(2 May 1880, Kralupy, Central Bohemia – 6 February 1945, Geneva, Switzerland)
Park in the City (Hamburg), 1906
oil on canvas, 65 x 75 cm
signed and dated top left: Kars 06
purchased by the Jewish Museum in 2003
inv. no.: JMP 177.743
Georges Kars was a major figure in the first generation of Czech modern artists. Unlike his contemporaries, he did not attend the Prague Academy; instead, after finishing high school, he left for Munich. He studied first at a private art school run by Heinrich Knirr in 1899–1905 and then at the Munich Academy under Franz von Stuck. Among his fellow students and friends were Eugen von Kahler, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Jules Pascin and a number of other artists with whom he discussed Impressionism and the expressive possibilities of the new art form. Kars later recollects: “Stuck's spirit, however, was alien to us, and we didn't try to penetrate it. This was the period of Impressionism – the focus of our gaze was on the works of Liebermann and Slevogt in Germany and we were beginning to understand the paintings of Manet, van Gogh, Renoir and Cézanne.”
After finishing his studies in Munich in 1905, Kars spent most of the next year in Prague where he painted the remarkable Double Portrait of My Parents, which already reveals his energetic and expressive brushwork and thick paint application. Perhaps like his Prague contemporaries Bedřich Feigl and Willi Nowak, Kars went to Berlin to see Max Liebermann (1847–1935), whose Impressionist work was the strongest influence on him at this time. Kars did his first en plein air paintings of the streets and parks of Munich, Hamburg and perhaps Berlin in 1906 and 1907. He achieved outstanding results with these works, coming close to the virtuosity and use of colour displayed in Liebermann's paintings. The painting Park in the City (1906) is undoubtedly one of the earliest and best examples of Kars's painting style at the time; Shore with Pier and Harbour Bridge (1906/07) follow on from this work. Kars did a whole series of similar paintings of cityscapes and park scenes while travelling in Germany (notably in Hamburg), France, Spain and Portugal in 1907. Among the most remarkable of these are In Hamburg Zoo, Park with Parrots, On the Alster in Hamburg, Park Scene and Man on Balcony, all of which are marked by a direct painterly style, impasto application of paint, and expressive colour in lush green and silver-grey tones that are characteristic of northern light.
Many of these paintings were shown at the 1907 spring exhibition of the Association of German Artists in Bohemia at Prague's Rudolfinum Gallery. Despite being invited to do so, Kars didn't take part in the first exhibition held by his friends from OSMA (The Eight) – a group of young Czech, German and Jewish modern artists – as most of his works had already been on display at the Rudolfinum. Kars remained captivated with en plein air painting, bright light and colour, and the atmosphere of parks and promenades for some time, even after leaving for Paris in 1908, but under the influence of Paul Cézanne, the Fauvists and the burgeoning Cubist aesthetic he soon turned his efforts towards developing a firmer structure in his paintings.
Other paintings from this period will be on view at the exhibition Georges Kars (1880–1945) – Early Works at the Robert Guttmann Gallery from 23 February until 17 June 2012.