Pavel Stepánek

Picasso and his collector and theorist of the Czech cubism, Vincenc Kramář

Friday April 28 – Session 05 @ COAC

When I wrote the book entitled Pablo Picasso in Prague which, many years later, was published in Madrid (2005), my intention was to study ten topics of the critical fortune of Pablo Picasso as well as the follow the clues of his acceptance in the old Czechoslovakia, today, the Czech Republic.  From 1906 to 1914 the work of Picasso entered on the horizon of Czech cubism (practical, critical and theoretical acceptance); such an acceptance of Picasso was surprising in the Czech ambience, at a provincial level (but not country), as it formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Apart from artists, it was the Czech art historian and theorist of cubism, Vincenc Kramář, who would become one of the first collectors of his cubist period (he came from a well-off family).  If you observe the collection of the Cubist works of the National Gallery Prague it is clear why it belongs to the most coherent in all the world. It has a very closed character as the collector, Dr. Vincenc Kramář was not only a buyer, but moreover a theoretician of Cubism, one of the first who collaborated closely with Daniel Kahnweiler. Although this chapter has not gone unnoticed (Vincenc Kramář: un théoricien et collectionneur du cubisme a Prague, Paris 2002, collective work), the attempt to illustrate with his collecting, the theories, essentially cubist, of Kramář, in the moment of publishing his writings in favour of modern art (Kubismus, Brno 1922)  has not yet been analysed enough. At the same time Kramář was a great connoisseur of Gothic and Baroque art, for which he was appointed director of the Pinacoteca, today the National Gallery, in independent Czechoslovakia, to which at the end of his life he donated his collection of Picasso which is the pride of this institution. (It is characteristic, for example, that Kramář took advantage of his direct contact with Picasso to ask him for help so as to get the painter Zuloaga to open up his collection of El Greco, the artist, whose influence opened up the way to modern art to a whole generation of Czech artists in such a way that in Prague his own Cubist school was formed and sometimes called Cubo-expressionist, not only of painting, but also of sculpture and architecture). Kramář, this biographer of Picasso, on the ending of the Second World War (1945), entered the communist party thinking that in this way he could spread the work of his favourite Cubist master, as well as member of the communist party.  Curiously, after the fall of the Communist regime, in 1992, a legal process was undertaken by the descendants of Kramář with the National Gallery about whether his donation to this institution was a voluntary act or the imposition of the Communist regime, as used to happen in some cases. His final opinions, although not his last, about Picasso, appear, as is characteristic, in a publication that tried to support the Spanish Republic entitled To Spain (Španělsku), in which Kramář  aimed to demonstrate that the identity of Picasso is deeply rooted in old Spanish art, and not so much in French art.

Pavel Stepánek

Professor , Univerzita Palackého, Olomouc

Born: 1942, Kladno (Czech Republic). Degree in History of Art, Prague (1973).

Carreer: National Gallery of Prague (1969-1976), Gallery of Central Bohemia (1976-1988); professor of the universities of Mexico, Venezuela, Spain, etc. Now professor of the University of Palackého of Olomouc and the University Carolina of Prague. From 1991 to 1994 diplomat of the Czech Republic in Venezuela.

Recognitions: Correspondent of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando (Madrid). Honorary Associate of The Hispanic Society of America. Commander of the Order of Isabel the Catholic (2006). “Distinguished Academic“, Mexico (2013).

Books: Almost 30, among them Picasso in Prague, Madrid: CSIC 2005; Salvador Dalí, Illustrations of the 60s. Praha: 2016, etc.

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