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Lot #62  –  91st Auction Day by KODL Gallery  (5/26/2024)
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František Tichý

Tattooed Man (Japanese)

oil on canvas
signed lower left
46.5 × 37.5 cm
Estimate: 1,500,000 CZK - 3,500,000 CZK
Starting price: 1,300,000 CZK
Current price:
1,300,000 CZKEUR

Tattooed Man (Japanese) is a remarkable example of a portrait painting by František Tichý, a highly admired and appreciated personality of the Czech avant-garde art of the first half of the 20th century. In 1930, Tichý travelled to France and settled in Paris, where he could closely observe current events in the field of visual arts. Works from the Paris period are among the best of his work. At that time, he expanded his range of subject matters and deepened the emphasis on the symbolic meaning of the painting. He became acquainted with the work of Georges Seurat, whose pointillist style he admired. He adapted it to his way of expression, in which movement was important. As a result, he transformed Seurat’s static and almost sculpturally calm brushwork into his characteristic style, combining Fauvist colour chromaticism and Seurat’s finer shades in colour spots. 

Clowns, harlequins and pierrots began to appear in Tichý’s paintings. However, compared to the Czech circus clowns, these clowns turned into quite a different type of melancholic clown, similar to the type of sleepwalking pierrot, popular at this time with a whole generation of artists. In contrast to the previous period of the twenties, he executed very few individual portraits in Paris. The oil painting Tattooed Man (Japanese) from 1932 belongs to the group of typological studies, just like the clowns’ heads. Fascinated by the theatre and familiar with ethnic art, Tichý depicted his model as a melancholic exotic figure from the Far East whose face is embellished with traditional tattoos. Interest in foreign cultures was one of the new features of his work. For his interest in old artistic styles, the art historian Václav Nebeský called his Parisian paintings “fantastic visionary”. This approach was fully manifested in the depictions of magicians, clowns and theatre characters in a dreamlike atmosphere.

The collectible value of the work increases its publication in several monographs (F. Dvořák: František Tichý, Prague 1960, fig. 21, title: Man with a Tattoo; J. Tomeš: František Tichý: Malířské dílo [Paintings], Prague 1976, fig. 13). The work is also listed in the artist’s inventory of oil paintings (T. Winter: František Tichý, Prague 2002, cat. No. 69). Assessed during consultations by doc. T. Winter, Ph.D., and PhDr. K. Srp. The expertise of PhDr. J. Machalický is attached.

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