Is the Cubism that is Czech Also Universal? Czech Art Theory (1921–1958) and Cubism as a Cultural and Transcultural Phenomenon

Marie Rakušanová

Marie Rakušanová is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art History at Charles University, Prague. In this wide-ranging yet closely-argued work of comparative historiography, Rakušanová surveys the Czech art-historical discourses that greeted the Czech form of Cubism and compares these discourses to the dominant, ‘Western’ theories of Cubism propounded by Rosalind Krauss and Yve-Alain Bois. Examining various local theories formulated around Cubism, including the concept of ‘Cubo-Expressionism’, a biographical model of interpretation and an ‘idiosyncratic’ synthesis of iconology and gestalt theory, Rakušanová questions how far Czech art critics and historians succeeded in defining the specificity of Czech Cubism. She explores the seemingly unbridgeable gulf between these local interpretive methods and the strong semiological stance of Western theorists, pointing to some neglected points of intersection between domestic and international art history. This essay first appeared, in somewhat different form, in the Czech art journal Umění in 2017.[1] (JO)

Is the Cubism that is Czech Also Universal? Czech Art Theory (1921–1958) and Cubism as a Cultural and Transcultural Phenomenon

Marie Rakušanová


The title of this study refers to Noam Chomsky’s 1957 book Syntactic Structures. In this book Chomsky showed, among other things, that the attempt to express meaning through grammatical construction is fruitless. Grammatical form is arbitrary and always corresponds with meaning in an ‘imperfect’ and ‘vague’ manner.[2] The urgent need to ascertain whether the art to which we now give the name ‘Cubism’ is universal, even when it was created in the Czech lands, is projected into a breakneck syntactical form, one that makes no promise of solving a burning problem, but rather implies a series of questions of a different and more fundamental kind: is Cubism Czech? Is Cubism universal? Is Cubism a thing at all? The text that follows does not aim to answer the opening question, nor the half-questions that arise from it, in spite of the fact that it will repeatedly pose them. It will show that however we formulate the question regarding the ‘internationalism’ of Czech Cubism, this will always involve an instinctive and illogical grammatical operation, which will bypass the question’s real significance.

There are several causes of this peculiarity, and of course not all of these can be grasped with a metaphor from the realm of revisionist linguistics. In what ways were the values of Cubism’s ‘Czechness’ or ‘internationalism’ defined in Czech art theory, and how did these concepts influence the dialogue, or the absence of dialogue, between local art history and ‘Western’ art-historical discourse? It is necessary to look for a response in the early texts about Cubism. As this study will show, studies by important Czech personalities such as Vincenc Kramář, Václav Nebeský, Jan Mukařovský and others had great significance for the construction of Czech Cubism’s image and for the choice of the instruments with which it was methodologically anchored. The period covered in this text is delimited by two books by Vincenc Kramář: Cubism (Kubismus), which came out in 1921, and Questions of Modern Art (Otázky moderního umění), published in 1958. But my study will also make selective reference to art-historical conceptions that were formulated later, for instance Miroslav Lamač’s ‘Cubo-Expressionism’ (‘kuboexpresionismus’). Attention will be devoted too to other methods of interpreting Cubism favoured by Czech art history, methods partly growing out of early Cubist theory, among which we find research into ‘modern Realism’, biographism, an idiosyncratic form of iconology enriched with suggestions of Gestalt theory, and the conception of Czech Cubism as pure ‘Picassoism’. This essay will analyse to what extent these interpretive frameworks really captured the characteristic features of local pre-war modernism and how far they represented a tendency to mythologise local modern art and culture.

The question of the extent to which Czech Cubism can be considered a phenomenon of universal art history is connected with the symptomatic gulf between a dominant, semiotically oriented ‘Western’ history of art and Czech art history. This ensues from the radically different evaluations of the phenomenon commonly known as Czech Cubism in the local and in the ‘Western’ context. My aim is not to negate the values and approaches of these two art-historical discourses, nor to exalt the qualities of one methodological framework at the expense of the other. On the contrary, through the revision of the existing interpretations and approaches of Western and local art historians I will attempt to draw attention to their intersections of viewpoint, as a potential inspiration for a future reciprocal and transcultural dialogue. A number of these possible intersections are indicated in Czech contributions to early Cubist theory, and all the more precisely in some of their least-remembered aspects.

 Is the Cubism that is Kahnweiler’s also Kramář’s?

In 1938 the aesthetician Jan Mukařovský expounded a thesis about the Cubist picture which, in the context of structural-linguistic analyses of Cubism, in retrospect appears absolutely fundamental. That is, he observed in the Cubist ‘object-sign’ a synecdochic character. In his text ‘Towards a Noetics and Poetics of Surrealism in Painting’, he wrote: ‘Cubism has now revealed the possibilities of the poetic trope known as synecdoche, which is defined as the representation of the whole by a part’.[3] This fact is interesting for the reason that, when Rosalind Krauss and Yve-Alain Bois emphasised the metonymic, synecdochic feature of Cubism in their semiotic interpretations, they based their analysis on Roman Jakobson’s texts ‘What is Poetry?’ (1933–34) and, particularly, ‘Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances’ (1956).[4] Yet the affinity between Mukařovský’s views on Cubism and the theses of Russian Formalism, which thanks to Jakobson resounded in the Prague Linguistic Circle in the form of Viktor Shklovskii’s theory about the creative method of the artwork ‘defamiliarising’ the work’s referent, was not too widely acknowledged in Czech histories of art.[5] The result of this was that Mukařovský’s significance for the ‘New Art History’ was long overlooked in the Czech lands. That Mukařovský’s text ‘Art as a Semiological Fact’ was included by Norman Bryson in his anthology Calligram: Essays in New Art History from France is a fact of which very few Czechs are aware.[6]

Vojtěch Lahoda, however, has expressed the interesting view that Mukařovský, during his reflections on the synecdochic nature of the Cubist sign in the 1930s, came back to the idea of Cubism as a lyricism of artistic elements, as it had been formulated in the 1921 book Cubism by Vincenc Kramář, a graduate of the Vienna School of Art History.[7] Karel Srp has also acknowledged that Kramář’s concept of Cubism is close to Structuralism in places. However, he saw an essential difference in the fact that for Jan Mukařovský the Cubist picture served above all as an example of things depicted as signs, while on the contrary Kramář always grasped it as a depiction of ‘the thing in itself’. Mukařovský, in contrast to Kramář, was aware of the essential gap between empirical reality and its depiction.[8] Mukařovský’s sign-based conception of Cubism was closer in this regard to another founding figure of Cubist theory, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler.

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, a dealer in pictures who before the First World War had helped Kramář create one of the first and most significant collections of Cubist art, drew attention to the sign-based character of Cubism in his studies of the 1940s, specifically the books Juan Gris: His Life, Work and Writings (Juan Gris: sa vie, son œuvre, ses écrits) and Picasso’s Sculptures (Les sculptures de Picasso).[9] But already in his 1920 book The Rise of Cubism (Der Weg zum Kubismus) Kahnweiler evaluated Cubism as a new kind of language, founded on the conflictual relationship between the memory image in the mind of the spectator and the forms represented in the painting.[10] Kramář wrote his 1921 book Cubism in reaction to Kahnweiler’s monograph. On a number of things he was in agreement with Kahnweiler. He emphasised the revolutionary nature of the formal methods of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque’s Cubism, including the opening up of form and the breakdown of the object, the disruption of the perspectival construction of space and of natural light sources.[11] Kramář believed that, from out of the elements of the Cubist composition, an ‘image of the object … arises … in the mind of the comprehending spectator’,[12] and thus he confirmed Kahnweiler’s conception of the Cubist picture as an analytical study of the object that is then composed anew in the mind of the spectator.[13] Kahnweiler supported this thesis with a quotation from Immanuel Kant about the fusion of multiple impressions into a single perception.[14]

In contrast to Kahnweiler, Kramář, in his book Cubism, did not employ the metaphor of language in his analysis of Cubism, nor did he reflect on the nature of pictorial representation.[15] Kramář considered Cubism a ‘lyricism of form’, and he described Picasso’s collages from his synthetic period as ‘the most perfect possible equivalent to the reality emerging from his soul’.[16] Václav Nebeský, in his 1921 review of Kramář’s publication, compared the two theorists’ concepts.[17] According to Kahnweiler, he wrote, ‘the spectator’s mind, following the hints and orienting guidelines of the Cubist construction’, conducts a ‘retroactive compositional operation’, which results in a ‘final vision’.[18] This vision ‘presents…an image of that same reality that was subjected to artistic transfiguration’. By contrast, ‘for Kramář’, wrote Nebeský, ‘an impression arises in the spectator’s imagination of a reality of a quite different nature, an entirely spiritual and interior reality’. Nebeský concluded his account with the assertion that Kahnweiler’s interpretation is ‘more French’ and Kramář’s ‘more Slavic’.[19] In his 1923 study Art After Impressionism (Umění po impresionismu) Nebeský himself argued along the same lines as Kramář in speaking about a deep spirituality, ‘running into mysticism’, in regard to Picasso’s Cubism.[20] Nebeský’s assessment shows how contemporaneous views about Kahnweiler’s ‘linguistically’ based interpretation of Cubism prevented this aspect of Cubist theory from taking root in Czech art history. The paradox remains that Nebeský also attempted a very idiosyncratic structuralist investigation of Cubism himself, though of course without arousing any greater interest in this method within the dominant Czech discourse.

