František Kupka (1871–1957)

Man and Earth (set of 106 illustrations)

Technique :mixed media (pencil, pen, ink, gouache) on paper

Date:1904 - 1905/1907

Accessories:frame, glass, matting

starting price:‍1000000 EUR

achieved price:‍2044800 EUR

the link to all illustrations


86th Auction, lot 112


This admirable set of preliminary drawings of the highest quality was created as an illustration for the extensive six-volume encyclopaedia of the geographer Élisée Reclus entitled “Man and Earth” (Élisée Reclus: L'Homme et la Terre, Bibliotheque universelle, Paris, 1905–1908). It is presented here in fairly utmost completeness and it undoubtedly represents the most extensive and comprehensive work of illustration by František Kupka. The encyclopaedia “Man and Earth”, through text, maps, various drawings, photographs and, importantly, Kupka’s illustrations, critically summarises the history of mankind from prehistory to the present. The illustrations follow human evolution on the example of selected civilisations. Working on this project, Kupka did not only need to consult with the writer, but he became an independent creator, scientist, ethnographer, and sociologist of the “flourishing and vanished nations”. Kupka created a completely unique illustration work, often interspersed with ironic and satirical allegories, which is executed mostly in the spirit of descriptive realism and represents a turning point in his work. This is evidenced, among other things, by the fact that the last of the illustrations were created simultaneously with Kupka’s first abstract studies. This figurative adventurous narrative proves a great ability to empathise with the man of their respective times, and at the same time it is “archaeologically faithful” to the extent that we can later find perhaps only in the work of Zdeněk Burian. It is a truly enormous artwork in all ways. The high value of the set is further enhanced by its provenance dating back to the interwar collection of Jindřich Waldes, subsequently of the National Gallery in Prague, and it was restituted between 1995 and 1996. Extensive literature is also related to this set: É. Reclus: L’Homme et la Terre, Bibliotheque universelle, Paris, 1905–1908; F. Kupka et al.: Kupka – Waldes: The Artist and His Collector. Works of Frantisek Kupka in the Jindrich Waldes Collection, Prague, 1999, completely published; P. Brullé / M. Theinhardt / P. Wittlich / Marie-Pierre Salé: Vers des temps nouveaux: Kupka, œuvresgraphiques 1894–1912, Paris, 2002; Z. Sklenář / J. Lammel: Kupuka – Ren yudiqiu / František Kupka – Člověk a Země / František Kupka – L'Homme et la Terre / František Kupka – Man and Earth, Zdeněk Sklenář Gallery, Prague, 2005, completely published; P. Chalupa / A. Marés: Les artistes tchèques en France, Pour la Tchécoslovaquie, hommage à un pays inexistant, Prague, 2016, p. 46–49; P. Brullé / B. Léal / M. Theinhardt: KUPKA: Pionnier de l’abstraction. Catalogue d’exposition. Réunion des musées nationaux, 2018, cat. no. 44–53; A. Pravdová / M. Theinhardt, eds.: František Kupka 1871–1957, National Gallery in Prague in collaboration with Réunion des musées nationaux – Grand Palais, and Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery, 2018, repro. p. 36–43; František Kupka, Man and Earth: The Eighth Station, Litomyšl, 2007). The exhibition history of the set as a whole as well as its individual parts is also highly interesting: Kupka – Waldes. The Artist and His Collector, Rudolfinum Gallery, Prague, 7. 12. 1999 – 9. 1. 2000; Vers des temps nouveaux: Kupka, œuvres graphiques, 1894–1912, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, 25. 6. – 6. 10. 2002; National Art Museum of China, Beijing, 26. 7. – 7. 8. 2005; František Kupka – Man and Earth, Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 11. 3. 2006; Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery in Ulaanbaatar, 26. 9. – 30. 9. 2006; František Kupka – Man and Earth, Queen’s Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand, 16. 5. – 18. 6. 2006; Man and Earth, Castle Brewery, Litomyšl, 8. 6. – 13. 7. 2007; Künstler und Propheten. Einegeheime Geschichte der Moderne 1872–1972, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 5. 3. – 13. 6. 2015; Artists and Prophets. Schiele, Hundertwasser, Kupka, Beuys and Others, National Gallery in Prague, 17. 7. – 14. 10. 2015; František Kupka, Pionnier de L’Abstraction, Grand Palais, Paris, 21. 3. – 30. 7. 2018; František Kupka: Man and Earth, Aleš South Bohemian Gallery, Hluboká nad Vltavou, 10. 6. – 7. 10. 2018; František Kupka, National Gallery in Prague, 7. 9. 2018 – 20. 1. 2019; František Kupka, Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki, 22. 2. 2019 – 19. 5. 2019). Should you wish to attend a virtual tour and find more information on the set as well as the particular drawings, please visit our website Assessed during consultations by PhDr. K. Srp and doc. PhDr. M. Theinhardt, CSc. The expertise by Mgr. P. Kubík is attached.