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Emil Filla

 (1882 - 1953)
Emil Filla was active/lived in Czech Republic, France.  Emil Filla is known for cubist still life painting and sculpture.

Emil Filla

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Emil Filla
Emil Filla (1882-1953)

The beginnings of modern Czech art and painting, particularly Cubism, are inextricably linked with the name Emil Filla.  After training under Franz Thiele and Vlaho Bukovac at the Prague Fine Arts Academy, he traveled extensively before joining other young artists, among them Procházka and Kubín, to found the group Osma (the Group of Eight) in 1907.  The group was oriented toward both the Paris Fauves and the German movement Die Brücke.

To Filla, however, Munch's painting was also important and, a few years later, the influence of El Greco became apparent in his work.  In 1909, Emil Filla joined the venerable secessionist artists association SVU Mánes but left it in 1911 to join forces with fourteen other young avant-garde artists to found Skupina, which became the center of Czech Cubism until 1914.

Emil Filla, working as an art agent at that time, kept abreast of trends in Paris and Germany, procuring for himself and friends reproductions of paintings by Picasso, Braque and "Negro sculpture".  The sculptures he did in this phase, such as Relief of a Head and Head of a Man (1913-14: both in the Prague National Gallery) are, with the works of Gutfreund, among the earliest Cubist sculptures and can be classified as an independent reaction to Picasso's Fernande (1909).

In 1914 Emil Filla was in Paris with Gutfreund and met both Braque und Picasso.  He married Hana Krejcová and moved with her to Amsterdam, where he joined the anti-Habsburg resistance group Mafia.  He entertained a close dialogue with the Dutch abstractionists but by 1920 Filla had returned to Prague.  There he participated in almost all nation-wide exhibitions with works dealing with the human figure.

He developed what he called the "Animal of the Steppe's Style" in reaction to fascism. Inspired by Scythian reliefs and executed in various techniques, this style highlights combats between man and animals or animals fighting other animals.

Filla was interned during the war years 1939-45 in the concentration camps at Dachau and Buchenwald, where he wrote the book On Freedom.

In 1945 the Mánes devoted their first post-war exhibition to Filla's work.  That year he was appointed professor at the Prague Applied Arts Academy and the government made it possible for him to show his collection of Buddhist, Czech, African and Italian art permanently at Peruc Castle.

After the communist take-over, he spent the last years of his life in retirement, painting landscapes.

Sources include:
art directory

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Emil Filla

Emil Filla (1882-1953)

Czech painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and writer on art, born at Chropyne in Moravia. He studied at the Prague Academy, 1903-06…. Between 1907-14 he spent much of his time in France, Germany and Italy, and during this period he turned from his early Expressionist manner to cubism, becoming the pioneer and one of the most distinguished of the style in Czechoslovakia in both painting and sculpture. He spent the first world war in the Netherlands and returned to Prague in 1920. His most characteristic paintings of this time were still-lifes, but in the late 1930s he turned to themes of violence, presaging the horrors of the Second World War (during which he was imprisoned in the concentration camp at Buchenwald). After the war he taught at the School of Industrial Art in Prague. His post-war work was more naturalistic in style and included some large landscapes. 

To the rebellious children of the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy, particularly to the territorial enclave of gothic-baroque Prague, in which national traditions of German, Austrian and Jewish influences merged, cubism must have appeared to be an example of the most extreme intellectual freedom, verging on debauchery, as a door blown open by a fresh blast of wind to mental independence from the heavy burden of overwhelming history, conservatism and socio-political etiquette.

Czech cubism, which was locally dominant in its vehement beginnings before the First World War, is more of a topic of relations and situations than a question of form. The Prague artists understood it as a Weltanschauung [philosophy of life, world outlook], as existential power of motivation which not only influenced fine arts but also art and design, art and craft, literature, film, music and theatre. The comment about this made by the observer Miroslav Lamac is unforgettable: ”Prague was, in this respect, a true cubist centre, where cubist houses and cubist flats with cubist fittings were built. Their inhabitants could drink cubist cups of coffee, put their flowers in cubist vases, see what time it was from cubist clocks and light with cubist lamps.” This unusual, all-embracing dissemination of the style in bohemia was caused by the urge to achieve liberation in a socio-political sense; Cubism transpired as an attainment of true modern attitude, as a symbol for culturally oriented, independent, worldly-wise impetus, far from the inferiority complexes of the province.

"Emil Filla (1882-1953) TCU Art in Europe, Web, March 2016

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About  Emil Filla

Born:  1882 - Chropyne, Moravia
Died:   1953 - Prague, Czech Republic
Known for:  cubist still life painting and sculpture