This week, we’re going to delve further into the 20th century, starting with modern art.
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There are several artists to choose from, and many of them created incredible pieces. The artist we’re going to focus on today is one whose name may not be well-known, but his work is stunning.
Born Frantisek Kupka in Eastern Bohemia (what is now the Czech Republic), Frank Kupka became one of the founding painters of the modern art movement.
Kupka was born in 1871, just a few years before the beginning of the Impressionist movement. He lived at a time of great change and new ways of thinking. Europe was coming out of the Enlightenment and into the Modern Age, and its art world led the way.
He first studied classical art, learning to paint portraits and historical pieces; he then ventured a bit into Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. In the early 1900s, he found his place within the Modern movement, working extensively in Cubism.
Cubism was made famous by Picasso, but many other artists worked with it as well. It is the concept that everything can be expressed with variations of three shapes: circles, triangles, and cubes. Kupka took this idea in a different direction than many painters of his time.
Frank Kupka was a student of philosophy, theology, and science. He found a lot of his inspiration in the mixture of these three fields. Kupka was also deeply influenced by music and color. He constantly tried to convey the movement and boldness of these two in his work.
Kupka’s Cubist Works
Kupka worked in a special type of cubism called “Orphic Cubism.” This was a type of art that focused on bold colors and movement to present different ideas. This type of art took the bright colors and ideas that artists like van Gogh and Cezanne painted and presented them in abstract ways.
To cubists, the idea behind the subject was the most important thing.
What set Kupka and the other Orphists apart was their use of bold lines, bright colors, and ongoing patterns. Many cubists, such as Picasso, tended to work in shades of one main color palette and offset shapes. (This can be seen in his “blue period” or paintings of faces that seem out of place.)
Several of Kupka’s paintings are very striking. He used vivid colors and geometric shapes to express ideas ranging from social theory to science. He believed that somewhere in the midst of science, philosophy, theology, and art, he could find truth. His paintings were his way of searching for that truth.
Frank Kupka lived during a time of change. When he was born, the American Civil War had just ended and Reconstruction was going strong. The different regions of Germany were starting to unite, and tension was beginning to brew between the different nations of northern Europe.
When Frank was 43 years old, he volunteered as a soldier in World War I – even though he was 25 years older than his fellow troops! His wife, Eugenie, marched alongside him to the front, carrying his rifle and bag. She was arrested and sent home, but she made her way back to him. Eventually, he succumbed to frostbite in the trenches and was sent home as well.
Be sure to record Frank Kupka on your Timeline of the Arts. He lived from 1871 to 1957, so he lived through many important events, including:
- World War I
- The sinking of the Titanic
- The Jazz Age
- The Great Depression
- World War II
- The beginning of the Cold War
Hands-On Activity: Make a Orphist Art Piece!
One of the great things about Orphist art – the kind of Cubism that Kupka worked with – is that it’s fun and easy to experiment with. Kupka worked with different kinds of paints, but you can try his methods out with markers.
By the way – if you have a set of Sharpies you’ve been waiting to break in, this is the perfect project! They’re easy to control, lay down wonderfully bold colors, and barely need time to dry.
On a piece of watercolor paper, draw several vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines. You’ll want to use a ruler to get clean, sharp shapes. If you would like to add in some curves, you can trace around a drinking glass.
Here is an example. I’ve left it halfway done so that you can see both the drawn shapes and the blocks of color. Feel free to do your own thing, though. Get creative!
When you’re satisfied with the pattern, start coloring in the shapes. You can use bright, bold colors, earth tones, or pastels. Kupka experimented with all of them!
If you have (or have been waiting to get) a Spirograph, it’s a wonderful tool for this project. It’s really fun to use and gives you incredible patterns to color in!
Modern Art Activity Book – This fun activity book offers projects in Impressionism, Fauvism, Surrealism, Cubism, Pop Art, and more to introduce kids to Modern Art.
What Will You Create?
I love to hear from my readers, so please feel free to let me know how this project goes! Just comment below.
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Edgar Degas (+ free art visuals of Degas’ Dancers!)
Claude Monet (+ free art study cards!)