Otakar Nejedly painted this oil study of a native jungle village directly from nature during a two-year sojourn to southern India and Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Like many other of his works from this period, this intimate canvas from 1910 displays a highly original variant of French Post-Impressionist pointillist brushstroke and unmixed colors juxtaposed with expressionistic passages of loosely brushed abstract forms. With its saturated coloration of vibrant primary and secondary hues, densely compressed space, and patterned compositional designs, this painting attests to both the bright, dazzling colors the artist experienced in India and Ceylon and the lush vegetation of the region.
A leading Expressionist painter in Prague, Nejedly rejected prevailing Central European artistic traditions of naturalism, Impressionism, and the Secessionist aesthetics of Vienna for an style that favored unnatural colors, distorted shapes, and compressed special settings. The sources of Czech Expressionism are complex, combining French Post-Impressionist and Fauvist tendencies with elements derived from the German Expressionist Brücke group as well as from the work of the Norwegian Edvard Munch (1863–1944).
Czech Expressionist artists dealt candidly with the psychological alienation of modern life. Their work, like that of the Brücke artists, often reflected disillusionment with what they perceived as a moribund European culture. In 1907, the work of Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) was shown in Prague as part of a larger French Post-Impressionist exhibition. Inspired by Gauguin’s journey to the South Pacific, Nejedly traveled to southern India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from 1909 to 1911 so he could experience firsthand the vitality of non-European, so-called primitive culture. As he later recalled, “the environments we seek are jungles, a paradise which man has hardly touched, a place which, at least for the present, has not been affected by his culture.”
Resource: Otakar Nejedly, A Painter’s Impressions and Reminiscences of Ceylon and India, Prague: F. Borový , 1916.