I will admit I had never heard of Kupka before we saw his retrospective exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris. He is credited as being one of the great pioneers of abstract art that emerged in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. This exhibition was a delightful surprise for its expansiveness, the quality and range of the work, and its insight into the development of the abstract art movement.
František Kupka began his artistic career in Vienna in the early 1890's. He worked as a graphic designer, creating hundreds of graphic works for newspapers and advertising. I was impressed by his deft depictions of the human body, his composition, and his portraiture.
Starting in 1907, while still continuing his figurative art, Kupka moved into a form of representation marked by assertive colors and a desire to depict movement, time, and space in new ways. His work from this period displays a delight in nature and a focus on new perspectives on the human form.
Soon his work began a transition from figurative to abstract art, with a continued emphasis on a sophisticated color vocabulary.
As Kupka became more and more dissatisfied with the attempt to record nature he moved wholeheartedly into abstraction. He aimed to create a new reality within the picture space itself without any outside references.
Kupka was passionate about architecture, science, and space, but even so, he wanted his paintings to be free of any references to reality or even scientific concepts. His work used circles, ovals, and spirals to order the canvas and to express the dimension of time. He designed his paintings based on a complex hierarchy of points, lines, forms and colors arranged in a highly symbolic composition.