Exhibition: Emil Filla (1888- 1953)

Emil Filla's Basket with Fruits [1916] The Wallenstein Riding School in the Prague castle hosts a thorough exhibition of Emil Filla, one of the most famous Czech painters.

It shows all the major aspects of Filla’s work, accompanied by descriptive texts, which summarize each stage of the artist’s life and his art of the chosen period, available in Czech and English versions. The earlier paintings seem to be more accessible. Strongly influenced by Edvard Munch and Vincent Van Gogh (there’s also a clearly Van Goghian self- portrait), the original approach is already visible. More it is so in case of the following Cubist series of the later period (1920s mainly).

Filla’s potraits of women

The main part of the exhibition is what follows. Filla’s later works have a strange feel to them, being very simple, the lines seemingly clumsy, the colours often brutally sharp. It’s a kind of directness that forces you to react. There are figurative paintings, often portraying women, where the focus is on features, often not in the usual order. The artists seems to put aside the way the features are connected, he stresses their very presence, their substance. This makes his women seem both deformed and natural. We don’t see a woman, rather a slightly appalling re-construction of her features, yet we do see a woman all the same, since the basis is there and paradoxically stronger than elsewhere, since all the elements are present. Maybe he speaks to our instincts and our brains, skipping the eye in a way- or, to be more specific, using the eye as a corridor to the brain, but avoiding the visual memory, the taste and the expectations of the viewer. You may see attractiveness or liveliness, it’s just not the kind that you’re likely to be used to.

Filla’s duels

Another major section consists of paintings of duels- two horses, a horse and a lion, mythological fights. These concentrate on capturing the energy of the fight. It’s more complicated when to be interpreted, I must rely on my personal impression and that is of a deception of violence on one hand (stronger in some cases) and a portrait of the self- defensive struggle, where violence is the only key to survival. I couldn’t have helped myself to connect these works to the struggle with the rise of Fascism and later Nazism, which Filla observed with great fear.

The most damaging exhibit is a 3- part series called “Buchenwald”, which looks back on Filla’s horrifying experience with the Nazi concentration camp. The pain and spasm, the horror, the strong metaphor, underlined by the straight- forwardness of the style may hardly leave a visitor unmoved.

The last part of the exhibition shows some less typical paintings of the Czech master (including an almost pointillist portrait of his mother) and his landscapes, which present the most accessible and pleasing of his work, being lively and beautiful. They are situated on the balcony and may work as some sort of a relief after the harsher sights preceding.

The exhibition takes place from April 30th to November 31st. It is open from 10 am to 6 pm seven days a week. Admission fees: full 140 CZK, reduced 70 CZK, families 210 CZK.

Sep 1, 10:28 (Filed under: Culture )

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