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Sold at Auction: Karel Teige

(1900-1951)
Alias:Karl Teige
PhotographerPainter

Biography

Karel Teige (13 December 1900 – 1 October 1951) was a Czech modernist avant-garde artist, writer, critic and one of the most important figures of the 1920s and 1930s movement. He was a member of the Devetsil (Butterbur) movement in the 1920s and also worked as an editor and graphic designer for Devetsil's monthly magazine ReD (Revue Devetsilu). One of his major works on architecture theory is The Minimum Dwelling (1932).

Teige was born in Prague. With evidently endless energy, he introduced modern art to Prague. Devetsil-sponsored exhibitions and events brought international avant-garde figures like Le Corbusier, Man Ray, Paul Klee, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Walter Gropius, among many others, to lecture and perform in Prague. Teige interpreted their work, sometimes literally, for the Czech audience. In his 1935 Prague lecture, André Breton paid tribute to his "perfect intellectual fellowship" with Teige and Nezval: "Constantly interpreted by Teige in the most lively way, made to undergo an all-powerful lyric thrust by Nezval, Surrealism can flatter itself that it has blossomed in Prague as it has in Paris." [2]

Although not an architect, Teige was an articulate and knowledgeable architecture critic, an active participant in CIAM, and friends with Hannes Meyer, the second director of the Bauhaus. From 1929 to 1930 he gave guest lectures at the Bauhaus in Dessau [3]

Teige and Meyer both believed in a scientific, functionalist approach to architecture, grounded in Marxist principles. In 1929 he famously criticized Le Corbusier's Mundaneum project (planned for Geneva but never built) on the grounds that Corbusier had departed from rational functionalism, and was on his way to becoming a mere stylist. Teige believed that 'the only aim and scope of modern architecture is the scientific solution of exact tasks of rational construction.'

After welcoming the Soviet army as liberators, Teige was silenced by the Communist government in 1948. In 1951 he died in Prague of a heart attack, said to be a result of a ferocious Soviet press campaign against him as a 'Trotskyism degenerate,' his papers were destroyed by the secret police, and his published work was suppressed for decades.
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