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Lot #167 

František Janoušek (1890–1943)

Interior with a Lamp

oil on canvas
signed lower left
80 × 99 cm
Estimate: 2,000,000 CZK - 4,000,000 CZK
Starting price: 1,500,000 CZK
Hammer price:
3,900,000 CZK

This meditative oil painting from Janoušek’s prolific creative period of 1933 presents its author as a master of dynamic surrealism of the mid-1930s. Whilst most contemporary Czech artists fully absorbed the influence of surrealism not until after the Poesie 1932 exhibition, Janoušek already took this path at the turn of the 1920s and 1930s. For him, surrealism became the most natural expression of himself, his knowledge and experience. In this lyrical canvas of excellent soft luminosity and smooth drawing, he captured formless objects or beings whose identity and meaning are ambiguous, constantly changing and evolving. The lamp can thus resemble the difficult-to-identify elements from Windy Landscape III (1932), floating freely above a vast desolate landscape. Interior with a Lamp, by contrast, invites the viewer into a brightly lit room, where the lamp acts as a symbol of safety, driving away all evil creatures – perhaps those evil creatures that later crept into Janousek’s world and filled his work with unrest and drama. We thus have the opportunity to enjoy the more optimistic work of the painter who, instead of poetism and artificialism popular with the Czech surrealists, was more influenced by expressionism. His vivid, emotional, and independent form of surrealism was unfortunately not accepted for a long time. Josef Čapek, for example, spoke very scathingly against Janoušek’s work, criticising it for its rationality and static nature. However, Janoušek soon found support in Jaromír Pečírka, who wrote about him in the contemporary press (Prager Presse, Volné směry) and often collaborated with him, and in Jindřich Chalupecký, a leading art theorist and future author of his monograph. It was Interior with a Lamp that enchanted him when he saw it at a members’exhibition in Mánes in 1933 and commented on it as “the only true surrealism in Mánes and also the first”. (J. Chalupecký: František Janoušek, Prague 1991, p. 152) The presented painting is undoubtedly one of the most important works by František Janoušek that has appeared on the Czech auction market so far.


The painting was presented at the artist’s solo exhibitions: SVU Mánes (Prague, 19 October – 26 November 1933); František Janoušek, Posthumous Exhibition of Paintings, SVU Mánes, Prague, December 1947 (cat. No. 21); František Janoušek 1890–1943, Paintings, Central Bohemian Region Gallery, Nelahozeves Castle, 21 August – 31 October 1965 (cat. No. 46); František Janoušek: Paintings, SVU Mánes, Prague, 18 January – 13 February 1966 (cat. No. 15); František Janoušek, Paintings and Drawings 1929–1942, Brno House of Arts, 21 May – 30 June 1985 (cat. No. 36); František Janoušek, Paintings and Drawings 1890–1943, SVU Mánes, Prague, 19 November 1991 – 1 January 1992 (cat. No. 36); František Janoušek, Opere scelte 1933– 1942, Galleria Schwarz, Milan, 10 August – 25 September 1969 (cat. No. 3). In the artist’s inventory, it has the number 108/24. It comes from the artist’s family and will be included in the upcoming inventory of Janoušek’s work in the forthcoming monograph by Mgr. E. Vele. Assessed during consultations by PhDr. J. Machalický and prof. J. Zemina. The expertise of PhDr. K. Srp is attached.