SEPARATE AUCTION Filla Emil (Chropyně 1882 - 1953 Prague)
The Head of a Man in a Top Hat, signed and dated E. Filla 14 top left, signed and dated E. Filla 14 on the back, oil/cardboard, 68 x 42 cm, frame (Ní)
Reproduced: Lamač M., Osma a skupina výtvarných umělců 1907 – 1917, Prague 1988, p. 350, fig. 363 Lahoda V., Emil Filla, Prague 2007, p. 392, fig. 420 (the painting is captured in a photo from Filla’s exhibition in Mánes in 1932) Exhibited: 4th Exhibition of the Group of Fine Artists, Municipal House, Prague 1914, cat. no. 24 Jubilee Exhibition of the Works of Emil Filla, S.V.U. Mánes, Prague 1932, cat. no. 54 Emil Filla and Milan Grygar, The Zdeněk Sklenář Gallery, Prague 2009 Provenience: collection of the businessman and collector František Venera, Brno Collection of the art historian Prof. PhDr. František Dvořák, DrSc.
Emil Filla (1882 – 1953) is one of the most important figures of modern Czech art. His active involvement in societies that had a fundamental impact on the developments on the Prague fine arts scene and the ingeniousness of his artistic sense and expression make him one of the most important Czech modern artists. Filla’s expressionistic works that directly responded to Edvard Munch’s (1863 – 1944) Prague retrospective exhibition were not the only contemporary parallel seeking answers to questions that were current in the European artistic space. At the beginning of 1920s, Filla started to follow and promote cubist theory, initiated by the artistic experiments of Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973). Filla followed the gradual transformation from cubist expressivism to an analytical decomposition of shapes and forms as a member of the Group of Fine Artists, the main artistic society promoting cubism as the most current and progressive direction of modern painting.
In his introduction to Filla’s retrospective exhibition held on the occasion of the artist’s 50th birthday, art historian and legendary collector of cubism Vincenc Kramář (1877 – 1960) spoke about Picasso as the author of cubism, who only had two congenial followers globally - Georges Braque (1882 – 1963) and Emil Filla. In light of this statement, which was at the time very courageous, we must view the painting “The Head of a Man Wearing a Top Hat” as a work of art whose importance must go beyond the borders of Czech fine art.
Filla managed to further elaborate on Picasso’s findings, creating distinctive art. Thereby, he managed to fulfil his goal of taking fine art in Prague to the level of quality of the European avant-garde stream. Filla’s understanding for the creative principles of cubism opened up a way for him to unique paintings, one of which is “The Head of a Man Wearing a Top Hat”.
In 1914, Emil Filla painted several paintings that made a fundamental contribution to the history of cubism. In the first half of the year, he travelled between Prague and Paris. In Paris, he and his wife Hana stayed at Hotel Roma, where Georges Braque had his studio. What Filla learned during his frequent visits to this studio gave rise to several paintings done during his brief stays in his homeland. As Filla noted on the back of the painting, “The Head of a Man Wearing a Top Hat” was painted in Prague.
The structural composition of the space of a painting, in the form of an analysis and deconstruction of shapes and materials, is replaced by a synthesis of shapes that determined the future direction of Filla’s paintings in the upcoming years, during his stay in the Netherlands. The exceptionality of this painting is also mentioned in Vojtěch Lahoda’s monograph, presenting “The Head of a Man Wearing a Top Hat” as a fundamental work of the period.
In addition, the painting’s history is exceptional. It was featured at the 4th exhibition of the Group of Fine Artists, as is documented by Filla’s authentic note on the back of the painting. Another important exhibition was Filla’s retrospective in Mánes in Prague, in May 1932, which has already been mentioned. The painting was also successfully identified in photographs from the exhibition. It was exhibited next to works of fundamental importance, such as “Woman” (1914, National Gallery in Prague), “The Head of an Old Man” (1914, Art Museum in Olomouc), and “A Man with a Cigarette” (1913, Gallery of Fine Arts in Ostrava).
The work was in the collection of the famous Brno collector František Venera. From it, it went to another no-less iconic figure of Czech modern art, the art historian Prof. František Dvořák. The combination of the painting’s exceptional provenience and its importance in the context of Filla’s work heighten the uniqueness of this opportunity to obtain this important work, which would be a precious jewel in even the best collections of Czech modern art.
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