Zdeněk Sklenář (1910–1986)

Benefaction of the Night

Technique :oil on canvas

Date:1939

Signature:bottom left

Dimensions:31 x 43 cm

Accessories:frame

starting price:‍60000 EUR

achieved price:‍88000 EUR

85th Auction, lot 27

 

This admirable unique painting by Zdeněk Sklenář is an example of early work by this very exceptional artist. As is well known, Sklenář visited China in the mid-1950s, and this stay significantly influenced his future work, which started heading towards distinctively approached abstraction based on work with Chinese characters and the East Asian aesthetics in general. This turning point of his career was, however, anticipated by an important and extraordinarily high-quality period, in which the real scenes from an urban environment were immersed in the darkened blue atmosphere of the night. The painting Benefaction of the Night presents a very rare testimony of this period. It depicts a boulevard which, thanks to delicate work with light, gains an almost magical spirit. The tender moonlight in the middle of the night sky illuminates the trees lining the street with its silver glow and allows the quiet facades of the houses to emerge from the darkness. The work gives an impression of particular tenderness, supported by the rounded curves of the houses and dynamic approach to the composition of the whole scene, including the clouds shaded by the moonlight. Within Sklenář’s works of this period abounds similar nocturnes, yet this work is completely unique in its conception as well as the brushwork, completed with engraved and drawn lines, and thus very rare in the context of the author’s paintings.

On the reverse, there is an unfinished painting of a still life with grapes and an apple, again in a dark colour scheme, reflecting Sklenář’s colour palette of the time. In the lower left corner, in addition to the double signature and the date 1938, an illegible inscription is written in the wet painting. Assessed during consultations by prof. J. Zemina and PhDr. R. Michalová, Ph.D. From the attached expertise by PhDr. K. Srp: “[...] The night light vision, transforming into a phantasmic colourful spectacle in one of the earliest paintings by Zdeněk Sklenář, is so complex and focused that it may be considered one of his most important pieces from the beginning of his extensive work. In all probability, it was a specific place at Kampa in Prague, to which he devoted himself several times, but Sklenář worked with certain ideas, which he freely connected in an imaginary space. [...]”