Indeed, Czech histories of art—as compared with the theories of Václav Nebeský and the aesthetics of Jan Mukařovský—retained a cautious distance from the structuralist interpretations of Cubism to which Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler was inclined and with which even Picasso himself identified in the 1930s.[21] During one of his conversations with Kramář at this time, Picasso sketched out a human head drawn partly in vague outline and partly in Cubist style, so as to express the arbitrariness of the artistic sign in relation to the referent. Kramář was decidedly unconvinced by Picasso’s argument and, in his 1958 book Questions of Modern Art, he stated that ‘according to Picasso’s latest opinion all these various methods of representing nature are merely signs with which we communicate, and we cannot declare any one of these more truthful than any other, … of course, the Cubist Picasso did not judge things this way … at that time, driven not by a programme but by an inner necessity, he pursued the form of expression that, in his judgement, best approximated things as they really are’.[22]

Writing of ‘semantic philosophy, or the theory of signs and symbols’, Czech art historian Jiří Padrta argued in 1964 that this philosophy’s influence was so acute throughout the 1930s that a number of that era’s intellectuals succumbed to it, including even Picasso, ‘who in one interview from that time speaks entirely in this philosophical vein’.[23] ‘In agreement with part of the specialist literature’ devoted to ‘the problem of language and written script’, Kahnweiler, according to Padrta, came to conclusions that strongly favoured the concept of the artwork as a ‘formative script’, which has an autonomous existence as given by the laws and rules of artistic creation, but which at the same time, ‘in the communicative sense’, ‘refers to the outside world’. For Kahnweiler Cubism was ‘a new kind of realism’, using unconventional methods of depiction. Kahnweiler rejected all abstract art as decorativism, a play of ‘hedonistic spirits’, while those Romanticisms that abandon the purely plastic aspect and draw assistance from literature and psychology were designated as an art that is ‘impure in method’. Padrta considers Kahnweiler’s conception too limited, incapable of appreciating that extensive field of artistic creation deriving from an inner model of the world.[24]


Is the History of Cubism that is Czech ‘Semiotic’?

Jiří Padrta was one of the most significant Czech modern art historians of the second half of the twentieth century, and his critical assessments of Kahnweiler’s sign-based conception of Cubism show how Czech art history after the Second World War was unable, or unwilling, to connect back to the structuralist and semiotic experiments of interwar Czech art theory. In Mukařovský’s case the lack of appreciation was probably due to the fact that Mukařovský himself, adopting the Stalinist rhetoric of the early 1950s, repented for his interwar ideas, which were supposedly laden with bourgeois Formalism.[25] But, as was mentioned earlier, neither did Czech histories of modern art elaborate on the structuralist impulses in Václav Nebeský’s texts. Nebeský introduced his study Art as a Manifestation of the Spirit (Umění jako projev ducha), written in the early 1940s, with a short summary of contemporary issues within semantics and examined the difference between ‘meaning, the sign and the mark’ (významznak and značka).[26] Of course Nebeský’s work remained unconnected with structural-linguistic discourse; he attempted rather to formulate an independent aesthetic systematics, which finally resulted in his formulation of three basic categories: ‘physioplastics, psychoplastics and ideoplastics’ (fyzioplastika, psychoplastika and ideoplastika).[27]

The originality of Nebeský’s sign-based analyses was already anticipated by his reflections from the early 1920s on the Cubism of Bohumil Kubišta, in which he offered an interesting way of thinking through the representation of spatial depth in Kubišta’s pictures from 1912 to 1915.[28] According to Nebeský, in these pictures Kubišta employed planimetric and stereometric representations, with which he either emptied full volume or filled empty volume.[29] Planimetrics presents geometric figures as part of a two-dimensional surface, whether in the form of planar curves or closed shapes. In contrast, stereometrics is the form of geometry representing three-dimensional space, with objects taking the form of polyhedrons or round solids. Through the hypothesis he drew, Nebeský offered a particularly substantial explanation of Kubišta’s motivations for his deployment of these two types of geometric representation. According to him, Kubišta, as a ‘painter with the instincts of a sculptor’, originally conceived the pictorial ‘space purely as a stage for the malleable and expressive life of the object depicted: as empty volume seen from the inside’. Nebeský points out, however, that with the passage of time Kubišta became ever more interested in the ‘question of the equal empowerment of painterly elements’: in other words, ‘how to find the common denominator between actor and stage, how to formally unify the solid volume seen from outside with the empty volume seen from inside?’ (Fig. 2.1).[30]

cubist style painting with multiple objects in green
Fig. 2.1. Bohumil Kubišta, Painterly Still Life (Zátiší malířské, 1913). Oil on canvas, 47 x 34.5 cm. Private collection.

Nebeský’s approach to Kubišta’s handling of pictorial space is not dissimilar to the semiological-phenomenological exploration of Picasso’s paintings in the texts of Leo Steinberg. In his article ‘Picasso’s Sleepwatchers’, Steinberg engages in reflections on spatial abbreviations, slants and slopes, by means of which a picture makes present even that which should not be seen, namely the backs of the objects depicted.[31] A conception of space not as a visual continuum but as an interior modelled by contact and tension, as a web of chance palpations, reachings, graspings, and circlings, is what Steinberg discovered in Picasso’s The Young Ladies of Avignon (Les Demoiselles d’Avignon).[32] Nebeský defined the means by which Kubišta conceived pictorial space, identifying these with planimetric and stereometric representation. A few decades later Rosalind Krauss, in her study ‘The Motivation of the Sign’, applied structural-linguistic methods to Picasso’s work from 1909 to 1912. Her conclusion was that Picasso began to use the semiotic repertoire of collage at that point when he realised that the signifying activity of proto-Cubism and analytical Cubism unavoidably fails to create the illusion of spatial depth. He thus began to thematise the absence of depth ‘inscribed’ on the ‘collage surface’.[33] Nebeský’s analysis of Kubišta’s Cubist re-evaluation of pictorial representation shows that the signifying activity of Kubišta’s greatest works does not thematise flatness, or the absence of depth, such as Krauss later found in Picasso’s collages; rather, by applying a combination of different geometric models to pictorial signs, Kubišta’s work disrupts depth in its hitherto familiar form (Fig. 2.2).[34]

canvas with sketch on
Fig. 2.2. Bohumil Kubišta, Still Life (Zátiší, 1912). Pencil on canvas, 33.5 x 32 cm. National Gallery, Prague. © 2018 The National Gallery in Prague

Is Cubism A Thing At All? The Structural Linguistic Response

Within the framework of ‘Western’ art-historical discourse, Rosalind Krauss, Leo Steinberg, and Yve-Alain Bois have, since the 1970s, been among the most influential interpreters of Cubism. At a time when Czech histories of art had succeeded in forgetting the structuralist legacy of Jan Mukařovský and Václav Nebeský, these ‘Western’ art historians were connecting with a strong tradition of semiotic and formally-analytical interpretations of Cubist paintings. Yve-Alain Bois drew predominantly on Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler’s work in his texts, and chose among his secondary literature a study by Werner Spies.[35] Krauss’s work in many ways developed out of the analyses of Clement Greenberg, the semiotics of C.S. Peirce, and the semiology of Roland Barthes.[36] Leo Steinberg, meanwhile, used concepts from Saussurean linguistics for his analysis of Picasso’s Cubist works.[37]

Rosalind Krauss summarised the aims of a semiologically-oriented art history in her text ‘The Motivation of the Sign’. Researchers who rely on concepts from structural linguistics are attempting, in her view, to capture something that we might call a general history and theory of representation. The semiological interpreter, according to Krauss, remains forever alert to the reality of the huge gulf that divides the signified (the conjoined twin of the signifier within the semiological structure of the sign) from the referent. The signified is a mental concept: the meaning. The referent is the (real) object. The system produces the sign as a component of a vast network of other signs, and the concept-meaning is a function of that same system; it is affected by it. Contrary to this is the status of the concept-meaning within an iconologically oriented art history, which looks for meaning—seen as similar to the positivist truths of the scientific disciplines—outside of this system.[38] Krauss, with the aid of structural linguistics, sets herself in sharp opposition to iconological histories of art.

Krauss focussed exclusively on Picasso, as did Yve-Alain Bois in his study ‘The Semiology of Cubism’ (published in the same collection). Bois openly admitted that he connects the epistemological turn in the history of representation solely with the creative achievements of Picasso and refused Braque any credit for the innovations that enabled Cubism’s ‘semiological epiphany’.[39] In addressing the question of the origin and the true character of authentic Cubism, both authors responded with a single name: Pablo Picasso. Though Krauss and Bois represent a revisionist art history, they proved unable in their reflections to rid themselves of the geographical limits of canonical Cubism. They remained fixed upon Paris as the ultimate modernist centre and on Picasso as the sole true Cubist, subverting established models of representation. Nebeský’s semiotic account of Kubišta’s treatment of spatial depth has shown us that the application of structural linguistic methods, even within the context of local manifestations of Cubism, can reveal independent subversive attempts at a new type of pictorial representation. Nebeský also proved that this type of art-historical work can easily do without the traditional models of thinking, which relentlessly demand a solution to the question of influence coming from the dominant centre. But this example failed to resonate more strongly in later, retrospective assessments of Cubism, whether in Czech or in foreign art-historical discourse.[40]

In 1971 Rosalind Krauss wrote a review of an exhibition staged by Douglas Cooper, The Cubist Epoch, which for the first time ever included Czech examples in an overview of Cubist art. Krauss’s review did not speak favourably of Czech Cubism: ‘17 works by the Czech adepts, Filla, Kubista [sic], Procházka, Benes [sic], Gutfreund and Capek [sic] attest to the orgy of academicism that the new style unleashed on European art’.[41] It is not surprising that Czech experts on Cubism did not convey Krauss’s opinion back to Czech readers. In my view, a text by Edward F. Fry from the book Czech Cubism 19091925 (Český kubismus 19091925) can be read as one of the few direct references to Krauss’ critique: ‘those whose standards of Cubism are set by the works of Picasso and Braque and their peers should not too hastily dismiss the Prague school of Cubism’s rise during the years before the World War One’.[42] It is very tempting to refuse to engage with Krauss’s assessment, and to respond to it with the following simple condemnation: that this is an arrogant statement by a representative of cultural hegemony and a defender of the Western canon, who has not bothered to acquaint herself better with the phenomenon she criticises. But the whole matter is more complicated; it makes sense to analyse her critique, and to do so in a wider context. Several texts by Yve-Alain Bois make clearer the semioticians’ motivation in criticising non-canonical Cubism, especially the Cubism from regions more geographically remote from Paris. In his 1997 article ‘Cubistic, Cubic and Cubist’, he wrote that the ‘geometrizing style’, which gripped the whole of Europe after 1910, cannot be termed ‘Cubist’, since it only comprises some kind of ‘cubistic’ manifestation, which in contrast to the Cubism of Picasso and Braque made no attempt at a new and subversive analysis of the conditions of pictorial representation, instead merely applying fashionable forms to the same old subjects.[43] Bois makes generalisations and, in a single sweeping gesture, he uses the conveniently broad category of geometrising style to sum up all cubistic manifestations from outside the Parisian centre and the circle of ‘private Cubists’ Picasso and Braque.[44] But the argumentative arsenal he uses for his critique of these so-called ‘geometrising’ and ‘cubistic’ tendencies has its roots in Central-European art history.

