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František Janoušek

Landscape with Insects

oil on canvas
1942
unsigned
67 x 85 cm
Estimate: 2,000,000 CZK - 3,000,000 CZK
Starting price: 1,600,000 CZK
Hammer price:
1,600,000 CZK
This evocative and extremely important work, Landscape with Insects, clearly refers to contemporary European art and also achieves its qualities. It represents one of the last paintings of the unique Czech surrealist artists, František Janoušek, who previously exhibited side by side with avant-garde and surrealist artists at the Poesie 1932 exhibition. However, in his final years he turned away from the contemporary topics and forms of his Czech colleagues, only to make a major contribution to them with the last paintings of his life. Despite the fact that the Czech artistic society did not understand his very suggestive and emotional foreshadowing of the threat of war, later generations and art history recognised him as one of the most interesting figures of his time. Landscape with Insects represents a synthesis of Janoušek’s own understanding of surrealism and French and especially Italian artworks of the time. In particular, the walls that are vertically delimiting the space of the painting suggest some inspiration from Italian metaphysical painting of such important personalities as Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà. Whilst in the centre of the painting covering the entire surface of the ground we can see biomorphic objects typical of Janoušek’s references to human physicality and organs, the walls, on the other hand, are covered with dreamlike and unpleasantly real scenes. On the left side we see a shadow of a human body or a human silhouette nailed by strange horns growing from the wall, on the other two walls there is a motif of an unpleasantly realistic locust, an insect that ranks among pests, which, as early as in the Old Testament, were considered an evil that can destroy an entire crop. This psychologically ecstatic painting of an evocative subject-matter thus artistically as well as symbolically tops off Janoušek’s work, through which he had consciously and timelessly commented on the destruction of human society and the environment since the beginning of the war. There is no doubt that it is an artwork of European importance.
The painting was published several times in publications dedicated to the artist and presented at all major exhibitions of his: at the posthumous exhibition of František Janoušek in Prague Mánes in December 1947 (cat. No. 91), at the exhibition organised by the Central Bohemian Gallery in its then exhibition premises at the Nelahozeves chateau in 1965 (cat. No. 118, reproduced in the exhibition catalogue), at a rerun of this exhibition in Prague Mánes in 1966 (cat. No. 59), at the exhibition of František Janoušek in the Brno House of Arts in 1985 (cat. No. 89, reproduced in the exhibition catalogue) and at the retrospective of Janoušek in Prague Mánes at the end of 1991 (cat. No. 118). The painting was reproduced, among others, in the magazine Listy, čtvrtletník pro umění a filosofii [a quarterly for art and philosophy], vol. 1, No. 1, 1946, in the magazine Umění [Art] 13, No. 4, 1965, and in the artist’s monograph by Jindřich Chalupecký, Odeon 1991, fig. 152. The canvas has inventory number 709 and comes from the artist’s family. Assessed during consultations by prof. J. Zemina and PhDr. J. Machalický. From the attached expertise by PhDr. K. Srp: “[…] The painting Landscape with Insects suggests an interesting connection with the painting Safes by Toyen, finished in 1946, which features an interior passing space, on the floor of which is a tangle of organic green shapes; according to an older picture, however, it was this concept that Toyen added into the painting later, as before the space [of the painting] was divided only by horizontal shapes. […]”