František Kupka / the Man and the Earth
from 10 June 2018 to 7 October 2018 / from 9:00 to 18:00
castle riding school, hluboká nad vltavou 144


The exhibited works by František Kupka belong to one of the most extensive groups of illustrations the artist created/are a part of one of the largest groups of illustrations created by the artist. It is not only significant for its consistency and extent but above all for the modern character of the illustrations, some of which anticipate Kupka’s abstract art. Illustrations for the/his Man and the Earth (L’Homme et la Terre, 1905–1908) came into existence directly on the order of the author of this six-volume encyclopedia, Élisée Reclus (1830–1905). His last theoretical work, finished by his nephew, Paul Reclus (1858–1941), was an attempt to summaries the history of humankind from its prehistoric beginnings to the present day from a analytical standpoint, which, besides other things, shows the foresight of ecological themes or animal rights campaigns. The unquestionable deviation from positivism towards taking into consideration the historical-political context, similarly to the accentuation of social visions, foreshadowed the theory of geopolitics. Shared political opinions and the artist’s idiosyncratic perception of a caricaturist was presumably one of the main reasons why Reclus gave preference to Kupka over other, much more famous artists with similar convictions. Kupka was working on the set approximately five years (1904–1909). Although František Kupka had an experience with creating illustrations for satirical magazines, in the case of collaboration with Élisée Reclus, he was facing somewhat more challenging task because he had to come to terms with the encyclopedic scope of the work. For study purposes, he was visiting selected scientific institutions and lectures at the university, which was a method of work he was also adopting in connection with other commissions. Kupka was not always able to avoid the expressive means of conventional history painting, with the knowledge of which he composed drawings with more demanding narrative. At the same time he deliberately worked with certain types he already used in the past and which could nowadays be interpreted as antisemitic. Majority of Kupka’s drawings, however, accentuate Reclus’s vitalistic reasoning. Similarly to Kupka, Reclus perceived the history of liberation of man as a progress that ennobles him and connects him with the energy of the universe.


Adam Hnojil, exhibition curator

This exhibition will offter an array of 106 fascinating blach & white ink drawings and paintings generally regarded as the Kupka's most comprehensive set of illustrations. Depicting different stages of social and cultural development, the paintings accompanied a significant book The Earth and Its Inhabitants by Élisée Reclus, a French geographer and theoretician of anarchism.  The collection is a congenial testimony, both celebratory and accusatory, to the history of makind, as well as a deep and unrelenting probe into the past and the present of the ten world.