Born in 1855, Schikaneder's grandfather had established the family in the Bohemian capital in the early nineteenth century and it was here that the painter was raised, immersed in Czech and German cultures as well as a highly artistic milieu. His grandfather Emanuel was a well-known singer, actor, composer and playwright; his paternal great-uncle composed the libretto for Mozart’s opera ‘The Magic Flute’, while his mother’s brother was a painter who died while Jakub was in his infancy.
During the 1880s and 1890s Schikaneder established himself in his early days as a painter of genre. But the brooding, melancholy mood that often pervaded these early works carried through into the more diffuse nocturnes for which he is now most highly regarded, such as the present painting, which is so typical of these twilight views. The mood conveyed has strong resonances with Czech fin de siècle literature of the period, including the novels of Franz Kafka, and in its ambiguous quiet anticipates the work of such later twentieth century painters as Edward Hopper (fig. 2).
Schikaneder withdrew from public life at the end of the first decade of the twentieth century and no longer exhibited his paintings. His studio was only open to a small group of friends and collectors, such as the physician and author Josef Thomayer, the lawyers Leopold Katz and Josef Šafařík, pharmacist Karel Vostřebal, and Prague mayor Josef Rotnágl, the first owner of the present work.
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