Plzeňské sympozia

Marie Rakušanová

The Sharp Edges of Light and Shade. Bohumil Kubišta’s Polemic with Cubism

pp. 251–260 (Czech), Summary pp. 260–262 (English)

Th?anks to several of his works, Bohumil Kubišta became one of the most prominent exponents of the specific Czech form of Cubism, of which it is generally said that in contrast to Picasso's or Braque's Cubism it places greater emphasis on symbolist meaning and exalts expression by means of forms with Cubist tendencies. But if we connect the artistic devices of Czech Cubism solely with the function of presenting an expressive content, then we classify it in the broader current of the geometrizing style "cubisation", which swept throughout Europe after 1910, but which in the view of many art historians is of less artistic value, because it does not try to analyse the conditions of pictorial representation, but simply applies fashionable forms to an old narrative. Basing itself on an analysis of Kubišta's little-interpreted works, the paper attempts to show that in the Czech lands, too, noteworthy attempts were made to resolve the problem of modern representation of reality, and not only by adopting the tools used by Picasso and Braque. Kubišta's still lifes from 1912 and 1913 show that his oeuvre cannot be linked only with narrative "cubisation", but in relation to the work of Picasso and Braque they remain paradoxical Cubism. Th?ey create their own geometrical and structural system, which is an alternative both to their "deconstructionist" Cubism and to the "cubisation" of European artists. If Kubišta does after all use some elements of Braque's and Picasso's work in them, he does so with a subversive criticism, which sceptically rejects the claims of their Cubism to transcendent totality. Kubišta, a serious searcher after new representation, was not prepared to admit that the pretence of this transcendence was conscious. Kubišta's competence to express such an uncompromising attitude in his work was undoubtedly connected with the roots of his artistic and intellectual identity in the Central European cultural and scholarly tradition. Kubišta's Cubism, if indeed it is Cubism, is not a derivative of the French archetype, and does not compare itself with the latter, but polemicizes with it.

Key words: Bohumil Kubišta - Cubism - modern pictorial representation - light -
shade - transparency


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