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Book Debut of the Čapek Brothers – Cubo-Expressionist Illustrations

Zářivé hlubiny a jiné prosy [The luminous depths and other prose works].

Prague: Nakladatel Fr. Borový, 1916. Octavo (22 × 13.4 cm). Original pictorial wrappers by Hofman; 122, [6] pp. With fourteen smaller and three full-page drawings by Hofman. Very good; in protective mylar.

The first book publication by the Čapek brothers (Karel and Josef Čapek), this collection of experimental prose works was illustrated throughout by the architect and artist Vlastislav Hofman. A prolific author of prose and plays, Karel Čapek is today best known for his groundbreaking science fiction play R.U.R., in which the word ‘robot’ was used for the first time. It was in fact coined by his brother Josef, a noted Czech painter and book designer.

Alongside Josef Čapek and Bedřich Feuerstein, Hofman (1884–1964) is considered not only a key figure of Czech Cubism, but also a pioneer of the Czech avant-garde around Devětsil, who strove to unite the different genres. He is known today primarily as an architect, furniture designer, and stage designer; he was also a painter and essayist. Not only his architectural designs — most of which were never realized — attracted much attention, also abroad, for example in Walden's journal “Der Sturm”, but also his early graphic works. Thus, there were far-reaching debates about his graphic series on Dostoyevsky, which appeared in 1917. After a well-received exhibition of the drawings in the bookshop and print room of art publisher Jan Štenc, a scandal erupted when Hofman submitted these cubist-expressionist drawings to another exhibition, this time at the highly esteemed Mánes Gallery. The conservative jury unanimously rejected the drawings for being merely experimental, prompting critic Václav Nebeský, in an article entitled "Literariness or Experiment?”, to attack their theoretical incompetence and to point out that the drawings had received an enthusiastic response among writers and literary critics. It was Alois Wachsmann, an artist from the up-and-coming generation and a member of the avant-garde group Devětsil, who defended the new art, praising Hofman’s apparent isolation from contemporary influences coming to Bohemia from, among other places, France.

The volume contains seven other short stories besides the titular text: "Červená povídka", "L'éventail", "Lásky hra osudná", "Skandál a žurnalistika", "Mezi dvěma polibky", "Ostrov", and "Živý plamen".

As of April 2023, KVK, OCLC show six copies in North America.

Book ID: 52803

Price: $1,500.00