Does Cubo-Expressionism Exist?

In attempting to establish a distinct artistic identity for the region of Central Europe, within which the Czech lands are usually included,[45] local art history spent long decades developing the idea of a specific tendency in local modern art towards psychologism, irrationality, and spiritual-expressive manifestations.[46] In its theme and setting, such art supposedly takes place at the sublimated level of an affiliation with literature, where it tells stories about the fate of the individual. This well-worn stereotype derived in large part from the traditional art-historical polarity of north and south, of Nordic and Roman cultures, and relied on Heinrich Wölfflin’s system of oppositions as well as on the early ‘Expressionist’ theory of Wilhelm Worringer.[47] In the Czech context it can also be connected to, among other things, the category of a specific, hybrid trend in modern art: Cubo-Expressionism.[48] This concept has a complicated genesis, which leads us again to Kramář, who in 1921 mentioned the possibility of a ‘cross’ (křížení) between Cubism as a pure ‘formal and objectivist tendency’ and a ‘subjectivist Expressionism’.[49] In terms of gravity and significance for the development of art, Kramář of course privileged a pure and unadulterated Cubism. With this assertion he was evidently continuing an older polemic dating back to before World War One, when he, together with Emil Filla and other members of the Group of Fine Artists (Skupina výtvarných umělců), stood against an opposing school of thought comprising the Čapek brothers and Stanislav Kostka Neumann. The latter camp, in debates about the character of modern art, emphasised the necessity of mixing and balancing the qualities of Cubism and Expressionism.[50]

More than 30 years later, in a quite different political and cultural context, the idea of a ‘cross’ between Cubism and Expressionism was resurrected by Miroslav Lamač. In 1957 and 1958 Lamač and Padrta succeeded, thanks to the political thaw, in initiating an exhibition of Czech modern art in Brno and Prague. In the text of the exhibition catalogue Lamač devoted considerable attention to the work of Bohumil Kubišta, Antonín Procházka, Emil Filla, and several former members of Osma (the Eight Group) from 1910 to 1912, work that, for him, is characterised by the attempt to ‘use the techniques of Cubism to heighten the expressiveness of a definite subject, which often has a symbolic function’. In Kubišta’s work in particular he finds not so much a pure Cubism as an expressive quality, a symbolic evocation of psychic events, spiritual forces and emotions.[51] These aspects of pre-First-World-War Czech modern art, which made for a specific local modification of Cubism, were covered extensively by Lamač in his major synthetic study The Eight and the Group of Fine Artists (Osma a Skupina výtvarných umělců) from 1988, although he had already defined this phenomenon with the concept of Cubo-Expressionism during the first half of the 1960s.[52] In his article ‘Czech Avant-Garde Painting in International Contexts’, Lamač had attempted to relate Czech modern art to the Western canon. If we consider his reflections of that time in their political-historical context, we could say that he was attempting, in a difficult era, to put the Czech lands back on the cultural map of Europe.[53] In terms of the viability and serviceability of the term Cubo-Expressionism his mission was successful, as the concept not only entered into Czech art-historical discourse, but was also adopted by Western art historians, such as Donald E. Gordon and Steven Mansbach. Mansbach even wrote about the ‘uniquely creative forms of Cubo-Expressionism’ in the Czech lands.[54] James Elkins of course caustically noted in a review of Mansbach’s book that ‘it seems apparent that an innovation (Cubo-Expressionism) which needs to be described in terms of two prior innovations (Cubism and Expressionism) may be hard to present as an avant-garde’.[55] Despite Elkins’s doubts we can of course say that Lamač defined what were for many years the fundamental contours of art-historical thinking about the early Czech avant-garde and its points of departure. At the same time, the concept of Cubo-Expressionism revealed the interpretative limits of the generalisations that unavoidably accompany the rise of broad art-historical narratives. This is clearly shown by Lamač’s assessment of Kubišta’s Cubo-Expressionism, about which he wrote:

If we accept French Cubism as the defining model, we would have to describe our painter’s conception of Cubism as in many ways a misunderstanding of it … From the beginning Kubišta’s approach is much more rational. The inspirations he took from Cubism enabled the more consistent achievement of pictorial order, the freer construction of form, the attainment of more artful composition. However, these rational elements lead, as usual, to the strengthening of the irrational and even the outright imaginative and fantastic aspects of the painting.[56]

Even Lamač used the work of Picasso and Braque as his reference point, but from this comparison Kubišta’s work emerges as proof of ‘creative misunderstanding’. This concept has long been used in analyses of the relation between Czech modern art and the artistic centres, as in the case of the older generation of artists who formed the Mánes Association of Fine Artists (SVU Mánes).[57] Vincenc Kramář was already convinced that Kubišta was not a representative of the ‘one true’ Cubism à la Picasso, which makes Cubism ‘the basis of a new realism’, focussed on ‘a poetic conception of things’. Kramář, like Lamač 8 years later, considered ‘Cubistic Expressionism’ to be the result of Kubišta’s deviation from real Cubism (Fig. 2.3).[58]

cubist abstract painting
Fig. 2.3. Bohumil Kubišta, Glass Still Life (Skleněné zátiší, 1913). Oil on canvas, 68 x 54 cm. Regional Gallery (Oblastní Galerie Vysočiny), Jihlava. © 2017 OGV in Jihlava.

Lamač’s assumption was that Kubišta consciously put the distorted forms of early Cubism in the service of his paintings’ expressive, fantastic, and imaginative themes. For him, in Kubišta’s work there was no instinctive search for new forms of pictorial representation, a search canonical art history has ascribed to Picasso and Braque alone, and the revisionists Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss accepted this thesis without reservation. The stereotyped view of Picasso’s Cubism as a purely intuitive creative achievement was not challenged until the 1980s, in the work of Patricia Leighton, a cultural history-oriented revisionist of Cubist history, who convincingly shows that the myth of the intuitiveness of Picasso’s work was successfully created by Picasso himself. In this way he distinguished himself from, among others, the salon Cubists of the circle around Metzinger and Gleizes, who, in contrast, were charged from the very first discussions of Cubism with being academic and intellectually calculating.[59]

Lamač’s emphasis on the expressive, imaginative, and fantastic qualities of Cubo-Expressionism confirmed foreign interpreters in their convictions about the symbolic, expressive, and thus content-based character of the Czech approach to Cubist representation. Edward F. Fry describes this specific Czech response to Cubism as ‘imitative emulation’, which attempts merely to ‘reproduce the style and appearance of Cubist painting’, to graft it onto ‘an indigenous local tradition of styles and subjects’.[60] According to Fry this was ‘a response typical of almost all Czech Cubists’ during the years 1910 to 1912 to the stimulus of Parisian Cubism.[61] While Fry does not use the term Cubo-Expressionism, it is clear that his characterisation of the dominant features of early Czech Cubism is taken from the tradition formulated by Miroslav Lamač and other art historians, who from the 1950s onwards attempted to integrate Czech modernism into the Western narrative of art history while at the same time emphasising its uniqueness and specificity. In their attempt to assert the cultural identity of Central Europe by emphasising the emotionality and literariness of early Cubist works, Czech histories of art prevented these works from being considered as interesting experiments in pictorial representation. If Czech art historians did not look for such ambitions in the work of their artists, it is easy to see why foreign ones did not do so either.


Is the Interpretation of Cubism that is Biographical Global?

The exhibition and book project Czech Cubism 19091925 (Český kubismus 19091925), to which Fry contributed the essay cited above, was an important milestone in the presentation of the phenomenon of Czech Cubism abroad. This project arose in the 1990s, and for historians of Czech modern art this decade brought, among other things, the need to reckon with the Marxist-Leninist rhetoric of the past.[62] Pavla Pečinková, writing in 1993, even found in Lamač’s interpretation of Czech Cubism (specifically of Kubišta’s work) the residue of ‘the socialist realist hegemony of the times’, a restriction of ‘observation’ to the ‘method of Kubišta’s ordering of reality’, and a defence of Cubism as ‘modern realism’.[63] It is in these terms that she evaluated Lamač and Padrta’s Kubišta exhibition project from 1960 to 1961. She acknowledged that Lamač, in his study ‘Attempts at Synthesis in the Work of Bohumil Kubišta’, was already, in 1962, examining the ‘psychological depth and internal drama’ in Kubišta’s work, but, she wrote, ‘he does not permit himself to acknowledge anything that would exceed the limits of atheism and sober rationality’, and he thus remains concerned predominantly with ‘Kubišta’s artistic transposition of reality’. Lamač’s emphasis on the psychological, imaginative layers of content and the dramatic narrativity of Czech Cubo-Expressionist works evidently does not suffice; what should also be revealed is the ‘energetic character’ and ‘spiritual foundations’ of Kubišta’s paintings. According to Pečinková, Kubišta’s work must then be understood today ‘as an example of a specifically Central European spiritual interpretation of external formal impulses’.[64]

At a time when the interpretative framework of canonical Western Cubism is dominated by an approach that concentrates on uncovering the sign-based character of Cubist works and on tracing the indexical, rather than iconic, function of the structures and forms of a revolutionary style of pictorial representation, Czech art history, influenced by prevailing political and cultural paradigms, pushes into the background that part of Lamač’s research into Cubism that examined the method of the new painting style and its use for a ‘new artistic transposition of reality’.[65] Pečinková’s explicitly-formulated views resounded through the rest of Czech writing on Cubism, which focussed even more consistently on the content-related, spiritualised side of Czech and Central-European works.

