Frantisek Kupka is known as one of the pioneers of Abstract Art and Orphism, which helped evolve Cubism into Abstract Art, a movement more concerned with expression and sensation through color, music and form.
Frantisek Kupka was born on September 23, 1871, in Opocno in eastern Bohemia. From 1889 to 1892 he studied at the Prague Art Academy. During this time he painted historical and patriotic themes. In 1892, Kupka enrolled at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna, where he concentrated on symbolic and allegorical subjects. He exhibited at the Kunstverein, Vienna, in 1894. His involvement with theosophy and Eastern philosophy dates from this period. By spring 1896 Kupka had settled in Paris; there he attended the Académie Julian briefly and then studied with Jean-Pierre Laurens at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
Kupka worked as an illustrator of books and posters and, during his early years in Paris, became known for his satirical drawings for newspapers and magazines. In 1906 he settled in Puteaux, a suburb of Paris, and that same year exhibited for the first time at the Salon d’Automne. Kupka was deeply impressed by the first Futurist manifesto, published in 1909 in Le Figaro. Kupka’s work became increasingly abstract around 1910–11, reflecting his theories of motion, color, and the relationship between music and painting. In 1911 he attended meetings of the Puteaux group. In 1912 he exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in the Cubist room, although he did not wish to be identified with any movement.
Creation in the Plastic Arts, a book Kupka completed in 1913, was published in Prague in 1923. In 1921 his first solo show in Paris was held at Galerie Povolozky. In 1931 he became a founding member of Abstraction-Création together with Jean Arp, Albert Gleizes, Jean Hélion, Auguste Herbin, Theo van Doesburg, and Georges Vantongerloo. In 1936 his work was included in the exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and in an important show with Alphonse Mucha at the Jeu de Paume, Paris. A retrospective of his work took place at the Galerie S.V.U. Mánes in Prague in 1946. That same year Kupka participated in the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, Paris, where he continued to exhibit regularly until his death. During the early 1950s he gained general recognition and had several solo shows in New York. Kupka died in Puteaux on June 24, 1957. Retrospectives were held at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, in 1958 and at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1975.