Paper sculptures by Jennifer Collier)
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Josef Chapek. Foreign artist of the twentieth century

Among the progressive artists of the world, a place of honor belongs to the Czech artist Josef Chapek. A man of advanced convictions, he was critical of bourgeois society, raised his voice against fascism, paying for it at the cost of his own life.

The artist was born in 1887 in the family of a doctor. His childhood was spent in the North-Eastern Czech Republic. Little Joseph was a quiet, thoughtful child. At school, the boy studied reluctantly, drawing, not obeying the rules, and often the teacher repeated: “Chapek, you will never make a painter.”

Chapek’s fate was such that before becoming an artist, he graduated from a textile school, and then worked at a factory as a weaver, fitter, and locksmith. The decision to become a painter led Joseph to the Art and industrial Institute (1904-1910).

The environment in which the novice artist found himself was conservative and provoked a strong protest in him. Chapek’s creative life took place mostly outside the Institute.

In 1910, the artist comes to France, where he gets acquainted with the modern art of the Paris school, and a trip to Spain in 1911 gives him an idea of the great masters of El Greco, Goya, and Surbaran. By this time, the first independent paintings of Chapek belong, for example, “a man lying Down” and “a Mother combing a child”.

But the true birth of Chapek the artist dates back to 1912 and 1913. These years coincided with the establishment of cubism. This period includes several expressive urban paintings by the artist (“Marseille”, “Factory”, “new building”).

All of them give an extremely generalized, total image of the city.The paintings impress with the severity and asceticism of the color scheme, designed in brown and blue tones.

In 1913, a new stage in the work of Chapek begins. The Central theme now becomes a person (“Drunkard”, “harmonica Player”, “organ Grinder”, “Sailor”). It is easy to see that there is something mechanical in the image of a person — the artist deliberately gave the living creature a resemblance to mechanisms and machines.

But despite this, man is not like a machine. In art, the humanistic principle always emerges. The humanistic thread of Chapek’s art did not break even during the first world war. He did not accept the war, did not go to the front, remained in Prague and worked hard and concentrated.

In the paintings, the image of a suffering person appears. But the war also awakened the desire for beauty — the artist paints children in a living fleeting movement.

In 1918, a new stage in Chapek’s work began, spilling over almost a decade. The artist is passionately devoted to work in various fields of literature and art. He makes great progress in book and magazine graphics and continues to paint pictures of the life of the urban poor.

Chapek’s anti-fascist work is also extremely extensive. Since 1933, in the newspaper” Lidove noviny ” the artist regularly publishes his political drawings, which make up entire cycles.

On September 1, 1939, the Nazis arrested Josef. He was in different concentration camps, the longest in Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. But even there, in the throes of hunger and despair, he tried to create.

Chapek was not destined to live to be released — he died in mid-April 1945 in the Bergen-Belsen camp during a typhus epidemic, leaving a great legacy to the world.

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