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Lot #102  –  91st Auction Day by KODL Gallery  (5/26/2024)
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Joža Uprka
(1861–1940)

Funeral

oil on canvas
1903
signed lower right
90 × 150 cm
framed
Estimate: 2,000,000 CZK - 4,000,000 CZK
Starting price: 1,500,000 CZK
Current price:
1,800,000 CZKEUR
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Joža Uprka had presented himself as an artist inseparably connected with the country people and their folklore, as a painter fascinated by his native region and ethnography. He chose his subject matters influenced by the contemporary trends in Western art at the beginning of the 20th century. Among the popular ones was searching for authentic roots, e.g. in folklore or primitive exotic cultures. At this time, Uprka’s work had its irreplaceable place in the cultural scene and was used as one of the visual arguments in the question of the rights of the Slavic peoples within Austria-Hungary.


In the presented work, the artist was able to transform purely folklore features into high art – he succeeded, among other things, thanks to his excellent knowledge of modern European painting and the application of the principles of plein air, impressionism and art nouveau decorativism. The title itself determines the theme and content. The rendering is based on the work with light, the brilliant use of colour spots and the division of the scene into individual film frames. In the front of the cortege walks an old man with two children of indeterminate gender. The vertical division of the composition filled with golden and slowly falling leaves forms the dematerialised decorative framework of the scene, which bears affinities with some artworks of the Viennese Art Nouveau.


The painting has been repeatedly published: Š. Jež: Joža Uprka, On the Fifth Anniversary of the Artist’s Death, Prague 1944, fig. No. XLIV; H. Musilová: A European from the Moravian-Slovak Countryside, Prague 2011, cat. No. 133, fig. p. 250). A comprehensive catalogue entry summarising all known information about this painting’s publication history can be found in the recent inventory of the artist’s work (J. Kačer: Joža Uprka 1861–1940, Hodonín 2023, fig. p. 85, Inventory of Paintings, p. 268). It was presented at: Exhibition of Slovak Art, The Doré Gallery, London, 1911; Tschechische Kunst 1878–1914, Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt, 18. 11. 1984 – 3. 2. 1985; Joža Uprka: A European from the Moravian-Slovak Countryside, the Wallenstein Riding School, Prague, 23. 09. 2011 – 22. 01. 2012). The provenance of this work is also interesting. It belonged in the collection of an important interwar businessman, benefactor and collector, Richard Morawetz, located in the chateau of Světlá nad Sázavou. After his forced departure abroad in March 1939, the painting was sold in 1941 by the administrator of the chateau, Schulz-Engelhardt, through the antique dealer J. Hořejš to the National Gallery Prague (inv. No. O 2367). It was returned to the heirs based on restitution in 1991.


This painting of high artistic and cultural value is presented in elegant framing and comes from an important Prague collection. Due to the rare appearance of similar works by Joža Uprka on the art market, this canvas can be considered an exceptional collectible opportunity. Assessed during consultations by prof. R. Prahl, CSc., and MgA. J. Benedík. The expertise of PhDr. Š. Leubnerová is attached.

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