How Jindřich Štyrský Shaped Czech Surrealism | Expert Voices

Paris | 6 December 2023

With its spectacular format (255 cm), "Le Trauma de la Naissance" is a Surrealist masterpiece of museum importance; it is without a doubt the most significant work by the artist Jindřich Štyrský (1899-1942), a great prophet of the Czech avant-garde and a fellow traveler of the artist Toyen.

Štyrský placed it above his bed in his Prague apartment. Upon his untimely death during the Second World War, Toyen inherited all of Štyrský’s work. The painting accompanied him during his exile to Paris in 1947 and was first offered for sale as part of the Toyen Estate at an auction at Drouot in 1982.

According to Karel Srp, an art historian and specialist in Czech avant-garde: “If one painting from Czech interwar surrealism had to be named the most important, it would be 'The Trauma of Birth' by Jindřich Štyrský.”

The name and work of Jindřich Štyrský (1899-1942) remain inextricably linked to those of Marie Čermínová Toyen (1902-1980). Together, the two artists made Prague the magic capital of old Europe (in Breton's words) and, almost single-handedly, embodied the Avant-Garde in general and Surrealism in particular in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Today, Toyen is considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century, and her work has been the subject of several major international exhibitions. However, Štyrský remains the great unknown of Surrealism. His premature death in Prague in 1942 interrupted a dazzling, visionary, radical, and eminently sophisticated body of work, of which the monumental "Le Trauma de la Naissance" is the absolute masterpiece.

Sotheby's is proud to present "Le Trauma de la Naissance" in the Paris Art Moderne et Contemporain Evening Auction on 6 December 2023.

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