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Lot #67 

Kamil Lhoták (1912–1990)

Paris 1901

oil on canvas
signed lower right
45 × 36 cm
Estimate: 2,000,000 CZK - 3,500,000 CZK
Starting price: 1,700,000 CZK
Hammer price:
2,400,000 CZK

Lhoták’s Paris 1901 from his travels in his favourite country, France, is a significant representative of his earlier work, but already with the typical finesse of his subsequent mature creative period. It almost fatefully foreshadows the most fundamental period of the Skupina 42 artistic group. However, its poetic style still points to Lhoták’s roots going back to the avant-garde Devětsil Art Association. This unique work perfectly reflects his interest in technology and his love for balloons and airships, together with a feeling for the charm of the suburbs and the urban landscape. The core of his work was very aptly expressed by František Dvořák: “Kamil Lhoták’s paintings have more than once been described as a dream in which we relive a time when all technical achievements were a revelation and a miracle, fuelled by eager desires for progress.” (František Dvořák: Kamil Lhoták, Prague 1985, p. 7)

The view of the Parisian landmark is crossed by a yellow airship, and behind it, a hot air balloon of the same colour floats in the distance. Lhoták probably captured the historic moment from 1901, when the Brazilian design engineer Alberto Santos-Dumont flew past the Eiffel Tower in his airship No. 6. This was his attempt to win a prize of 100,000 francs announced by Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe, a prominent French oil merchant. He promised it to whoever could build a machine capable of flight and use it to transport himself from the nearby town of Saint-Cloud to the Eiffel Tower and back within thirty minutes. Santos-Dumont eventually won the prize after many unsuccessful attempts and became a renowned aeronautical pioneer. Lhoták brought out this theme in his works several times, perhaps for the first time already in 1939 under the title Alberto Santos-Dumont, October 19, 1901 (oil on canvas, 1939, 33 × 25 cm, private collection), and in the following two years in the paintings Eiffel Tower (gouache, 1940, 42,5 × 30 cm, private collection) and Santos-Dumont 1901 (oil on canvas, 1941, 45 × 36 cm, private collection). The painting is listed in the artist’s inventory under the title Paris 1901 and the number 203/78, and presented in the original framing. Assessed during consultations by PhDr. A. Strnadlová and L. Šteffek. The expertise of PhDr. R. Michalová, Ph.D., is attached.