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OBJECT OF THE MONTH – January 2007

Robert Piesen (1921-1977), Portrait of Pavla Mautnerová (b. 1919)
c. 1955
oil on canvas, 53 x 42.5 cm
unsigned / undated
provenance: Jewish Museum in Prague acquisition from 1983
JMP 175.894

This portrait of the painter Pavla Mautnerová (b. 1919) dates from the mid-1950s. It was made by one of the most distinctive Czech painters of the second half of the 20th century, Robert Piesen (1921-1977), Mautnerová’s lifetime partner. It is one of Piesen’s figurative works that often featured his partner. Gradually moving away from the figurative tendencies of modern art, however, Piesen, along with a number of his contemporaries at the end of the 1950s, developed a purely abstract form of structural painting; this became synonymous with his unique, meditative approach to painting. Robert Piesen taught himself to paint by tirelessly studying and copying artworks by old and modern masters. He managed to survive the Second World War, having concealed his Jewish descent. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he became a key figure in the Czech Informel art movement. In 1965 he moved to Vienna with Pavla Mautnerová, from where he soon left for Israel. Piesen lived and worked alongside his wife in the Ein Hod art colony near the port town of Haifa, which was founded by Piesen’s close friend, the Israeli artist Marcel Janco (1895-1984). Robert Piesen died on January 20, 1977.
This portrait of Pavla Mautnerová is also included in the beautifully illustrated 6-language catalogue 100 Items from the Jewish Museum in Prague, which can be purchased at some of the museum’s stores or on-line at http://www.jewishmuseum.cz/shop/ashop.htm.


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