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Lot #67 

Jan Zrzavý (1890–1977)

Low Tide in Le Fret

mixed media (tempera, pencil) on cardboard
37.5 × 47 cm
Estimate: 3,000,000 CZK - 5,000,000 CZK
Starting price: 2,500,000 CZK
Hammer price:
4,200,000 CZK

Brittany was a lifelong source of inspiration for Jan Zrzavý, to which he kept returning in his memories and from which drew a lot of inspiration even in his later work of the 1950s and early 1960s. This very distinctive painting depicts a place that Zrzavý himself referred to as “the discovery of his life” where he spent happy times, even though he executed it already back in Bohemia at the time when he was experiencing his greatest artistic achievements and enjoyed the favour of collectors and the wider public.

Zrzavý was always able to approach frequently repeated subject-matters in a different way and give them a new form regarding the technique, colour concept, and relations between outlines and shadows. In the presented work, moreover, he achieved a much more comprehensive expression in capturing the magical atmosphere of the place than in his works of previous years. He chose the calm scenery of the harbour with a stony embankment, which gave him space for a balanced, harmonious composition with the perspective enhanced by the three houses at the end of the pier. In a straightforward, extremely simplified scene, he focused on the moment of ebbing of the sea, where the ships are on land as in many of his other works. The drama of the peaceful scene was heightened by the characteristic dark granite houses of irregular shapes, which symbolically form a colourful counterpoint to the joyful boats and create a remarkable balladic mood full of ancient secrets and omnipresent Celtic history, portraying the iconic place that is sought after by tourists today. In the horizontal pier, Zrzavý was able to capture the movement and undulation of the surf, which will occur one day, and whose distant murmur leaves the beholder with a deep suggestive impression of a harmonious atmosphere of the seaside landscape. The painting was exhibited at IV. exhibition of Czechoslovak fine art at the Prague Castle Riding School (1959–1960, cat. No. 139) and subsequently sold through the shop of the Czechoslovak Fine Arts Fund. Assessed during consultations by PhDr. R. Michalová, Ph.D., and prof. J. Zemina. From the attached expertise by PhDr. K. Srp: „[…] The sunrays illuminating the entire motif are therefore the main source of the gradually unfolding composition, passing from bright shapes to dark corners. In this flood of light, Zrzavý elaborated his painting concept, which made this artwork a unique visual experience. […]“).