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 Emil Filla  (1882 - 1953)

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Lived/Active: Czech Republic      Known for: painting and sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
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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
kettererkunst.com


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