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Lot #177 

Emil Filla (1882–1953)

Still Life with Apples and a Goblet

oil on canvas
signed lower right
28 × 41 cm
Estimate: 2,000,000 CZK - 4,000,000 CZK
Starting price: 1,500,000 CZK
Hammer price:
2,300,000 CZK

Unseen for decades, this masterfully executed work captures Filla’s state of mind in the second half of the 1930s, which was crucial in his further artistic development. Although this expressive painting still carries residuum of lyrical cubism, it belongs to the set of few still lifes that the artist created in this and the following years. With the harbinger of war, his still lifes began to be displaced by dynamic figural compositions of initially mainly “female” subject matters, later with the theme of Fights and Struggles, which Filla developed continuously until the beginning of the war. He was also socially engaged publicly. Among other things, his leadership position as the executive of SVU Mánes had a political character, and being the chief editor of Volné směry, he had a decisive say in the periodical’s content. In this atmosphere, his interest in mythological themes began to grow. Filla was most interested in the legends about Heracles, Theseus, Perseus, and Orpheus, and we can find this inspiration in a way in the presented painting. With its intentional primitivism, emphasised flatness and landscape format, this still life has the effect of a marble frieze that decorated the facade of a Greek temple.

In this well-arranged composition, we see side by side a glass, a bowl with two pieces of fruit, and a tray with carefully arranged grapes. Pursuing a formal simplification, Filla got by with just a few organic lines. On the deep red background, he executed all objects except the fruit in black. However, the black does not act as a melancholy accent, but on the contrary, emphasises the role of the negative white drawing engraved upon the wet painting with the other end of the brush. This colour connection then creates a breathtaking contrast that brings tension and wildness to the painting – an internal rhythm, as if Filla wanted to accent the time of the execution of this artwork.

This painting originally came from the artist’s estate and was known only from a black and white photograph by Josef Sudek. Its authenticity was verified by the Filla Foundation and it will be listed in the upcoming inventory of the artist’s artwork. Assessed during consultations by Mgr. T. Donné and PhDr. R. Michalová, Ph.D. The expertise of PhDr. K. Srp is attached.