Saturday, 4 December 2010

Homage to Schikaneder

The painter Jakub Schikaneder (1855-1924), who lived for a time on Vinohradská Avenue, was the great-great-nephew of Emanuel Schikaneder, librettist of The Magic Flute; and the great-grandson of Urban Schikaneder, who sang in that opera's premiere.

With such a theatrical background, it's hardly surprising to find the work of this artist imbued with a real sense of drama. He made his name with an emotionally-charged tableau, Murder in the House, exhibited to critical acclaim in Berlin in 1890. But it was his crepuscular winter scenes of Prague which were to become his trademark. If you like the moonlit landscapes of Atkinson Grimshaw, you'll love Schikaneder.

Always lit by a single light source - a tablelamp, a streetlamp or the setting sun - his canvases depict lone figures slowly making their way home through the snow, leaning sadly on windowsills or gazing melancholically across the rooftops. Ten years ago I went to a superb exhiibition of his work in the Waldstein Riding School, in which each painting was spotlit using the painted light source as a focus, eerily enhancing the effect.

Visitors to Prague should have no problem tracking down Schikaneder's greatest paintings, though a recent re-hang means that they are now split between the modern art gallery in the Veletržni Palace, and the Convent of St George in Prague Castle.

Sadly, his most extraordinary piece, a huge canvas entitled 'Contemplation' (pictured here) is no longer on public display. It was sold just last week to a private telephone bidder for 8 million Czech crowns (£275,000), a record for a work by this artist.


Tracy said...

Both the photo and the painting are awesome!

Justin Blanton said...

Pretty shot.

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