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Caricature portrait of Karel Capek.
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(CAPEK, Karel.) BERGER, Oscar.

Caricature portrait of Karel Capek.

Published: 1925

Stock code: 93921

Price: £1,500

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This item is on show at 100 Fulham Road (map)

Signed by both sitter and artist. Wonderful portrait from life of the great Czechoslovakian writer by that portmanteau nation’s finest caricaturist. Commonly characterised as a writer of science fiction – his most famous work is probably The War with the Newts, described by influential critic Darko Suvin as “the pioneer of all anti-fascist and anti-militarist SF” (Smith, Twentieth-century Science Fiction Writers) – Capek’s writing is ill-served by such pigeonholing. Arthur Miller, a youthful enthusiast for his work attempted to sum up Capek’s unique appeal; “There was no writer like him … prophetic assurance mixed with surrealistic humour and hard-edged social satire: a unique combination … he is a joy to read” (Foreword to Smith, Toward a Radical Center: A Karel Capek Reader). Following the cession of the Sudetenland to Germany in September 1938, Capek, although identified by the Gestapo as an enemy of the Nazi state, refused to go into exile, and suffering from depression he succumbed to pneumonia just a couple of months later. His artist brother, Josef, with whom he had collaborated on a number of projects, was arrested soon after the Nazi invasion and sent to the camps. He died in Bergen-Belsen shortly before the end of the war. The artist Oscar Bergen was trained at the Berlin School of Art, and began his career on Germany, but he fled when Hitler came to power, settling in London where he worked for a number of newspapers and magazines including the Daily Telegraph, the News of the World, and Lilliput. After the war he emigrated to America where he became noted for his “kindly rather than critical” caricatures. A wonderful evocation of one of Czechoslovakia’s cultural Golden Ages, but shadowed perhaps by the Age of Iron to come.

Pencil on wove paper. Sheet size: 29 17.3 cm. Shows signs of having been somewhat crumpled at some point, old soft creases, slight soiling and occasional scuffing of the surface, a few short edge-splits at the top, but overall very good. Window mounted and framed in an ebonized wood Czech Cubist-style frame, UV-resistant glass.

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