Lot 73
Václav Špála (1885 - 1946) THE BEROUNKA RIVER AND HILLS

1925
Oil on canvas
54 x 73 cm (h x w)
Signed: Signed lower left: "V Špála 25"; numbered on back: 116.C.

Starting price
2 200 000 CZK
   |   86 275 €
Price realized
3 000 000 CZK
   |   117 647 €
price without premium

As PhDr. Rea Michalová, PhD explains in her expert assessment, “The painting under assessment, The Berounka River and Hills, is an original, exceedingly typical, melodic landscape painting by Václav Špála, one of the foremost exponents of the Czech avant-garde movement and a member of  the Group of Fine Artists, the Tvrdošíjní (“Stubborn Ones”) art group, and Mánes Union of Fine Artists. His painting was direct and vibrant, expressing sensual urgency. … From the very outset his Fauvist inclinations set him apart from his colleagues in the Osma group, whose work was oriented more towards Expressionism. Špála’s paintings always uniquely reflected a sense of immediacy and unrestrained joy from the painting process, as well as an essential sense for order, a feeling for pure color tone, and emancipation from agonizing existential questions. Through his new interpretation of the landscape and still lifes with flowers or fruits, Václav Špála became the main exponent of Bohemian painters’ affinity for the sensual hedonism of the ‘Golden’ Twenties. In his search for a striking, immediately potent expression, Špála did not hesitate to apply the principles of Post-Cubist deformation of form and to reduce the colors to two or three contrasting tones without denying his elementary relationship to the real natural world. His 'green period' lasted from 1923 to 1926, followed by his blue period in 1927–1930, when he painted in shades of aquamarine and Prussian blue, although this color retained its heraldic significance in his work until the end of his life. Špála’s hymn to nature is exemplarily reflected in his landscape paintings, which he approached with a sense of monumentality. One such painting is The Berounka River and Hills, an enchanting specimen from Špála’s famed  'green period' that, in line with the period movements of the 1920s, marked a peak in his renewed contact with the reality of the seen world. Karel Teige aptly called Václav Špála a 'lyricist of nature … a broadcaster of the sun and life' intoxicated from the colors of joy. The most characteristic and most coherent group from this vitalist direction in terms of expression are his paintings from the area around Srbsko, a village on the Berounka River that the artist painted in 1925–1926. The painting was executed face-to-face with nature, en plein air. The Berounka River and Hills is an unusually pure and generous painting in which Špála masterfully captured the majesty of the cliffs, the smoothly flowing river, and the lush vegetation surrounding the meander under an azure summer sky. It is the fascinating visual rhythm of land, sky, and water, transformed in the natural order of the painting. (…)

"In the painting under assessment, the artist achieved an entirely original modification of the principles of Fauvist painting. The style uses the compelling rhythm of aggregate forms, defined by pure color which Špála treats as an element, interacting through its intrinsic, immanent light qualities; it is not the medium of light seen in Impressionism, where objects dissolve and vaporize. In this colorful arche he intentionally leaves traces of his masterful brushwork. The precise, succinct yet curt expression with the brush is the thread connecting the deep harmony of his senses with the power of natural phenomena.

"The Berounka River and Hills gives beautiful voice to Špála’s distinctive creative testimony, which rests in the inimitable synthesis of 'high' avant-garde expression with the 'humble', but all the more so passionate world of Home."