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Lot #72 

Karel Černý (1910–1960)

Charles Bridge

oil on canvas
signed upper right, on the reverse
87 × 125 cm
Estimate: 6,000,000 CZK - 12,000,000 CZK
Starting price: 4,500,000 CZK
Hammer price:
7,800,000 CZK

This captivating large-format painting of unquestionable value for galleries and collectors represents the mature work of one of the most respected painters of Czech post-war art, Karel Černý. It captures a view of one of Prague’s famous panoramas, the Charles Bridge with the Old Town Bridge Tower, beyond which it continues towards the National Theatre. On the far horizon, the smoking chimneys of the Smíchov factories rise to the right. Karel Černý painted the picture already enriched with his Paris experience, which set him on the path of a distinctive artistic expression combining avant-garde influence (primarily Fauvism and Cubism) with stylised primitivism inspired by his interest in folk art. The 1950s was a challenging period for Černý when he was forbidden to exhibit his works and had almost no commissions. He sought refuge in the landscape, whether urban or rural, which provided him with the peace and balance he desired. He had been portraying views of rivers in Prague and Paris with their numerous bridges since 1944, enchanted by the scale of blue on the water surface, which merged with the cloud-covered sky, supplemented with various riverbanks and lonely sailing boats. In the presented canvas, however, the artist let the brightened surface appear in its calm beauty, undisturbed by any objects, just a reflection of one of Prague’s landmarks. He was even so intrigued by the Charles Bridge that he returned to this subject matter twice more in 1954, albeit in smaller formats, with which he presented himself at exhibitions in Prague, Liberec, Olomouc, Louny, Pardubice, and Zlín (then Gottwaldov). Černý approached its execution in a very modern way, and its symmetry became an essential compositional element, multiplying the harmonious atmosphere of the entire scene. Thanks to the relaxed but precise outlines, vibrant colours, and light, this painting does not lose any of its appeal even after a long examination. Although Karel Černý undertook the difficult task of portraying one of the most famous Czech monuments, he did so with a remarkable personal interest and joy, which makes the painting an exceptional visual experience.

The painting is published in the inventory of the artist’s work (V. Lahoda: Karel Černý 1910–1960, Colour and Existence, Prague 2003, cat. No. 199, p. 75, 202) and monograph (Z. Hlaváček: Karel Černý, Painting Work, Prague 1958, not pag.). The artist’s signature and inscription with the work title and date are on the stretcher. Assessed during consultations by PhDr. R. Michalová, Ph.D., and PhDr. J. Machalický. The expertise of PhDr. K. Srp is attached.