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Max Švabinský (1873–1962)

Combing Hair

oil on canvas
signed upper left, centre right
53 × 72 cm
Estimate: 2,500,000 CZK - 4,500,000 CZK
Starting price: 1,900,000 CZK
Current price:
1,900,000 CZK

The presented artwork is a study for the painting Yellow Parasol (Summer), which occupies a crucial place in Max Švabinský’s work and is today one of his best-known works. Its subject matter and rendering are at the centre of the rebirth that Švabinský’s style underwent at this time. The painting was already publicly discussed not long after its creation in connection to the members' exhibition of the Mánes association held in 1911, where it was presented in the main hall next to the canvases of other artists associated with the onset of modernism at the turn of the century. The attention and positive responses that the Yellow Parasol (Summer) garnered from art critics stand out even more in comparison to the fact that the older members of Mánes were accused of stagnation. Criticised also were the works of the younger generation from the Osma artistic group, exhibited in the adjoining hall. The importance that Švabinský attached to the given subject matter is evidenced by the demanding work process, which involved around fifteen well-known studies (drawings and oil paintings) from the first sketch to the final composition. He created them in 1908, both directly in plein air and in his studio. The artist himself later included this painting in the “peak age” of his work, i.e. the period of his artistic maturity and vitality, when he gradually replaced the purple and blue of his previous works with cadmium yellow, blue, and green. In this case, the specific colours had their symbolic nature, following an almost “Courbetian” concept of naturalism. We can also find direct references to the older tradition of French realism and impressionism in Švabinský’s attempt to place an academically sensitive act in a plein-air composition, as we know, for example, from works of Édouard Manet. When working on the Yellow Parasol (Summer), Švabinský definitively set out on an artistic path to earthly life and its fullness, standing in clear contrast to his previous interior compositions. An interesting fact is that in the same year, or a year later, Švabinský was commissioned to execute a replica of the presented study, probably with the help of his brother-in-law, the painter Rudolf Vejrych. The replica then became part of the famous collections of Jindřich Waldes and later of the collections of the National Gallery Prague.

František Žákavec (Max Švabinský I, Prague 1933, pp. 193–196) and Jana Orlíková (Max Švabinský, Paradise and Myth, Prague 2001, pp. 47–50) devoted considerable space to the work Yellow Parasol (Summer) in their books. The presented painting, i.e. the original study Combing Hair, has a rich exhibition history (Comprehensive Jubilee Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings, Slavonic Island in Prague, 1953, cat. No. 17; Max Švabinský 1873–1962, Comprehensive Retrospective Exhibition, Kroměříž–Prague 1973, cat. No. 25; Max Švabinský 1873–1962, Comprehensive Exhibition, Bratislava, 1974, cat. No. 16; Max Švabinský 1873–1962, Gallery of West Bohemia in Pilsen, 1974, cat. No. 12; Museum of the Kroměřížsko Region – Max Švabinský Memorial Permanent Exhibition, reinstallation of the permanent exhibition, Kroměříž, 2003, cat. No. 45). The work, until recently in the possession of the artist’s family, was placed on a long-term loan in the Max Švabinský Memorial Permanent Exhibition in Kroměříž. It was also published in the artist’s inventory of work (Z. Švabinská, V. Ševčík, M. Kuna: Max Švabinský, Inventory of Drawings and Paintings 1879–1916, Kroměříž, 2014, cat. No. 1018, fig. p. 248) and is presented in an elegant period frame. Assessed during consultations by PhDr. Š. Leubnerová and prof. R. Prahl, CSc. The expertise of PhDr. K. Srp is attached.