Place: Trade Fair Palace
Print Cabinet, 29 April – August 17, 2014
Curator: Anna Pravdová
Josef Šíma (1891–1971) was an artist of Czech origin who settled in France at the age of thirty. All his life, he was closely associated with poetry and befriended poets. A number of these friendships developed into artistic collaborations. His acquaintance with the young poets Roger Gilbert-Lecomte and René Daumal, with whom he co-founded the artistic group and art revue Le Grand Jeu, proved decisive for his artwork. Later on, other authors, among them Pierre Jean Jouve, played an important role in Šíma's life. In the twenties and thirties, Šíma illustrated several of Jouve's books. Their collaborative endeavours culminated in 1938 with Šíma's illustrations for Jouve's collections of poems Le Paradis Perdu (Paradise Lost) and Kyrie.
The Print Cabinet presents a group of preparatory drawings and finished prints for Le Paradis Perdu. Its genesis took a long eleven years to execute. Šíma created the first drawings and prints in 1927, but the collection of poems was published the following year without pictorial accompaniment. The illustrated album project was realized only a decade later, in 1938. Šíma added several more graphic sheets to his original illustrations from the 1920s, notably the frontispiece. In total, he made seventeen preparatory drawings, with twelve of them transformed into etchings. Rather than being an independent chapter in the context of Šíma's oeuvre, his illustration work forms a highly organic whole with his painting. Many elements that initially appeared in his illustrations were gradually assimilated into Šíma's paintings.
This was also the case of his characteristic motif of the female nude with her back to the viewer. This theme first appeared in his drawings for Le Paradis Perdu and later on in several of his canvases (e.g. The Despair of Orpheus, 1942), and accompanied Šíma's work well into the sixties. The closely entwined creative output of Josef Šíma and Pierre Jean Jouve was eloquently characterized by Věra Linhartová: "Jouve's poems have the colour of Šíma's images, just as Šíma's images tend to embody Jouve's poetic ideas."
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