In Forest, Antonín Slavíček examines the possibilities offered by Stimmungslandschaft, i.e. the atmospheric landscape painting genre. Such landscape paintings focused on themes similar to those selected by the French impressionists. The piece belongs to a set of Slavíček’s works associated with his famous Birch Mood (1897). In these works Slavíček experimented with oil painting, combining it with the so-called syntonos technique (patented in 1893). While a majority of the scenes created during this period feature locations such as Veltrusy, Hvězda, Bechyně, Okoř and Liboc, it is nearly impossible to identify the precise site found in this painting. A majority of Slavíček’s landscapes constitute representations of secluded forest locations, which best suited his artistic style. These paintings feature e.g. subtle depictions of trees capable of infusing the overall compositions with an art nouveau-esque rhythm (similar themes are to be found in the works of Gustav Klimt). This approach enabled Slavíček to focus purely on light, or rather on light quality as a vehicle for content. No motif was ever chosen as an end in itself. From a psychological point of view, each work includes an inherent element of intent – a particular atmosphere superimposed onto just the right location. While Slavíček employs a limited colour range, he does not shy away from using the then popular combination of green and purple. At the time, Slavíček’s works were successfully sold by the art dealer Salvátor Kominík who, along with Bedřich Kominík and the art collector Břetislav Rosch, were the first owners of this painting.
Antonín Slavíček was born on 16 May 1870 in Prague. In 1887 he was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague where he began to study landscape painting with Julius Mařák. In the late 1880s he considered pursuing priesthood, which led him to briefly become a monk at the Benedictine monastery in Rajhrad, but returned to the Academy in 1889. In 1892 he became a member of Umělecká beseda, a society of Czech artists, and participated in its activities until 1897. However, in the following year, he was already exhibiting under the auspices of the Mánes Union of Fine Arts. After the death of Julius Mařák, Slavíček spent some time in his mentor’s position, expecting to be appointed professor in his stead, which, much to his chagrin, never happened. He perceived his failure to accomplish this as a lifelong injustice, as did those members of the younger generation who considered Slavíček to be their leader. For a long time, the issue continued to polarise the artistic community while also leading to frequent disputes. In 1900, Slavíček rented a studio in the Old Town and started to produce paintings featuring Prague motifs. In 1903 he began to paint in Kameničky, a location which would become a recurring theme in his work. In 1909, he suffered a stroke while bathing in a river. The right side of his body became paralysed as a result. While he did attempt to paint using his left hand for a short time, he ultimately decided to resolve the hopeless situation for good and committed suicide the very next year.
Property of Salvator Kominík.
Bedřich Kominík. By inheritance.
Private collection of Břetislav Rosch.