Lot 362
  • 362

Emil Filla

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
254,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Emil Filla
  • signed Emil Filla and dated 48 (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 146 by 97cm., 57 1/2 by 38 1/4 in.


Art Centrum, Prague
Acquired from the above by the late owner on 12th January 1973

Catalogue Note

Painter, graphic artist, sculptor and theorist, Emil Filla studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague before breaking away with fellow students to found Osma (the Eight), exhibiting with them in 1907 and 1908. In 1911 he was instrumental in the formation of the Group of Fine Artists, a body of Czech painters, architects and intellectuals actively engaged with Cubism. Emil Filla was well travelled and kept abreast of avant-garde artistic trends in Paris and Germany, procuring for himself and friends reproductions of paintings by Picasso, Braque and African sculpture. Arrested by the Gestapo at the outbreak of the Second World War with Joseph Čapek, he was interned in the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald. Painted in 1948, the present work was executed only a few years after his release from the horrors of the camps, from which he had returned in very poor health.  

In spite of his physical weakness, and after years of enforced separation from his colours – in Buchenwald his only form of expression was writing – he returned with an extraordinary creative energy which endured until the end of his life. Nowhere is this creative spirit and resilience more evident than in his post-war large format paintings, of which the present work is an excellent example. It is an extraordinarily dramatic rendering of human suffering made all the more poignant by knowledge of the artist’s personal anguish that he experienced in the concentration camps during the war. In spite of the harrowing subject, the work retains a sense of triumph over evil, of survival, and of freedom - perhaps deriving from the bold colour and the majestic scale. Jaromir Zemina has described the present work as being ‘amongst the most expressive examples of the social commitment of Czech art after the second World War’. This great masterpiece, which has remained in the same private collection for forty years, survives as a universal image of post-war anxiety as well as being testament to Filla’s enduring artistic dialogue with Pablo Picasso.