oil on canvas
47 × 70 cm
Starting price: 2,500,000 CZK Final price: 3,720,000 CZK
89th Auction, lot 152 Embankment at Night is a recently discovered work by Jakub Schikaneder, a unique artist who worked almost equally in the 19th and 20th centuries. He executed it in a period of significant re-evaluation of the aesthetic values of Czech as well as European art. At this time, after the mid-1890s, Schikaneder developed his unmistakable artistic expression. He depicted his understanding of the world and inner thoughts using soft light and colours applied with a gently flowing brushwork evoking the softness of pastel. Thus he became a sensitive interpreter of the atmosphere of the time. With the chosen subject matter and rendering, Embankment at Night stands at the beginning of what we consider the peak phase of Schikaneder’s work, for the unmistakable expression of which he is known to the broader public. The painting presents a simple composition divided by a diagonal into two almost symmetrical parts. The left part captures the embankment, the backdrop of which is a wall with a street lamp and a sidewalk with a pair of figures; the space is closed by a stake intended for mooring boats. The right part presents an opposite world in many ways. It consists of a water surface, a strip of sky and a large cargo boat. The light is distributed very subtly – while the left part is lit up with warm rays of artificial lighting, the right part is illuminated by the natural cold light of the moon outside the scene. It is the harmony of different light sources, often hidden behind a corner, a window, or even, as it were, beyond the frame, that is very characteristic of Schkinader’s artistic expression. We likely encounter in this painting probably the earliest of his works known to date depicting a river or seashore – a subject matter that Schikaneder fully developed after 1910 and which later sounded like a swansong in his late works associated with the German archipelago of Heligoland in the North Sea. Even in this case, he most likely drew inspiration from his travels abroad. In 1895, he travelled through England and Scotland with the doctor Josef Thomayer. We know from Dr Thomayer’s memoirs that their return journey led from Leith in Scotland via Hamburg, Germany’s largest port city on the lower Elbe. The fact that this painting was most likely inspired by Hamburg or some other large northern German port and not by the Prague embankment is also evidenced by the depicted ship, whose type was never used on the Vltava River and was rather known from the area of the lower Elbe. Embankment at Night is in many ways a unique painting, which occupies an important place in Schikaneder’s portfolio. Assessed during consultations by prof. R. Prahl, CSc., and prof. T. Vlček, CSc. Attached is the expertise of PhDr. Š. Leubnerová and restoration report of ak. mal. T. Berger.