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Josef Šíma (1891–1971) The Slope of Memory

oil on canvas
1953
bottom right
61 × 50 cm
frame

Starting price3,500,000 CZK Hammer price5,000,000 CZK
Auction 84th, Lot 42 This exceptional work of one of the most interesting Czech artists, Josef Šíma, takes us back to the bosom of nature and the very heart of human memory. Šíma distanced himself somewhat from the Czech art scene with his departure for France in 1920, which, however, gave him space for his personal artistic development for the rest of his life. His partial interest in surrealism resulted in a deep spirituality of content and gave a symbolic dimension to the themes he chose. The horror of World War II deprived him of the desire to create for several years, but after the war he quickly continued in his previous work and began to focus on some of his earlier topics. The paintings were often created in cycles and related more than his previous ones to the origin of man and the world. In paintings from the early 1950's references to reality or at least to conceptually distinguishable objects gradually disappear. Šíma plunged into the heart of the earth, returning to the original chaos of a still unorganized matter. The indeterminate germs of forms and the first archetypes of shapes permeate The Slope of Memory and thus open a window into the depths of an unconscious process, which, however, takes the form of the very beginning of nature. This excellent work immediately captures the viewer's attention with its masterful colourist staging, the plasticity of the painting and its overall mystical tone. Šíma probably worked on the painting over the course of several years, as the intimate process of feeling the intangible was not easy to complete. This is why the author wrote the date 1953 on the painting itself, while on the back he states the year 1955. The work is reproduced in the author's monograph (F. Šmejkal, Prague 1988, repro. no. 293, p. 268), as well as in Šíma's French monograph (F. Šmejkal, reproduction no. 292, p. 275). It was exhibited XXX .... Assesed during consultations by prof. J. Zemina and PhDr. K. Srp. From the attached expertise by PhDr. R. Michalová, Ph.D.: "[...] In the presented painting The Slope of Memory (Le versant d'une mémoire) Šíma depicts the cosmogonic myth of the Creation of the World, expressing the primordial state of "materiae primae", the primordial chaos of disorganized matter from which the archetypes of shapes begin to emerge. The form of painting is adapted to the content focus. Rudimentary shapes, moving away from the reality of the phenomenal world, demanded more impasto layers. Unlike the more accentuated contours of the azure boulder, which seemed to have just fallen from the sky, the rock formations, kind of fetuses of figural shapes, are surrounded by a fog letting through only a glimmer of sporadic light. [...] “.
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