This tendency seems a little ironic when we recall that, in 1909, Kubišta had himself revealed, with visionary foresight, the desire among Czech art historians and critics for the presence of content, when he discontentedly declared that ‘almost nobody in this country sees anything in a picture besides its content and substance’.[66]

Czech art history’s obsession with the subject matter of Cubist painting led, in the case of the assessment of Bohumil Kubišta, to favouring a small number of works, which became the ones most frequently reproduced, exhibited and interpreted, even in the context of international presentations of Czech Cubism. The catalogue for the London exhibition Cubist Art from Czechoslovakia from 1967 placed a reproduction of Kubišta’s Saint Sebastian (Svatý Šebestián) at the beginning, while, in contrast, his still lifes from 1912 to 1913, which cannot be ‘read’ for a clear symbolic message, remained of no interest to experts (Fig. 2.4).[67] The work that Lamač, in 1957, had designated a ‘symbol of pain and suffering’, Kubišta’s Saint Sebastian, is later analysed in detail in two sections of the expansive book Czech Cubism 19091925 (Český kubismus 19091925) from 1991. Due to its German-language translation and subsequent English-language version, the book has become an important present-day source of information on Czech Cubism for foreign readers. Jiří Švestka wrote of this painting that it ‘is one of the central works of Czech Cubism … Kubišta approached the subject of Saint Sebastian, soldier of Christ, as a (self-)portrait, in which the artist appears in the role of a martyr in the service of art’.[68] Karel Srp, in another part of the same book, asserted that Saint Sebastian is, ‘in terms of its content and formal aspects’, ‘probably the most important … of Kubišta’s 1912 paintings … It is regarded as a self-portrait, a symbol of the painter’s fate as he strives for a modern style confronted with public indifference’.[69] Srp then subjected the painting to a thorough formal and iconographic analysis. Both these art historians base their analysis on an interpretation of the painting by Jan Zrzavý. Two years after Kubišta’s premature death in 1920, Zrzavý described Saint Sebastian as ‘the picture where Kubišta’s soul, for perhaps the first and the last time in all his work, opens the calix of his personal pain and a bitter scent blooms in the pallid flower. This is a modern St. Sebastian—a symbol of Kubišta himself. This is the artist’s lament over the injustice of fate, over poverty, despair and the blows with which life beats him down—as well as a recognition of his holiness and of the nobility of this martyrdom’.[70] This emotive testimony by a contemporary of Kubišta, and moreover a close friend of his, obviously gave later interpreters a strong justification for their tendency to read the picture’s subject biographically. Of course, later interpretations of Saint Sebastian offer no critical reflection on the Zrzavý quote, disregarding the way it embodies the typical ‘salon rhetoric of that time’, or the emotional effusiveness characteristic of Zrzavý’s artistic self-stylisation.[71]

cubist style painting where a man is bleded into a tree
Fig. 2.4. Bohumil Kubišta, Saint Sebastian (Svatý Šebestián, 1912). Oil on canvas, 98 x 74.5 cm. National Gallery, Prague. © 2018 The National Gallery in Prague.

Of course, many art historians also favoured the biographical method as an approach to other works by Kubišta, even those which did not invite such readings neither through their theme nor the existence of contemporary testimonies. The principle of biographism formed the sole basis of an entire monograph, Luboš Hlaváček’s The Real Life Drama of Bohumil Kubišta, and even some very recent publications on Kubišta put their stress on the circumstances of Kubišta’s life.[72] Biographism, which became the principle instrument of Czech art history’s agenda, obviously opens up a range of possibilities for tracing the artist’s intentions within the conceptual scheme of the artwork. There is no doubt that those art history texts focussing particularly on Cubist painters’ philosophical, literary and art-historical preferences contributed a whole series of noteworthy findings and have helped us grasp the inner dynamic behind the emergence of several works of Czech Cubism.[73] But during the 1980s and 1990s the popularity of the biographical method distanced Czech art history ever more markedly from Western discourse. Rosalind Krauss, for instance, categorically rejected it in her writings on Cubism. She was convinced that the ‘heroic mission’ of semiotics consists in the way it protects art history from the ‘gossip’ of the biographical method.[74] Armed with their semiotic instruments, Krauss and other art historians wanted to reckon with William Rubin, John Golding, and other historians of Cubism from the older generation, whose writings had set great emphasis on the circumstances of Picasso’s life and had shared in the creation of his cult. This tradition was very strong. Its origins could be traced to Gertrude Stein and the reminiscences presented in her book The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.[75] Through her adoration of Picasso’s genius and the heroic circumstances of his life, Stein could present herself as a visionary genius who had discovered the temperamental Spaniard’s talent before anyone else.[76]

Is the Interpretation of Cubism that is Marxist Czech?

In the second part of her study ‘The Motivation of the Sign’, Rosalind Krauss engaged with the ways in which sociological theorists like Mikhail Bakhtin opposed the methods of Formalist linguists. Bakhtin agreed with the Formalists that meaning is constructed, not given in advance, but he disagreed with them about the medium in which a given construction takes place. According to the Formalists this medium was ‘language’, while for Bakhtin it was ‘discourse’.[77] Krauss then explored how Picasso constructed meaning in his collages, and situated these works within an intertextual space shared with Apollinaire and Mallarmé’s earlier discourses around the concept of the newspaper sign.[78] David Cottington pointed out Krauss’s erroneous interpretation of Bakhtin’s key concept of heteroglossia, which he argues should not be identified with this kind of simplified intertextuality. Bakhtin’s concept of heteroglossia is structured through oppositions between the centripetal social and ideological forces that construct a unitary language, and the centrifugal forces that diversify discourse and divide it into the various languages and dialects of different social groups, professions, generations, and periods. Reflecting on the significance of Picasso’s collages ‘in the context of an individualised dialogue with Apollinaire or Mallarmé’ cannot then, according to Cottington, be presented as an application of Bakhtin’s complex model.[79] Krauss’s use of Bakhtin’s concept was described as ahistorical by the American art historian Patricia Leighten.[80] She herself appropriated the principle of heteroglossia for a methodological arsenal that she applied in her essential book Re-Ordering the Universe: Picasso and Anarchism.[81] Leighten’s texts heralded a fundamental shift in the critical attitude of interpreters of Cubism, who begin to look at Cubist works in broader intellectual and social contexts. The author of the most interesting contributions to the historiography of Cubism is the British art historian Timothy James Clark, who applied the methods of the so-called ‘new art history’, which include the Foucauldian concept of discursive formations and the Marxist unmasking of hegemonic mechanisms.[82]

On this point too Anglo-American research on Cubism bypassed Czech art history, although there is obviously a more complicated background behind such an assertion. Karel Teige, in his study of Bohumil Kubišta, used the language of Marxist theory in defining the historical circumstances of the rise of modern art in Central Europe in terms of the locally-specific transformation of liberal capitalism into monopoly capitalism. According to Teige, the wider trend of a transition towards imperialism was modified by specific conditions in the individual countries. ‘The growth of intellectual forces’ occurs at ‘a different pace’ in those regions whose integration into capitalist development is later and more gradual; this applies then to a nation where the bourgeois system and all its attributes could only ripen after the breakup of a foreign monarchy and the establishment of an independent republic. ‘Artistic developments, which in these conditions generally took their inspirations at second or third hand, suffered a retardation that was symptomatic for the whole Austrian cultural context: the line of evolution, with its numerous caesuras, here ran unevenly, sometimes rapidly but more often at a much slower tempo, through a peculiar alternation and reversion of “isms”’.[83] When Milena Bartlová contemplated the reasons why Teige’s Marxist theory did not impact in a more fundamental way on Czech art historians, she argued that it remained, for them, too closely connected to an ephemeral area of artistic criticism.[84] Peter Zusi accurately wrote that ‘[Teige’s] Marxism was too unorthodox to be countenanced in the period of 1948–1989, and too fervent too evoke sustained interest after 1989’.[85]

Czech art history’s lack of interest in a purely Marxist interpretation of modern art and Cubism has more complex causes. As a whole, Czech art history has defined itself negatively against social histories of art. In the 1950s and 1960s the students of Max Dvořák, who had applied Dvořák’s spiritual-expressive methods within a framework of Marxist and socially-oriented art history, met with loud criticism.[86] Frederick Antal’s ideas were refused as vulgar sociologism and Czech art history instead linked itself with Dvořák’s dialectical approach, which was gradually enriched by an idiosyncratically conceived iconology.[87] For a number of Czech art historians in the second half of the twentieth century the iconological method offered a way out of the trap set by Socialist ideologues. Iconology, enriched by the tradition of gestalt psychology, of course proved to be a fruitful interpretive instrument in certain cases, as for instance with Bohumil Kubišta’s specific form of Cubism.[88]

There was another reason why modern art could not become an object of investigation for the vulgar Marxist-Leninist approach, either during the Stalinist period or after (when it survived as a secondary stream alongside higher-quality art-historical discourse): during the 1950s and early 1960s modern art was socially taboo. From this point of view it seems paradoxical that in the 1990s Miroslav Lamač and Jiří Padrta were, as noted, criticised for analysing Bohumil Kubišta’s work as a set of forms bound to external reality and for emphatically interpreting it as modern Realism, in accordance with Socialist-Realist doctrine.[89] Lamač and Padrta deserve great credit for making Czech modern art visible during a difficult era that was still culturally and even politically repressive, and even if their transposition of canonical Western categories into the Czech artistic context seems debatable today, their project was in its time an act of personal and professional courage.

