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 Frantisek Kupka  (1871 - 1957)

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Lived/Active: Czech Republic/France      Known for: abstract painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Frantisek Kupka
1871 (Opocno, eastern Bohemia (now Czech Republic))
1957 (Puteaux, France)

Czech Republic/France

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abstract painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

František Kupka (September 23, 1871 - June 24, 1957)

A Czech painter and graphic artist, he was a pioneer and co-founder of the early phases of the abstract art movement.

František Kupka was born in Opocno, eastern Bohemia (now Czech Republic) in 1871 and in 1887 he began training as an artist at the Prague academy under Frantisek Sequens, who had been strongly influenced by the Nazarener School.  In 1891 the artist transferred to the academy in Vienna, where he worked under Professor Eisenmenger until 1893. 

In 1894 Kupka traveled to London and Scandinavia, settling in Paris, France in 1895.  He worked as an illustrator of books and posters and created satirical drawings for newspapers and magazines.  In 1905 Kupka moved to Puteaux in the suburbs, where he got acquainted with Jacques Villon, who introduced him to a circle of painters in 1910/11, including Marcel Duchamp, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia and others.  Through their discussions of Cubism, Futurism and the relationship between painting and music, Kupka's work became increasingly abstract, reflecting his theories of motion, color, and orphism.  In 1909, he had exhibited for the first time at the Salon d'Automne, with the submitted work marking a break in his representational style.  In 1912, Kupka exhibited his abstract pictures, which are associated with Orphism because of their proximity to music.

In 1918 Frantisek Kupka accepted a post as guest professor in Prague and in 1931 he co-founded the group 'Abstraction-Création' with Hans Arp, Jean Hélion, Auguste Herbin, Georges Valmier and Georges Vantongerloo, becoming a member of the group's board.  In 1936, his work was included in the exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and in an important show with another Czech painter, Alphonse Mucha, at the Jeu de Paume in Paris. 

Kupka spent the Second World War in Beaugency, returning to Puteaux immediately after the liberation.  In 1946 at the occasion of his 75th birthday the artist's first major retrospective was shown in Prague.  In 1955 Kupka participated in documenta I in Kassel, Germany.

He died in  Puteaux on July 21, 1957 and a year later a large-scale retrospective exhibition took place at the 'Musée d'Art Moderne' in Paris, which dedicated an entire room to Frantisek Kupka.

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