The canvas Lamenting Women from 1945 is a sizable and almost iconic example of his mastery. Dominating the work are two seated women facing each other lamenting with their hands. Their faces clearly display lamentation. They are painted in a spirit of declining cubism. They are seated in a strange exterior on a wooden chairs. The colouring is subdued: very harmonious without marked or strong contrasts. In the top right-hand corner is a black moon or possibly sun. It is motif that in Černý’s oeuvre refers to the hidden side of the times, society and also art.
Karel Černý was one of the most talented Czech painters of the first half of the 20th century. Due to lack of financial resources he was twenty-three years old before he entered the Prague Academy of Fine Arts where his teacher was Jakub Obrovský. From the very start of his career he was a loner. The Mánes association was the only major artists’ grouping that he joined. In 1946, in the wake of World War II he made his first foreign trip to Paris, to which he returned several times.
From the mid-1930s the themes of his paintings were café society, lovers and weeping women. In the 1940s his subject matter also included Paris, Prague and still lifes. Černý’s style is unmistakable. He worked with strong black outlines that defined figures in a very clear and distinctive manner. He was able to heighten the overall atmosphere of his paintings by sensitive colour work that is seemingly sparing but actually well thought out. Following the Nazi occupation he reduced his use of colour and his paintings become darker.
The Hradec Králové Master / The Virgin Mary with SS Barbara and Catherine