Kupka, František (1871–1957) By Pech, Milan
František Kupka, a Czech-born painter and graphic artist active in France, was a pioneer of abstract painting. His Amorpha: Fugue in Two Colours, shown at the Salon d’Autumne in 1912, was the first manifestation of abstract art in Paris. Vertical Schemes I (1912), exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in 1913, was later celebrated by Alfred H. Barr, founding director of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, as the first pure geometrical abstraction. While Guillaume Apollinaire appreciated Kupka’s work and included him in Orphism, Kupka was not fully accepted into avant-garde circles, and despite his contact with the Puteaux Cubists, he refused to be identified with them.
Kupka views motion and light as the only forces that can penetrate and melt matter. From his viewpoint, spiritual reality or cosmic order can be found in nature and is present in all natural forms. While in the 1890s Kupka incorporated elements of symbolism, naturalism, and decorative stylization into his works, in 1910 he gradually began to liberate color as a result of his belief in the deep spiritual and cosmological meaning of art. This conceptual approach led him to develop a scientific and theoretical basis for his work: he studied optics and the color theories of various scientists, including Isaac Newton and Michel-Eugène Chevreul, who were also engaged in biology, physiology, anthropology, and other fields, and applied these interests to his own artistic concerns.