- Franti�ek Folt�n
- Blue Madonna
- signed FOLTYN lower right
- oil on canvas
- 110 by 101cm., 43¼ by 39¾in.
Purchased from the above in the early 1990s by the present owner
Framed by the distant Šumava Mountains and the wooded hills near the town of Stachy in southern Bohemia, Foltýn’s birthplace, a mother stands holding her baby. The vivid blue of the three triangular mountains and of the woman’s dress, and the classical composition are clear references to the catholic iconography of Virgin with Child and evoke depictions of the Madonna and Child by Raphael and other Renaissance masters. However, in all her simplicity, Foltýn’s Madonna defies any concept of perfect beauty. In fact, the title of a related work in the collection of the Moravian Gallery in Brno, Slovenska madona (fig. 1), suggests the artist might have been searching for a more universal and patriotic meaning, where the Madonna comes to symbolise the Slavic spirit.
The vivid blues and energetic staccato brushworks are typical of Foltýn’s works from this period, and in style and execution Blue Madonna closely relates to Foltýn’s self-portrait of 1922 (fig. 2), and Raskolnikov of 1922 (fig. 3).
It was not uncommon for Foltýn to elaborate on a theme and to rework important compositions. For example, there are two known versions of his portrait of Dostojevsky, and two versions of Imperialism of 1925. His self-portrait of 1922 reappears in his portrait of Raskolnikov, while the Madonna's blue folds echo those in the portraits of Raskolnikov and Dostojevski, and in Foltýn's own self-portrait. This element of repetition and elaboration continued throughout Foltýn’s oeuvre and is also evident in his later landscapes and abstract works.
In contrast to the unsigned Slovenska Madona in the Moravian Gallery in Brno, the present work is both signed and markedly more Cubist in conception, the angular and geometrical shapes heightened by the staccato brushstrokes. This is notably visible in the drapery, the sky and the depiction of the landscape, which also harks back to earlier depictions of Mukačevo, Rybník and Horska Vesnice from 1922. This would suggest that Blue Madonna is the culmination of Foltýn's developing thoughts on, and ambitions for, this composition.