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House of Art
TUE–SUN / 10:00–18:00

Václav Boštík / Blue for Jan Palach

1969

The painting Blue for Jan Palach was an immediate reaction to Palach’s self-immolation in protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and in reaction to the torpor and passivity of society that quickly resigned itself to the occupation. Boštík’s work was an artistic reflection on the tragic lyricism of Palach’s clarity of vision and the spiritual dimension and moral invincibility of his heroism. The square painting is filled with a round blue spot with fuzzy edges symbolising hope. The artist used the magic of light at the beginning of his long series of works with a compelling spiritual content whereby he went down in the history of 20th century Czech art. The contemplative level of Boštík’s abstraction is disquieting because of the power of the interpretation of cosmic energy and at the same time reassuring with its faith and hope. The painting is one of the most characteristic representatives of non-pictorial art that is often termed lyrical abstraction. It is typical of the period when the picture was painted that it could only be included in the collection with the title shortened to Blue for political reasons. The original title was restored by the gallery in 1989.

BOŠTÍK VÁCLAV

Boštík studied at the Czech Technical University in Prague (1933–1937) and at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts (1945), where his teacher was Willy Nowak. He was a member of Umělecká beseda (1942) and UB 12 (1960). His early works were influenced by Camille Corot and Paul Cézanne, but by the 1950s he set his sights on abstraction. His humanist outlook found expression in the monument to the Holocaust victims in the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague (1959), where he and Jiří John created a work of art unique for its time out of the 77 297 names of the Czech Jewish victims of Nazism.
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