Despite emphasising the content-based aspect of Cubo-Expressionism and its role in the development of Czech modern art, Miroslav Lamač showed an enduring interest in the formal aspects of Cubist representations of reality, although on this issue he referred exclusively to the Anglo-American historiography of Cubism. For instance, in a theoretical text on Cubism from 1981 he acquainted Czech readers with the most significant elements of John Golding and Robert Rosenblum’s Formalist interpretation of Cubism.[90]


Is the Cubism that is Czech Realist?

As mentioned elsewhere, Vincenc Kramář defined Cubism from within a Marxist framework as a ‘modern realism’, poetically recreating sensory reality.[91] Kramář dissuaded Karel Teige from using the term Formalism in connection with Cubism, a term Kramář grasped reductively as ‘play with forms’. In contrast to this, Cubism, for Kramář, contributed to ‘the weaponry of political and social caricature’; its character was ‘socially revolutionary’.[92]

Kramář had expressed his reservations about Formalism in his 1921 book Cubism. ‘Pure formalism, that is, playing about with forms’, would lead, according to Kramář, to a ‘quick decline’.[93] The critique of Formalism, as understood by Kramář, overlapped with his rejection of abstraction, on which he concurred with Kahnweiler. At the turn of 1930 to 1931 Kramář wrote the text ‘The Abstractness and Factuality of Contemporary Art’, in which the Formalism of abstract art (presented in a negative light) is contrasted with the positively-conceived factuality that he connected with, for instance, the highly valued Cubism of Emil Filla.[94] However, from the 1940s onward Kramář’s views on Cubism were exposed to ever stronger external pressure. After being labelled as ‘degenerate art’ in the Protectorate-era Czech lands, it began to be attacked in Communist Czechoslovakia as bourgeois ‘decadent formalism’. Kramář’s outstanding collection of Cubist art, dominated by the proto-Cubist and analytical Cubist works of Pablo Picasso, was in the given period one of the few places where information about modern art was freely available.[95]

At the turn of the 1940s and 1950s the relationship between Realism and Formalism became an urgent issue for theorists like Kramář and Teige. As a ‘realism that creates with a new poetic conception’, Cubism, according to Kramář, stands on a different level from ‘imitative realism’; it does not want ‘to entertain, nor to lecture, nor to tell stories that will contribute to the raising of moral standards and the re-education of humanity, as socialism does, and this is why the communist comrades see it chiefly as formalism’. This is how Kramář explained the specific Realism of Cubism in a letter to Karel Teige from 13 September 1949, in which he reacted to Teige’s study about Bohumil Kubišta.[96] Teige responded to Kramář’s letter with a book that was only published posthumously in 1966, under the name Developmental Transformations in Art (Vývojové proměny v umění). In an attempt at terminological revision Teige opposed the discussion of Realism and Formalism as it had been moderated by the ideologues of Socialist Realism.[97] In regard to Cubism he considered not only its Realist but also its ‘irrealist’ aspects.

Kramář, in his 1958 book Questions of Modern Art, warned about the casual use of the terms ‘Realist’ and ‘Formalist’, ‘patriotic’ and ‘cosmopolitan’,[98] but in a text from 12 years earlier, The Cultural Political Programme of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSČ) and Fine Art (Kulturně politický program KSČ a výtvarné umění) (1946), he had unambiguously condemned Formalism, calling it the ‘fruit of the breakdown of the bourgeois class’.[99] In contrast he defended Cubism as an art that was at first sight incomprehensible, but in fact completely realistic. In the same text Kramář had also attempted to connect his interpretation of Cubism to contemporaneous discussions about folk art and its significance for the cultural emancipation of the proletariat. His long-upheld conception of Cubism as a poetic, lyrical recreation of reality was here supported by an emphasis on some of its affinities with folk and national-cultural values.[100] Of course Kramář, who had joined the Communist Party in 1945, also had to deal with the question of Czech modern art’s relationship to ‘East’ and ‘West’ in this text. His response was again predominantly motivated by his attempt to defend Czech Cubism, and its orientation towards Picasso, in the new political situation. He wrote that ‘in the west the representatives of the real culture go along with progress, have a positive attitude towards the Soviet Union, and look to the East just as we do. One example of this is the leading artist of the era, Pablo Picasso himself’.[101] Kramář had devoted his attention to the dialectic of the national and the international in his 1921 book Cubism.[102] He returned to this theme yet again in his text ‘Spain and Cubism’ from 1937, which is devoted to, among other things, the methodological issue of how the geographical migration of artistic forms interacts with national determinants.[103] A slightly paradoxical conclusion emerged from Kramář’s lifelong reflections on this theme: Czech Cubism’s local specificity consists in the singular way it elaborated on the initiatives of Picasso, particularly the factuality and poetic Realism of his Cubism.

Kramář’s thesis—that ‘Picasso and Braque’s work’ not only influenced Czech painting but ‘also very fruitfully inspired contemporary [Czech] architecture and sculpture’—was revived by the exhibition and publication projects of the 1990s, which attempted to establish ‘Czech Cubism’ as a label by, among other things, unambiguously connecting it with ‘real Cubism’.[104] This was something notably attempted by the aforementioned book Czech Cubism 19091925, which was first published on the occasion of an exhibition of Czech Cubism in Düsseldorf in 1991, and which saw a new edition in 2006. Writing later, from a distance of more than ten years, the main authors connected the original project with a sense of post-revolutionary enthusiasm, in which it ‘became possible for the first time to look without ideological barriers at the considerable contribution Czech fine artists had made to twentieth-century European culture’.[105] A similar ethos accompanied other important displays of Czech Cubism organised after 1989 in Europe and the United States.[106] In this way Cubism fulfilled an important historical role. The rhetoric accompanying its anticipated inauguration into the Western canon of art history corresponded with the rhetoric justifying Czech society’s return to ‘the West’.

However, at the turn of the millennium a new initiative emerged from Central Europe, one that sought to replace the vertical model of the traditional canon with the concept of horizontal art history, and with a new geography of modernism that took account of demythologised local specificities.[107] The ideas of Piotr Piotrowski resounded through Czech art criticism, particularly in the work of Vojtěch Lahoda.[108] Architectural historian Dalibor Veselý, long based in Britain, also stated, in a 2005 article, that as soon as we reduce ‘the horizon of reference’ to the narrow context of canonised Cubism, we lose much of Czech Cubism’s ‘cultural identity and specificity’.[109]


This study has not answered the questions set out in the introduction; on the contrary, it has raised new ones. Is it beneficial to maintain the borders between art-historical discourses? Do we still believe that certain methods are inevitably predestined for the interpretation of certain specific works and should leave other works alone? Are structural linguistics, Marxist semiotics, and semiology really only suitable for interpreting the Cubism of Pablo Picasso, with its radical re-evaluation of the concept of pictorial representation? And are iconology, biographism, and gestalt psychology really the best means to grasp the essence of that expressive Cubism of Central-European provenance?

The hostile rejection or dismissive neglect of Czech Cubist production by semiotic art history provokes the momentary refusal of any attempt at reconciling these two discourses. It is worth recognising, however, that much of the work of American semiotic art history is based on Central-European intellectual sources, sources that Czech art historians either seldom recall or know nothing about. It is precisely the dominant Czech art-historical discourse that demands self-reflexive revision. Do the traditional methodological instruments of Czech art history still provide a workable analysis of the material that we generally know as Cubism? Or do they mythologise Czech and Central-European culture and the genius loci, at the cost of distorting the real character of local modern art?

There is a whole range of Czech Cubist works that have not found entry into the circumscribed framework of mythologised culture, works that were thrust into the background or only rarely analysed. Czech and Central-European artists had their identities flattened out, as the conveniently broad category of Central-European artistic expressivity and psychologism obscured the subtler specificities of their creative individualities. The interpretations of the dominant Czech art-historical discourse made it harder for local artists to join that exclusive club of Cubist reformers of representation, whose members were cosseted by a semiotically oriented Western art history.

The paradox of these art-historical mythologies—whether taking the form of Cubo-Expressionism or the myth of Prague’s Cubists as the direct followers of Picasso—consists in the fact that they wanted to tell a story about something that was purely Czech, and yet could not do this without the aid of the Western canon and its terminology. At the heart of such discourse lies the frustration of an unrequited love for the West, which manifests itself in the universalist ambitions of local modern art history.


Translated by Jonathan Owen


This study arose as part of a project supported by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (Grantová agentura České republiky), GA ČR 16-06181S, The Hypnotist of Modern Painting: Bohumil Kubišta and the Disquiet of the Early European Avant-Gardes (Hypnotizér moderního malířství. Bohumil Kubišta a neklid raných evropských avantgard), and undertaken at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University, Prague.

[1] Marie Rakušanová, ‘Je kubismus, který je český, světový? : Případ Kubišta’, Umění 65/5–6 (2017): pp. 474–500.

[2] Noam Chomsky, Syntactic Structures (Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 2002), p. 101.

[3] Jan Mukařovský, ‘K noetice a poetice surrealismu’ (1938), in Jan Mukařovský, Studie z estetiky (Prague: Odeon, 1966), p. 310.

[4] Roman Jakobson, ‘What is Poetry?’ (1933–34), in Selected Writings, vol. 3 (The Hague: Mouton, 1981), pp. 740–750; ‘Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances’ (1956), in Selected Writings, vol. 2 (The Hague: Mouton, 1971), pp. 239–259. See also: Rosalind Krauss, ‘In the name of Picasso’, October 16, (Spring 1981): pp. 5–22; Rosalind Krauss, ‘The Motivation of the Sign’, in William Rubin, Kirk Varnedoe, and Lynn Zelevansky (eds.), Picasso and Braque: A Symposium, (New York: Abrams, 1992), pp. 261–286; Yve-Alain Bois, ‘Kahnweiler’s Lesson’, Representations 18, (Spring 1987): pp. 33–68; Yve-Alain Bois, ‘The Semiology of Cubism’, in Picasso and Braque: A Symposium, pp. 169–208.

