As a young man, Frantisek Kupka worked as a medium at séances, bridging the gap between this world and the next. Kupka, born September 23, 1871, used this true belief in the mystical and transcendent and created a form of abstract art that bridged the worlds of Fauvism and Cubism in works such as Planes by Colors, Large Nude (above) from 1909. This portrait of his wife Eugenie throbs with bright Fauvist color, taking the experiments of Henri Matisse even further, yet also incorporating Pablo Picasso’s Cubist explosion of the figure by seemingly looking into the insides of the body in an eerie prophesy of an MRI machine.
In works such as 1919’s The Colored One (above), Kupka uses explosively expressive color and evocative shapes to create an image totally divorced from this plane of reality to suggest higher planes. Born in Dobvuska, Bohemia, Kupka was truly a wild Bohemian, intensely spiritual in all aspects of his life. Although Kupka studied under Sequens and Eisenmenger, two minor members of the devoutly Christian German art school known as the Nazarenes, his spirituality never takes any orthodox form. He actually painted quite naturalistically until 1906, when he felt the constrictions of realism too greatly. After the transitional stage in which works such as The Large Nude were painted, Kupka allowed himself total freedom from recognizable subjects. “The work of art, being itself abstract reality,” Kupka once said, “needs to be made up of invented elements.”
Kupka composed with colors and geometric shapes the way musicians compose with notes and rhythms. He recognized this parallel and titled many of his works with musical terms, such as Amphora: Fugure in Two Colors (above) from 1912. Robert and Sonia Delaunay were greatly influenced by Kupka’s paintings and modeled their own Orphism style after his abstractions. This “fugue” seems fresh and striking even today in the evocative gestures and movement within the image. Kupka tries to pull the viewer into his realm of possibility, the spiritual plane of pure art freed from the bonds of the physical. With his contributions to the new ways of seeing in modern art, Kupka opened the doors for later abstract artists to explore and represent their own personal spiritual lives.