Posted : 2013-01-27 16:59
Updated : 2013-01-27 16:59

Passionate Czech modern art comes to Seoul

"Portrait of F. Kupka and Mrs. E. Kupkova" (1908) by Frantisek Kupka, The works are on display at the National Museum of Art at Deoksu Palace in Seoul as part of exhibition "Memory of Landscape I Have Never Seen: Collection of the National Gallery in Prague."
/ Courtesy of the National Museum of Art

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Prague is known as a romantic city and a favorite tourist destination for Koreans. An exhibition at the National Museum of Art at Deoksu Palace is ready to show how modern art developed in this Czech capital.

"Memory of Landscape I Have Never Seen: Collection of the National Gallery in Prague," features 107 paintings by 28 Czech artists from 1905 to 1943.

Vladimir Rosel, general director of the National Gallery in Prague, visited Korea to attend the opening of the exhibit and celebrate the start of artistic exchanges with the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea (NMOCA).

"I am glad to see people interested in Czech modern art. The exhibition we brought to Seoul is about the modern era, showing the evolution of art," Rosel said.

He referred to this exhibition as an "aperitif," hoping for further artistic exchanges between Seoul and Prague. "We are looking forward to building a relationship with NMOCA. This is not the last exhibit of Czech art in Korea and at the same time we hope to show Korean art in Prague," the general director said.

The works are on display at the National Museum of Art at Deoksu Palace in Seoul as part of exhibition "Memory of Landscape I Have Never Seen: Collection of the National Gallery in Prague."

It introduces Czech art from three periods — "Searching for Modern Expression 1905-1917," "The Informal Beauty of the First Republic 1918-1929" and "Surrealist Imagination 1930-1943."

Visitors can see a wide range of Czech art from symbolism and expressionism to abstract art and surrealism before World War II.

Rosel said 1905 was crucial to the development of modern art in the Czech Republic after Norwegian artist Edvard Munch was first introduced to Prague. "That's what gave spark to modern art in Prague," Rosel said.

The characteristics of Czech art come from Slavic culture with nationalism and socialism, according to NMOCA curator Liu Jienne, who organized this exhibition.

"Czech art is less known compared to Czech music or literature, but we can see Czech artists agonizing over social situations and politics," Liu said.

The highlight will be Frantisek Kupka's works. Kupka is considered a pioneer of abstract art in Czech and currently an exhibition dedicated to the artist titled "Frantisek Kupka: The Road to Amorpha" is ongoing at the National Gallery in Prague.

His earlier works are figurative paintings inspired by Austrian culture and symbolism based on Greek myths but he later gave himself to abstract art.

"Portrait of F. Kupka and Mrs. E. Kupkova" was created in 1908 when the painter was in Paris but he is wearing traditional Czech clothing with a wide red belt.

Emil Filla led Czech cubism, inspired by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Filla's paintings are in earth tones and disassemble and reassemble objects. In later days, he painted many works of beasts from mythology.

After Czechoslovakia became independent in 1918, the foundation of the country influenced the art scene, resulting in more creative, avant-garde trends.

Artists also had side jobs such as illustrators and set designers and that affected their style. Paintings with socialistic themes were more dreamlike than serious.

Frantisek Muzika's "Three Sisters" has fantastic realism traits, while Vlasta Vostrebalova-Fischerova's "Letna in 1922" looks like an illustration for a fairy tale.

Works after 1930 became more surreal. Josef Sima's 1936 "Memory of a Landscape I've Never Seen" condenses the theme of the exhibition — a part of Czech art Koreans did not previously know. Sima's paintings blend surrealism in landscapes, combining the shape of human body with scenery.

The exhibition runs through April 21 and is closed on Mondays. A docent program in English is available at 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

For more information, visit or call (02) 2188-6114.

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