[5] Viktor Shklovsky, ‘Art as Technique’, in Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis (trans.), Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965), pp. 5–24.

[6] Jan Mukařovský, ‘Art as semiological fact’, in Norman Bryson (ed.), Calligram: Essays in New Art History from France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 1–7. Jan Mukařovský and Julia Kristeva were the only two non-French authors whom Bryson included in his anthology (alongside Foucault, Barthes, Louis Marin, Jean Baudrillard and others). On the Czech marginalisation of Mukařovský’s significance for the ‘New Art History’, see: Marta Filipová, ‘Vizuální studia v českém prostředí’, in Marta Filipová and Matthew Rampley (eds.), Možnosti vizuálních studií: Obrazy – texty – interpretace (Brno: Barrister & Principal, 2007), pp. 215–216.

[7] Vojtěch Lahoda, ‘In the Mirror of Cubism’, in Vincenc Kramář. From Old Masters to Picasso, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery Prague (Prague, 2002), p. 27. See also: Lahoda, ‘The Canon of Cubism and the Case of Vincenc Kramář. On the Place of Czech Cubism in the History of Modern Art’, in H. Berg and L. Głuchowska (eds.), Transnationality, Internationalism and Nationhood: European Avant-Garde in the First Half of the Twentieth Century (Leuven: Peeters, 2013), pp. 131–144.

[8] Karel Srp, ‘Art on a Different Basis’, in Vincenc Kramář. From Old Masters to Picasso, p. 136.

[9] Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Juan Gris: sa vie, son œuvre, ses écrits (Paris: Gallimard, 1946) (English edition: Douglas Cooper (trans.), Juan Gris: His Life and Work (London: Lund Humphries, 1947)); Kahnweiler, Les sculptures de PicassoPhotographs by Brassai, (Paris: Éditions du Chêne, 1948) (English edition: The Sculptures of Picasso, (London: Rodney Philips & Co., 1949).

[10] Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, The Rise of Cubism, trans. Henry Aronson, (New York: Wittenborn, 1949), pp. 11–12. First published: Kahnweiler, Der Weg zum Kubismus (München: Delphin Verlag, 1920).

[11] Vincenc Kramář, ‘Kubismus’, in Josef Krása (ed.), O obrazech a galeriích, (Prague: Odeon, 1983), p. 70. First published: Kramář, Kubismus (Brno: Moravsko-slezská revue, 1921). (French edition: Erika Abrams (trans.), Le cubisme (Paris: École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, 2002)). See also: Kahnweiler, The Rise of Cubism, pp. 10–11.

[12] Kramář, ‘Kubismus’, p. 71, 73.

[13] Kahnweiler, The Rise of Cubism, p. 12.

[14] Kahnweiler, The Rise of Cubism, p. 12. ‘In the words of Kant, put together the various conceptions and comprehend their variety in one perception’. In many respects Kahnweiler’s and Kramář’s theories arose from similar Central-European intellectual sources, including the work of Alois Riegl, Adolf Hildebrand, Wilhelm Worringer, and Wilhelm Wundt. See: Manfred Brunner, ‘Daniel-Henry Kahnweilers “Weg zum Kubismus” als Quelle Kubistischer Werkabsicht’, in Kubismus. Künstler-Themen-Werke, exhibition catalogue, Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle (Köln: 1982), pp. 131–145.

[15] Kahnweiler, The Rise of Cubism, p. 11. ‘Picasso’s new method made it possible to “represent” the form of objects and their position in space instead of attempting to imitate them through illusionistic means’.

[16] Kramář, ‘Kubismus’, pp. 64, 84.

[17] Kramář, ‘Kubismus’; Kahnweiler, The Rise of Cubism.

[18] V. N. [Václav Nebeský], ‘Česká kniha o kubismu’, Volné směry 21 (1921–22): pp. 294–296.

[19] Nebeský, ‘Česká kniha o kubismu’, pp. 294–296.

[20] Václav Nebeský, Umění po impresionismu (Prague: Aventinum, 1923). Cited in: Karel Srp (ed.), Václav Nebeský. Smysl modernosti (Prague: VŠUP, 2002), p. 43.

[21] Ján Bakoš, ‘Česko-slovenský štrukturalizmus a dejepis umenia. Pražský lingvistický krúžok a dejiny umenia’, in Ján Bakoš Štyri trasy metodológie dejín umenia (Bratislava: Veda, 2000), pp. 161–220.

[22] Vincenc Kramář, Otázky moderního umění (Prague: NČVU, 1958), p. 34.

[23] Jiří Padrta, ‘Doslov’, in D. H. Kahnweiler (ed.) Mé galerie a moji malíři (Prague: SNKLU, 1964), pp. 170–171.

[24] Padrta, ‘Doslov’, pp. 170–171. On Kahnweiler’s negative relation to abstraction, see: F. Gabriel, ‘Der Briefwechsel zwischen Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler und Hermann Rupf’, Berner Kunstmitteilungen 163 (January–February 1976): pp. 2–6.

[25] Jan Mukařovský, ‘Ke kritice strukturalismu v naší literární vědě’, Tvorba 20/40 (1951): pp. 964–966. The publication of an anthology of Mukařovský’s texts in 1966 (see note 3) again drew aestheticians’ attention back to his ideas of the interwar period, but art historians (with some clear exceptions, such as Karel Srp) remained uninterested in his work. The semiotic model of art interpretation formulated by art historian and theologian Josef Zvěřina was an anomaly in Czech art history and produced no followers. Josef Zvěřina, Výtvarné dílo jako znak (Prague: Obelisk, 1971). See also: Bakoš, ‘Česko-slovenský štrukturalizmus a dejepis umenia‘, pp. 161–220.

[26] Václav Nebeský, ‘Umění jako projev ducha’, Život 18 (1942 –44): pp. 44–45.

[27] Nebeský, ‘Umění jako projev ducha’, pp.44–45.

[28] The inventiveness of Nebeský’s reflections on Cubism is also affirmed in his study of Picasso from the early 1920s, which even appeared in English translation in Marilyn McCully (ed.), A Picasso Anthology: Documents, Criticism, Reminiscences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982). Václav Nebeský, ‘Pablo Picasso’, Volné směry 21 (1921–22): pp. 108–124. See also: Nebeský, ‘The Nature of Space in Picasso’s Work’, in McCully (ed.), A Picasso Anthology, pp. 148–150. This anthology also includes Kramář’s catalogue introduction from 1922: Vincenc Kramář, ‘Manes Gallery exhibition, Prague’, pp. 151–153.

[29] Václav Nebeský, ‘Bohumil Kubišta’, in František Čeřovský (ed.), Bohumil Kubišta ve vzpomínkách současníků (Prague: Aventinum, 1949), p. 171. First published: Musaion 2 (1921): p. 17.

[30] Nebeský, ‘Bohumil Kubišta’, p. 171.

[31] Leo Steinberg, ‘Picasso’s Sleepwatchers’, in Steinberg, Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth Century Art (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 95.

[32] Leo Steinberg, ‘The Philosophical Brothel’, October 44 (1988): p. 63.

[33] Krauss, ‘The Motivation of the Sign’, p. 263.

[34] Nebeský developed this idea further in a chapter devoted to Kubišta, which he included in his French-language publication on Czech modern art as a whole. Václav Nebeský, L’Art moderne Tchècoslovaque (Paris: Felix Alcan, 1937), pp. 48–55.

[35] Werner Spies, ‘Vendre des tableaux: Donner à lire’, in Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler: Marchand, éditeur, écrivain, exhibition catalogue, Centre Pompidou (Paris, 1984), pp. 28–29.

[36] Clement Greenberg, Art and Culture (Boston: Beacon Press, 1961), pp. 70–83.

[37] Steinberg pointed out the significance that the difference between the analogically based sign and the arbitrary (i.e. linguistic) sign had for Picasso’s early Cubist work. He elaborated on these ideas in his lecture The Intelligence of Picasso, which he presented on several occasions, beginning in 1974, and which he published in 2007: Leo Steinberg, ‘The Prague Self-Portrait and Picasso’s Intelligence’, in Anne Baldassari (ed.), Cubist Picasso, exhibition catalogue, Musée Picasso (Paris, 2007), p. 103–117.

[38] Krauss, ‘The Motivation of the Sign’, p. 273.

[39] Bois, ‘The Semiology of Cubism’, pp. 174–175.

[40] This is in spite of the fact that several of Nebeský’s texts were available in foreign languages, such as the above-cited L’Art moderne Tchècoslovaque and ‘The Nature of Space in Picasso’s Work’.

[41] Rosalind Krauss, ‘The Cubist Epoch’, Artforum 9 (February 1971): pp. 32–38. See also: Douglas Cooper, The Cubist Epoch, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles County Museum – Metropolitan Museum of Art (Los Angeles – New York, 1971).

[42] Edward F. Fry, ‘Czech Cubism in the European Context’, in J. Švestka and T. Vlček (eds.), Czech Cubism 19091925: Art, Architecture, Design (Prague: Modernista, 2006), p. 12. Czech and German editions published 1991.

[43] Yve-Alain Bois, ‘Cubistic, Cubic and Cubist’, in Eve Blau and Nancy J. Troy (eds.), Architecture and Cubism (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1997), pp. 187–194.

[44] Bois uses the term ‘private Cubists’ to describe Picasso and Braque. Douglas Cooper often designates them ‘true Cubists’, as well as ‘instinctive Cubists’. For the work of Le Fauconnier, Metzinger and Gleizes, Bois chose the term ‘public Cubism’ and Cooper ‘systematic Cubism’ or ‘epic Cubism’ (see Cooper, The Cubist Epoch), while Edward Fry uses ‘sub-Cubism’ or ‘minor Cubism’, thus following the terminology of Kahnweiler that Vincenc Kramář had also imported into the Czech lands. Edward F. Fry, Cubism (London: Thames and Hudson, 1966).

