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Lot #157 

Emil Filla (1882–1953)

An Apple Cut in Half

mixed media (oil, enamel) on canvas
signed upper right, on the reverse
25 × 32 cm
Estimate: 3,000,000 CZK - 4,000,000 CZK
Starting price: 2,000,000 CZK
Hammer price:
2,100,000 CZK

This masterful work presents one of the peaks of Filla’s work – the period around the mid-1920s when he dedicated himself predominantly to the genre of still lifes, which he changed in countless variations, each time with a unique character, whether it was different techniques or overall approach. The year 1925 was particularly fruitful for Filla; he participated in several exhibitions, one of them even held at the Alfred Flechtheim Gallery in Düsseldorf (Emil Filla – Juan Gris, April 1925). He also designed a set of stained glass windows for the Czechoslovak pavilion at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris.

In the presented work, we can experience his widely developed vehicles of expression, extensive imagination and own concept of avant-garde. In the dense oil painting with an admixture of enamel, he took particular care to emphasise the flatness of the entire scene, from which only the relief half of the cut apple emerges. It catches the beholder’s eye and draws all attention to itself, whilst the second half of the fruit is ingeniously expressed by a flat rendering as if it should gradually blend into the background of the picture. The knife – Filla’s favourite prop, located in the lower part of the painting – is the originator not only of the halved apple but also acts as the perpetrator of the abstractly formulated surfaces and lines that form the background of the composition. The complete matter simplification can be seen in the blue shape resembling a cup or a tray, which we believe to present the very limit of what Filla considered an abstraction and was able to express it as a painter. The clash of concrete and immaterial brings tension to the scene and proves that Filla wanted to have both components simultaneously present in one painting. This masterful work radiates unprecedented confidence and relaxation. It also demonstrates that Filla approached the painting with complete determination, with which he unwaveringly followed his idea and subordinated the depicted objects to it. 

The painting was presented at the Members’ Exhibition of SVU Mánes in the Municipal House (XIV. Exhibition of SVU Mánes, Municipal House Prague, October–November 1925, cat. No. 61, An Apple Cut in Half; price: 800 CSK), as evidenced by the stamp on the reverse. It comes from the artist’s estate and subsequently from an important Prague collection. The authenticity has been verified by the Filla Foundation, and it will be included in an upcoming inventory of the artist’s work. Assessed during consultations by Mgr. T. Donné and PhDr. R. Michalová, Ph.D. The expertise of PhDr. K. Srp is attached.