Lot 81
Josef Čapek AT THE BAR

1933
Oil on canvas
80 x 50 cm (h x w)
Signed lower right: "J. Č. 33." Label from an exhibition at Umělecká Beseda on back.

Starting price
3 500 000 CZK
   |   137 255 €
Price realized
7 700 000 CZK
   |   301 961 €
price without premium

This exceptional painting for galleries and collectors, exemplary of the work of Josef Čapek, bears all the painterly finesse from the height of Čapek’s career. An important Czech painter, printmaker, book illustrator and author, Josef Čapek was able to fully devote himself to his work and take part in art groups during the interwar period, which was an auspicious time for him. In 1911 he co-founded the Group of Fine Artists (members included Václav Beneš, Emil Filla and Otakar Kubín), but by late 1912 he and his brother Karel left the group to join the Mánes. In 1921 Josef Čapek moved to Tvrdošíjní (“Stubborn Ones”; other members included Rudolf Kremlička, Václav Špála and Jan Zrzavý). Starting in the early 1930s he started to draw new inspiration from Slovakia and the joys of family life. His focus on the everyday and mundane was also reflected in his form of artistic expression. His work veered towards naïve art, as his inventory of expression was reduced to a brilliant outline and he relied on modern, positive colors.

In this composition showing a couple of male figures standing opposite each other at a bar and a third figure in the background, the viewer can sense their simple origins from their work clothes. Another animating element in the painting are the two glasses and the bottle of alcohol. The painting does not use its contemporary modernism and social function to establish a position in the interwar avant-garde or orthodoxy in art, but it remains a pure personal testament in which the greatest value is freedom.

Provenance: From the estate of the first owner, Dr. Karel Steinbach, a friend of the Čapek bothers and member of Karel Čapek's "Friday Men” group.

Exhibited at: Umělecká Beseda, 1935, catalogue, list of works no. 17. Expert assessment by PhDr. Pavla Pečinková, CSc.