[45] The concept of ‘Central Europe’ originally came into use in German-speaking territories during the second half of the nineteenth century, when it helped to serve the political, economic and cultural interests of imperial Germany and the Austrian side of Austro-Hungary (Friedrich Naumann, Mitteleuropa (Berlin: Georg Reimer Verlag, 1915). See also: Jacques Droz, L’Europe Centrale. Évolution historique de l’idée de ‘Mitteleuropa’ (Paris: Payot, 1960)). Later the term would fall into disrepute as a result of the brutal impacts of World War II and it was only in the 1960s that the term was taken up by several intellectuals from non-German Central-European countries, who wished to show ‘the West’ the necessity of a more differentiated perception of the geopolitical, cultural, and psychological situation of the region within the bipolarised world of the Cold War (Milan Kundera, ‘Un Occident kidnappé ou la tragédie de l’Europe Centrale’, Le débat 27 (November 1983): pp. 3–22). The use of the term ‘Central European’ in relation to the history of modern art in a given region remains insufficiently examined within Czech scholarship. If Czech historians situate Czech modernist art in the context of Central Europe, they generally seem to have in mind an area shared for thousands of years with Teutons, Magyars and other Slavs. If that is the case, then where are the borders between the ‘centre’ and the ‘West’, between ‘centre’ and ‘East’? Or do they have in mind the historical lands of former Austro-Hungarian monarchy? There is not one approach to the concept that might ensure the construction of a true cultural and intellectual whole, something with which to establish meaningful dialogue with Western cultural hegemonies. It is symptomatic, for instance, that Austria, through the second half of the twentieth century, has pursued its cultural politics in relation to ‘the West’ and that these consisted in the attempt to persuade the West, firstly, that it has nothing in common historically or ideologically with Germany, and, secondly, that it is the sole successor country to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which stands for truly Western and modern artistic values. From the 1950s onwards, projects devoted to Viennese art nouveau have presented this movement to the Western public (generally encountering the concept of ‘Central Europe’ for the very first time on such occasions) as a manifestation of pure modernity and of a special genius loci, while the imperial dimension of Austrian modernism has of course been pushed into the background. See: Elizabeth Clegg, Art, Design and Architecture in Central Europe, 18901920 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), pp. 1–2.

[46] This was a stereotype, connected predominantly with the earlier avant-garde generation of The Eight Group (Osma) and The Group of Fine Artists (Skupina výtvarných umělců). Other stereotypical ideas, focussing more on ‘Czechness’ than on the ‘Central Europeanness’ of Czech culture, emphasised qualities like lyricism, sensuality, musicality, etc. See also: Milena Bartlová, Naše, národní umění (Brno: Barrister & Principal, 2009), pp. 21–28 .

[47] In the exhibition Expressiv, curated by the German art historian Dieter Ronte, the modernism of the former Austro-Hungarian territories was reduced to an art of ‘spiritual-expressive penetration into our world,’ ‘the art of psychologisation and emotionalization’ (Dieter Ronte, ‘Mitteleuropa als Brückenkopf’, in Thomas Strauss (ed.), Westkunst-Ostkunst. Absonderung oder Integration? – Materialien zu einer neuen Standortbestimmung (München: Scaneg Verlag, 1991), pp. 79–87). At this 1987 Vienna exhibition Ronte presented the work of contemporary artists from the former territories of the Danubian Monarchy, but he also offered a broad and generalising interpretation of the modern art of Central Europe, in which he automatically ruled out the existence of rationalist, Constructivist, or Formalist tendencies within the region. In retrospect this exhibition can be seen as a product of Austrian cultural politics, using a clearly legible concept to attract the attention of hegemonic Western culture (indeed the exhibition travelled to Washington), rather than attempting to establish a real discussion within the space shared with former territories of the Habsburg monarchy.

[48] We also encounter this concept in German art, where it is specifically mentioned in connection with the work of post-war sculptors Herbert Garbe and Rudolf Belling. See Eberhard Roters (ed.), Berlin 19101933 (Berlin:1983), p. 117; Stephanie Barron, ‘Der Ruf nach einer neuen Gesellschaft’, in Expressionismus 19151925. Die zweite Generation, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, 1988), p. 37.

[49] Kramář, ‘Kubismus’, pp. 100–101.

[50] This opinion was expressed most explicitly by Stanislav Kostka Neumann in ‘Kubism, čili aby bylo jasno’, Lidové noviny (5 May 1914), reprinted in Konfese a konfrontace, vol. 2 (Prague: Československý spisovatel, 1988), pp. 259–260. It is interesting that in the 1950s several of Neumann’s arguments were taken up by Kramář, who prior to World War I had rejected them in disgust, in order to support his own assertion of Cubism’s close relationship to objective reality and thus to Realism. See Kramář, Otázky moderního umění, p. 8.

[51] Miroslav Lamač, Zakladatelé moderního českého umění, exhibition catalogue, Dům umění města Brna (Brno – Prague, 1957), pp. 25–26.

[52] Miroslav Lamač, Osma a Skupina výtvarných umělců (Prague: Odeon, 1988), pp. 198–328.

[53] Miroslav Lamač, ‘Česká malířská avantgarda ve světových souvislostech’, Výtvarné umění 14 (1964): pp. 267–283.

[54] Steven Mansbach, Modern Art in Eastern Europe. From Baltic to the Balkans, ca. 18901939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 2. The concept of Cubo-Expressionism found its way into the pages of dictionaries of modern art. See: Ian Chilvers, A Dictionary of 20th-Century Art (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 151.

[55] James Elkins, ‘S. A. Mansbach, Modern Art in Eastern Europe: From the Baltic to the Balkans, ca. 18901939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)’, The Art Bulletin 82 (2000): p. 783. This concept was also criticised by Elizabeth Clegg. See: Clegg, Art, Design and Architecture in Central Europe, p. 164. The term Cubo-Expressionism is of course generally not accepted by the younger generation of American researchers, who very rarely engage with it. See, for instance, Nicholas Sawicki, Na cestě k modernosti. Umělecké sdružení Osma a jeho okruh v letech 19001910 (Prague: FF UK, 2014). See also: Nicholas Sawicki, ‘Becoming Modern: The Prague Eight and Modern Art, 1900–1910’ (Ph.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 2007).

[56] Lamač, Osma a Skupina výtvarných umělců, p. 201.

[57] Roman Prahl, Volné směry. Časopis secese a moderny (Prague: Torst, 1993), p. 64. German edition: Roman Prahl, Freie Richtungen: die Zeitschrift der Prager Secession und Moderne, (Prague: Torst, 1993).

[58] Vincenc Kramář, letter to Karel Teige, 13 September 1949, in Vratislav Effenberger (ed.), Karel Teige. Vývojové proměny umění, (Prague: NČVU, 1966), pp. 332–333. Lamač, Zakladatelé moderního českého umění, pp. 25-26.

[59] Patricia Leighten, ‘Revising Cubism’, Art Journal (Winter 1988): pp. 269–276.

[60] Fry, ‘Czech Cubism’, p. 12.

[61] Fry, ‘Czech Cubism’, p. 12. Fry considers Emil Filla as having attained a higher and more penetrating level (intentional emulation), though of course not until his Dutch period during World War 1. Something of an anomaly, then, is Fry’s appreciation for Czech Cubist sculpture: in his view Guttfreund had achieved ‘such a high conceptual level in his work that he was almost comparable to Picasso himself’.

[62] Of course, at this particular point in time for the Czechs, that reckoning did not have the subtler character that might have allowed for some distinction between Marxism, Marxism-Leninism, Stalinism, and Neo-Stalinism.

[63] Pavla Pečinková, ‘Výstava Bohumila Kubišty’, Umění 42/1 (1993): pp. 96–98.

[64] Pečinková, ‘Výstava Bohumila Kubišty’, pp. 96–98.

[65] Pečinková, ‘Výstava Bohumila Kubišty’, p. 97.

[66] Bohumil Kubišta, ‘Malby Mikuláše Alše v radnici’, in František Kubišta and Karel Teige (eds.) Bohumil Kubišta. Předpoklady slohu (Prague: Girgal, 1947), pp. 18–19. First published 1909.

[67] Cubist art from Czechoslovakia, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery (London, 1967). The exhibition also travelled to some other European cities besides London. The curator’s text of course took care to introduce the phenomenon of Cubo-Expressionism to an unacquainted public (‘Cubo-Expressionism’, p.6). But the choice of exhibited works did not really help to clarify the contours of Czech Cubism, for the exhibition included not only work by František Kupka and Jan Zrzavý, but also, for instance, Rudolf Kremlička, whose paintings were not even remotely related to Cubist aesthetics.

[68] Jiří Švestka, ‘Czech Cubism: The Dilemma of the Nascent Central-European Avant-garde’, in Švestka and Vlček (eds.), Czech Cubism 19091925, p. 16.

[69] Karel Srp, ‘Bohumil Kubišta’, in Švestka and Vlček (eds.), Czech Cubism 19091925, p. 122.

[70] Jan Zrzavý, Posmrtná výstava Bohumila Kubišty, exhibition catalogue, Krasoumná jednota (Prague, 1920), pp. 3–5. Reprinted in Karel Srp (ed.), Jan Zrzavý. O něm a s ním (Prague: Academia, 2003), p. 77.

[71] Pečinková, ‘Výstava Bohumila Kubišty’, p. 97.

