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Lot #147 

Josef Čapek


oil on canvas
47 x 56 cm
Estimate: 4,000,000 CZK - 6,000,000 CZK
Starting price: 3,000,000 CZK
Hammer price:
9,100,000 CZK
This absolutely unique, highly important and frequently presented painting entitled Desire represents the last period of work of one of the most important Czech artists, Josef Čapek. At the beginning of his artistic career, Čapek participated in the foundation of The Group of Fine Artists (Skupina výtvarných umělců), which laid the foundations of Cubism in Czech fine art. However, he started turning in his own direction and developing his original style soon after. At the end of the 1930s, his artistic style reached a characteristic modern expression. Landscape and rural topics began to appear more and more in his work, first as a reflection of the idyllic period of time spent with his family, but gradually this environment also began to reflect in his paintings through metaphors the impending war and fear of it. The last series of paintings, several of which are of the same title, is the embodiment of almost tangible despair and intense faith in better tomorrows. It depicts a country-clad woman dreamily looking at the landscape. Through the symbolic colour of her dress, matching the Czech national tricolour, Čapek expressed his concern for the fate of the nation he loved so deeply. This painting is thus a metaphoric expression of his time, and as it was also the last farewell to his native region, from which the painter was torn away by deportation to the concentration camp where he died. This unique painting of intense depth and urgency as well as interesting exhibition history is very rare on the Czech art market.
On the reverse, there are stamps of the exhibitions where this work was presented, such as in the Prague Castle Riding School (Josef Čapek, 7 October 2009 – 17 January 2010) and in the East Bohemia Gallery in Pardubice (3 March 2010 – 30 May 2010). It was also on display at the exhibition My Country – A Tribute to Czech Landscape Painting (Prague Castle Riding School, 4 September – 1 November 2015, cat. fig. 477) and in Prostějov (Josef Čapek: “First of all, the image must be in the heart, so that the eyes can be full of it”, Museum and Gallery in Prostějov, 2 December 2015 – 29 January 2017). Assessed during consultations by prof. J. Zemina and PhDr. K. Srp. From the attached expertise by PhDr. P. Pečinková, CSc.: “[…] This painting, additionally entitled Desire (see Jaroslav Slavík: The Last Works of Josef Čapek, the Art/Umění 1964 journal) belongs to the last set of paintings executed by Josef Čapek between the Munich [conference] and the Second World War. Jaroslav Slavík’s inventory from 1964 records 23 versions of the painting Desire, repeating the motif of a woman in a tricolour country clothes, nostalgically looking at the landscape open to a wide horizon. The presented painting is not included in the inventory, but it is an undisputed work by Čapek from the aforementioned set. […]”