Artwork of the Month

June 2013

Franz Dvorak, Czech, 1862-1927
The Angel of the Birds, 1910
Oil on canvas, 42 x 80 inches
Signed and dated lower left: Fr. Dvorak 1910.  Signed and inscribed on a label on the sretcher: The Angel of the Birds/Mr. Franz Dvorak/Sylvadene/284 Willesden Lane/NW/74 Riegrovo nah. Prag Bohemia
1997.24

On View at the Museum Gift Shop

Born in the Czech city of Přelouč, Franz Dvorak trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He traveled to the United States from 1890 to 1898, later moving to France and finally settling in London in 1904. His works, which included genre, religious, and fantastical subjects, were exhibited at a variety of Paris salons, the 1900 Exposition Universelle, and the London Royal Academy of Art. In the United States, he painted portraits of prominent individuals in Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago. But among his eager American audience, Dvorak’s religious paintings were the most anticipated. His Saint Lawrence Distributing the Treasures of the Church to the Poor (Gallery Oldham, Oldham, UK), which was discussed in the British and American press when exhibited at the Salon Champ de Mars in Paris in 1899, is remarkably somber in comparison to the bright exuberance of the present painting.

The Angel of Birds reveals the diverse influences of the Pre-Raphaelites, Aesthetic Movement, and fairy painting — and his interest in nature as well as the imaginary. A wide variety of birds, their individual characteristics carefully depicted, surround the central, angelic figure. Their vibrant, almost otherworldly colors are mirrored in her expansive wings, a dazzling effect reminiscent of William Holman Hunt’s late work, The Lady of Shalott (c. 1890-1905, Wadsworth Atheneum).