Emil Filla — Reader of Dostoevsky (1907)

The first time I saw Reader of Dostoevsky I laughed.  It looked exaggerated, like a meme of someone who had just spent the last thirty minutes scrolling through Twitter. Mind you, it’s possible that my reaction was due to my mixed feelings for Dostoevsky himself.  Anyone who has struggled through the Russian’s long winded paragraphs…

The Journey Within: František Kupka’s Self-Portraits

One of the saddest things I’ve learned in recent weeks was that as we grow older a yellow pigment accumulates on our retinas and changes the way we see the world. Colors fade, dimness increases, the blue sky loses its crispness. We’re stuck in a 1960’s Polaroid. And even though there are countless indignities to…

Toyen, a Tale of War and Friendship

“In front of our house in the former Husova třída in Žižkov, usually at the time when workers from the Karlín factories were going home, I often encountered a strange but interesting girl,” recalls Czechoslovak Nobel prize-winner Jaroslav Seifert in his 1982 memoir All the Beauties of the World. At a time when women’s attire…

Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka – Castellammare di Stabia (1902)

Today his name is largely unknown outside of Hungary, but Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka was actually rather good at promoting himself. In fact, if he were still alive today, he’d probably write a self-help book based on his life: “How to be an Artist – the Long and Winding Road”. Here’s the blueprint: ~ Have your…

Samuel van Hoogstraten – Letter Board (1666 – 1678)

Letter Board or Letter Rack with Medal and Own Plays is one such trompe-l’oeil still life, completed between 1666 and 1678. The various objects are seemingly strapped to the board with red leather bands and many of them appear in other paintings as well. For starters, we have the gold medal with the effigy of Emperor Ferdinand III and the chain received as a gift, here adorned with a bow.

Arnold Böcklin – The Isle of the Dead III (1883)

At the beginning of the 20th century you could find a reproduction of The Isle of the Dead in almost every middle class household in Germany. Sigmund Freud certainly had one at his office. Even the Russians weren’t immune. Lenin was fascinated by it. After seeing a black-and-white reproduction of the artwork, Sergei Rachmaninoff composed…