Two hundred and twenty four

Planes by Colours, Large Nude

1909-10 by František Kupka
Guggenheim Museum, New York

Kupka was born in East Bohemia in 1871, what is now the Czech Republic. He studied in Prague and Vienna before eventually ending up in Paris where, like so many others, he became swept up in the Futurist Manifesto. Kupka illustrated in Paris as well establishing his own painting which aimed to express his theories of colour and their relationship with motion and music. This explorative visuality is evident in Planes by Colours where space, object and perspective are all articulated through different coloured blocks. The composition is dominated by this distinct play out of design, the effect being of a heat sensitive map with change of texture and tone taking on a new intensity with the use of colour. Kupka creates a poignant contrast between subject and backdrop, drawing our focus to the nude with deep purple and red juxtaposed with slightly lurid green. The background then takes on more muted blues and greys, though light streams in through yellow – dancing almost in its chequer-like pattern of complimentary colours. Though this background has a playful freshness, it very much demonstrates the beauty of what is stationary, what is object. The body, the subject, on the other hand, has a burning concentration of colour that exalts all the passion and desire that consumes when one gazes upon their lover. The curve of flesh, the delicacy of facial expression, the elongation of the body below the breast, are all highlighted with this fervent use of colour. Kupka truly explores expression here, rather than reflection, and the result is quite encapsulating, both of feeling and atmosphere.

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