The muted, atmospheric landscapes, room interiors and nocturnes of Czech painter Jakub Schikaneder often seem steeped in melancholy, if not overt sadness, sometimes with lone figures almost blended into the soft darkness.
Schikaneder appears to have taken some of the painterly brushwork and broken color of the French Impressionists and turned them in a different direction, combining them with a dark palette and low light in the service of his moody evocations of twilight or evening. This can give his paintings a rich visual texture that further reinforces the mood.
His compositions frequently have a focused light source — a lamp, a window, a slice of dawn through clouds or the soft disc of the sun or moon through haze or overcast — that draws your eye initially and allows the rest of the composition to reveal itself more slowly.
It may have been his family’s experiences with poverty early in his life, particularly after the death of his father, that prompted Schikaneder choice of subjects and his social empathy. One series of paintings in particular dealt with tragic situations faced by women, the culmination of which was his noted work Murder in the House (images above, fifth down).
Not all of his work deals with sadness or resignation, and I think those feelings can too easily be projected into works that are simply softly lit and contemplative.
The largest exhibition of Schikaneder’s work ever assembled is now on display at the National Gallery in Prague. The National Gallery has created a separate website devoted to Schikaneder and the exhibition.
Unfortunately, the site doesn’t have an easily viewed gallery of the artist’s work. Within the site, works are arranged in the sections of the chronology accessed from the tab for “Jakub Schikaneder” on the left. From each page in that section you can get to larger images from the thumbnails accompanying the text.
Many of the site’s pages have an automatic slideshow of large background images that can slow down loading; it can be paused with a control at the lower right of the page.
There is a more easily accessed selection of his work on Wikimedia Commons, but I would trust the color to be more true in the reproductions on the National Gallery’s site.
The exhibition at the National Gallery in Prague is on display until 21 October, 2012.