Museum Kampa houses a permanent exhibition titled Kupka / Gutfreund: Masters of World Art. The exhibition contains pieces from artist František Kupka, an important figure in establishing non-representational abstract art in the early 1900s (Museum Kampa). His piece, Cabaret Dancer, highlights Kupka’s use of subject, form, and content while maintaining his quintessential colorful and abstract feel.
The representational subject of Kupka’s piece is a cabaret dancer, a type of theatrical performance artist typically found in a restaurant or a bar. The subject is representational but stylized to fit Kupka’s abstract style. The dancer is portrayed on the vertical right two-thirds line with her arms outstretched, holding her cape open. Her stance is powerful and embodies the confidence needed for the performance. The tradition of cabaret shows began in Paris, the city where Kupka worked for much of his life (Theatre in Paris).
The creation of the “Moulin Rouge,” one of the earliest cabaret show venues created in Paris, brought glamor to the Parisian cabarets, which Kupka depicts through the rich golden color of the dancer’s costume and what can be interpreted as shining jewels on her upper abdomen (Theatre in Paris). The theme of this piece is glamor and confidence. The dancer seems to be asserting her presence and her beauty through Kupka’s use of gold, which is a symbol of triumph and luxury. Parisian cabaret shows typically contained “coarse humor usually directed against the conventions of bourgeois society” (Encyclopædia Britannica). Thus, the ideology of the piece is showing that going against conventional rules, which Kupka frequently did with his abstract artworks, is powerful and glamorous.
Cabaret Dancer is a two-dimensional painting with the illusion of space coming from the forward motion of the subject. The subject is the implied form of the piece. Kupka uses line hatching to create the skin and the bodice of the subject, the cabaret dancer. The background of the piece is also made up of hatching, though the brush strokes are much less precise and do not seek to achieve a specific shape. Kupka creates many oval shapes, including two defined ovals on top of the dancer’s head. These shapes contribute to the overall soft and rounded feeling the piece gives. The subject, the dancer, gives the illusion of mass while the background is notably flat. His brushstrokes create the illusion of texture, most prominently seen in the corset-like bodice with jewels on the dancer’s costume and the draped effect of the dancer’s cape.
Kupka uses blue, yellow, green, and white in the painting. Blue and yellow are two primary colors that make the secondary color of green, which is represented by the organization of the piece going from blue to yellow to green. Blue is considered the most appealing color in art, yellow catches the attention of the viewer, and green symbolizes freshness. The combination of these three colors presents the cabaret dancer as appealing and eye-catching, and presents cabaret shows as a fresh take on theatrics. The piece is well-balanced and follows the rule of thirds, and the colors contribute to the harmonious feel the artwork gives. The shapes in this piece are primarily organic. The individual forms of this piece are the dancer and her costume.
The message of this piece primarily comes from the subject and the historical context. The concept of the piece comes from the glamor of the history of Parisian cabaret dancing. Kupka depicts cabaret dancing as an art form itself by creating rich color and design in the dancer’s costume and a creative, harmonious backdrop. He takes the position of supporting and romanticizing cabaret shows as art, and the cabaret shows go against the traditions of bourgeois society (Encyclopædia Britannica).