – in his time – was not understood. “The art is not in the probable, sometimes it is the direct opposite of it.” (…) “The artist speaks both to the sense and to the intellect, he must examine what is the initial element of his work, the relationship between the vision and the expressive tools must be logical in the way it confirms itself. To tell the truth, Kupka significantly outrun the time and his reasoning was conceptual.
Kupka was striving to put together a universal system, which would be like musical dodecaphony – anyway, he always likened music to painting. Just like the musical theory in the beginning of 20th century clearly defined a guideline determining understanding of functional harmonic relationships of scale of 12 tones, Kupka wanted to create a universal spectrum of possibilities of abstract painting, which, however, is closely related to the laws of nature. The album is the exemplification of enormous strive crowned by beauty, which in the end does not have any rules. Kupka published it on his own cost in the year 1926 – but the cycle was not noticed at all and this became almost a financial catastrophe for the Author. Even though Emanuel Siblík published Kupka´s first monograph in the year 1929 and his paintings due to exhibiting became valued to a certain measure, Kupka was declared to be just a “marginal fine-artist”, “nothing more than a curiosity” at that time.  Only after the World War II, a famous master of abstraction Max Bill paid attention to Kupka´s investigation and made it popular. After this, the Histoires were being placed into all the retrospectives of Kupka and were found to be an essential work, an ambitious project of relationship between the Author-painter and the Author-theorist.

Individual folios of the album appear both in Czech and world auction houses having variety of prices. Several years ago, a reprint was published and many times it is being offered as the original. The complete album of 26 woodcuts including the title page was for the last time on the market in the year 2011, individual prints appear on the market also.

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