[72] Luboš Hlaváček, Životní drama Bohumila Kubišty (Prague: Mladá fronta, 1968); Ivana Kyzourová, ‘Hypnotizér nebo hypnotizovaný?’, in Michaela Ottová and Aleš Mudra (eds.), Ars vivendi. Professori Jaromír Homolka ad honorem (Prague: Halama, 2006), pp. 373–399; Karel Srp, Bohumil Kubišta. Zářivý krystal (Řevnice and Ostrava: Arbor vitae, 2014).

[73] We could mention here Petr Jindra’s study, ‘“Vado ut a somno exsuscitem eum”. Bohumila Kubišty Vzkříšení Lazara’, in Petr Jindra (ed.), Kubismus 19101925 ve sbírkách Západočeské galerie v Plzni, exhibition catalogue, Západočeská galerie v Plzni (Plzeň, 2009), pp. 48–68.

[74] Rosalind Krauss, ‘The Semiology of Collage’, 1981, lecture at Annual Meeting of the College Art Association, New Orleans. See also Rosalind Krauss, ‘In the name of Picasso’, October 16 (Spring 1981): pp. 5–22; Aruna D’Souza, ‘Biography Becomes Form: William Rubin, Pablo Picasso, and the Subject of Art History’, Word and Image 18/2 (2002): pp. 126–136.

[75] Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (New York: Vintage, 1961), p. 64. First published 1935.

[76] Stein completely marginalised Braque, who responded angrily in writing to The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. See: Georges Braque, ‘Testimony Against Gertrude Stein’, in Marilyn McCully (ed.), A Picasso Anthology: Documents, Criticism, Reminiscences, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1981), p. 64.

[77] Krauss, ‘The Motivation of the Sign’, p. 274.

[78] Krauss, ‘The Motivation of the Sign’, pp. 274–278.

[79] David Cottington, Cubism and its Histories (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2004), p. 215.

[80] Patricia Leighten, ‘Cubist anachronisms: Ahistoricity, Cryptoformalism, and Business-As-Usual in New York’, Oxford Art Journal 17/2 (1994): pp. 91–102.

[81] Patricia Leighten, Re-Ordering the Universe: Picasso and Anarchism, 18971914, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987).

[82] Timothy J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea. Episodes From the History of Modernism, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), p. 184.

[83] Karel Teige, ‘Bohumil Kubišta’, Kvart 5–6 (1949); pp. 350–378, p. 356.

[84] Milena Bartlová, ‘Czech Art History and Marxism’, in Journal of Art Historiography 7 (2012), accessed September 2019: Bartlová, ‘Marxism in Czech Art History 1945–1970’, 4, 2015, accessed September 2019:

[85] Peter Zusi, ‘The Minimum Dwelling by Karel Teige, Eric Dluhosch’, The Slavic and East European Journal 48/1 (Spring 2004): pp. 135–136.

[86] Jaromír Neumann, ‘Dílo Maxe Dvořáka a dnešek’, Umění 9/6 (1961): pp. 525–572. In this text Neumann attacked the social art history of Dvořák’s students while rehabilitating Dvořák himself.

[87] Bartlová, ‘Czech Art History and Marxism’. Jaromír Neumann, ‘K Antalově knize a otázkám renesančního umění’, in Frederick Antal, Florentské malířství a jeho společenské pozadí. Měšťanská republika než převzal moc Cosimo de’ Medici – 14. století a počátek století 15 (Prague: SNKLHU, 1954), pp. 283–299; Rudolf Chadraba, ‘Sociologie umění’, in Sáva Šabouk (ed.), Encyklopedie českého výtvarného umění (Prague: Academia, 1975), pp. 474–476; Nicholas Sawicki, ‘Modernist Paradigms After the War: The Case of Max Dvořák, in Vojtěch Lahoda (ed.), Local Strategies, International Ambitions. Modern Art in Central Europe 1918-1968 (Prague: ÚDU ČAS, 2006), pp. 47–52.

[88] Mahulena Nešlehová, ‘K vrcholnému dílu Bohumila Kubišty’, Umění 23 (1975): pp. 325–345.

[89] Pečinková, ‘Výstava Bohumila Kubišty’, pp. 96-98.

[90] Miroslav Lamač, ‘Kubismus’, Výtvarná kultura 5/4 (1981): pp. 15–22; John Golding, Cubism: A History and an Analysis, 19071914 (London: Faber & Faber, 1958); Robert Rosenblum, Cubism and Twentieth-Century Art (New York: Abrams, 1960).

[91] Vincenc Kramář, ‘O realismu a formalismu’, Výtvarné umění 4 (1954): pp. 45–48.

[92] Vincenc Kramář, letter to Karel Teige, 13 September 1949. See also: Vincenc Kramář, Kulturně-politický program KSČ a výtvarné umění (Prague: Svoboda, 1946); Karel Teige, ‘Pokus o názvoslovnou a pojmoslovnou revisi’, in Teige, Vývojové proměny umění, pp. 9–139.

[93] Kramář, ‘Kubismus’, p. 101.

[94] Vincenc Kramář, ‘Abstraktnost a věcnost současného umění’, Volné směry 28 (1930–1931): pp. 206–215. See also: Kramář, ‘Život a dílo Emila Filly’ (1947), in O obrazech a galeriích, p. 133. Emil Filla was Kramář’s favourite artist and his close friend. When Kramář was advising Carl Einstein in 1928 as to the choice of two Czech illustrations for the third edition of Einstein’s book Die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts, he recommended Filla’s work as his first choice. See Lada Hubatová-Vacková, ‘Vincenc Kramář and Carl Einstein’, in Vincenc Kramář. From Old Masters to Picasso, pp. 202–205.

[95] Lahoda, ‘In the Mirror of Cubism’, p. 32. Up until his death Kramář made his professional collection available to the general public. In 1954 he donated a large part of his collection to the state and today these works are part of the Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Prague National Gallery (Sbírky moderního a současného umění Národní Galerie v Praze).

[96] Vincenc Kramář, letter to Karel Teige, 13 September 1949, p. 332.

[97] Teige, Vývojové proměny umění, pp. 14–139, 153–321. There was also Marian Váross’s book Teória realizmu vo výtvarnom umení, which contained an interesting examination of Realism and its relation to modern art from the viewpoints of anthropological aesthetics and Marxism (Bratislava: Vydavatel̕stvo Slovenskej akadémie vied, 1961). See especially ‘Kubismus’, pp. 88–90.

[98] Kramář, Otázky moderního umění, p. 46.

[99] Vincenc Kramář, Kulturně politický program KSČ a výtvarné umění (Prague: Svoboda, 1946), pp. 8, 22–23. This text was Kramář’s response to Václav Kopecký’s speech at the Eighth Congress of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, 31 March 1946. See: Alexej Kusák, Kultura a politika v Československu, 19451956 (Prague: Torst, 1998), pp. 156–157.

[100] Kramář, Kulturně politický program KSČ a výtvarné umění, pp.18–22.

[101] Kramář, Kulturně politický program KSČ a výtvarné umění, p. 35. Tellingly, in this sentence he wrote the word ‘west’ with a lower-case first letter, and ‘East’ with a capital.

[102] Kramář, ‘Kubismus’, p. 106.

[103] Vincenc Kramář, ‘Španělsko a kubismus’, in Španělsko, Prague 1937. The collection was published by the Committee to Aid Democratic Spain. Besides Kramář’s contribution there were also texts by the Čapek brothers, František Halas, Vítězslav Nezval, Ivan Olbracht and many others.

[104] Kramář, ‘Kubismus’, p. 89.

[105] ‘Foreword to the New Edition’, in Švestka and Vlček (eds.), Czech Cubism 19091925, p. 9.

[106] Miroslav Lamač (ed.), Cubisme Tchèque, exhibition catalogue, Centre Pompidou (Paris, 1992); Alexander von Vegesack (ed.), Český kubismus: architektura a design 19101925 (Weil am Rhein: Vitra Design Museum, 1991); Agnes Husslein (ed.), Tschechischer Kubismus 19121916, exhibition catalogue, Rupertinum Museum für moderne Kunst (Salzburg, 2001).

[107] Piotr Piotrowski, ‘On the Spatial Turn, or Horizontal Art History’, Umění 56 (2008): pp. 378–383. An interesting revisionist perspective on the theory and history of Polish Cubism was offered recently by Lidia Głuchowska in ‘In the Shadow of the Official Discourse: Towards a Revision of the History and Theory of the Polish Idiom of Cubism’, Ars 47/2 (2014): pp. 156–171. Pitrowski criticised those projects, such as the extensive 1994 exhibition Europa, Europa, that sought to map out the Central and Eastern European avant-gardes, yet the noble intentions were realised, unavoidably given the period in which the exhibition was held, to the effect that the representatives of Western institutions hastily gathered up material from across the whole region. The resulting unified vision of Central European art has become the target of Piotrowski’s sharp criticism in the article ‘Central Europe in the Face of Unification’, Artmargins, 29 January 2003, accessed September 2019: See also: Ryszard Stanisławski and Christoph Brockhaus (eds.), Europa, Europa. Das Jahrhundert der Avantgarde in Mittel- und Osteuropa, exhibition catalogue, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Bonn, 1994). The exhibition Europa, Europa, by way of counter-example, helped give rise to the conception of the project Central European Avant-gardes. Exchange and Transformation (Timothy Benson (ed.), Central European Avant-gardes. Exchange and Transformation. 19101930, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles County Museum (Los Angeles, 2002).

[108] Vojtěch Lahoda, ‘Global Form and Local Spirit: Czech and Central European Modern Art’, in Lahoda (ed.), Local Strategies, International Ambitions. Modern Art in Central Europe 19181968 (Prague: ÚDU ČAS, 2006), pp. 9–20; Vojtěch Lahoda, ‘Český kubismus a vertikální kánon dějin umění’, in Orbis artium. K jubileu Lubomíra Slavíčka (Brno: Masarykova univerzita, 2009), pp. 422–423.

[109] Dalibor Veselý, ‘Czech New Architecture and Cubism’, Umění 53 (2005), p. 586.

DOI: 10.33999/2019.18