Sunday, 14 February 2016


“The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century – or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels.” - Laini Taylor

Ludvík Kuba (April 16, 1863 in Poděbrady, Bohemia – November 30, 1956 in Prague) was a Czech landscape painter, musician, writer, and a professor in the Academy of Fine Arts. He was a representative of late Impressionism, but was also very interested in folk culture of the Balkans, collecting folksongs, folk tales, customs and cultural heritage.

Kuba was the second of eleven children of Ludvík Luba Sr, a locksmith, and his wife Anna, née Mikšovský. Ever since his youth the young Ludvík showed artistic leanings and of his siblings, only his brother Charles shared this, later becoming a blacksmith specialising in decorative ironwork. Apart from drawing Kuba had talent in music, gradually learning to play the violin, piano, organ and other musical instruments. From 1873 he attended primary school in Podebrady.

In the years 1877 - 1879 he studied at the Prague Organ School at Francis Zdenek Skuherského. He then undertook further studies at the pedagogical institute in Kutna Hora, the director of which at that time was Gustav Adolf Lindner. There, he often painted parts of the historic city and its surroundings. At the same time he began to study Slavic languages and was interested in ethnographic study. After graduating in 1883 he worked for two years as an assistant teacher and also intensively worked on the first volume of the collection “Slavonic Peoples in their Songs”, which came out in 1884. In the same year he decided to leave his teaching career and pursue a profession as an ethnographer and writer. He undertook frequent study trips to Lausitz, Halič, Ukraine and Russia. Most often, however, he visited the Balkans, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

From 1888 he decided to continue his painting education, and at Karl Liebscher’s recommendation, he enrolled in 1891 in the Prague Academy of Painting. In 1893 he went to Paris, where he studied painting at the private Académie Julian. This trip was important to as it was there he met his compatriot Olga Joujovou, who in 1895 became his wife. Soon after the wedding, the couple went to Mostar where Kuba wanted to paint a cycle of Slav traditional life. But this failed to be completed because it seemed to him that he was not sufficiently in control of the technique of oil painting.

He decided to study painting further, this time in Munich, with Slovenian painter Anton Ažbeho. Kuba lived in Vienna between 1904 and 1910, and then, before returning to his homeland, he undertook a three-month trip to Italy, where he visited major art centres, Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples. From 1911 he settled in Prague. After some disagreements with the Artistic Association Mánes he mainly focused on ethnographic activities, for which he received over the years a number of awards at home and abroad. He undertook a study tour and worked on compiling collections of Slavic Folksong.

In 1921 he traveled regularly with his family to Březnice Pribram, where the parents of his wife had their house. Here he painted genre pictures of the town and surrounding area. From there he also went on trips to paint landscapes in South Bohemia.  In 1937 he participated as a member of an official delegation in an exhibition of Czechoslovak art in Moscow.

During his long life he painted prolifically and almost until the end of his life organised exhibitions of his paintings. He collected over 4,000 folk songs and published widely on ethnographic and folk musical matters. He died in Prague on 30 November 1956 at the age of 93 years. The urn with his ashes was in possession of his only son, Louis Maria Cuba until 1992, when it was deposited in the Urn Grove in Kluk (Poděbrady).

The painting above is “Square in Pardubice”, painted in 1911. This was when the artist had come back to Prague after his further studies in Vienna and this is a confident, freely executed work, capturing the vivid sunlight and bold triangular shadowy area on the left, which nevertheless highlights the warmly glowing ornate building façades.

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