27 February 1855, the Bohemian painter Jakub Schikaneder was born in Prague.
“You know yourself how little sunshine reaches Prague's dark streets and alleys.“ (Gustav Meyrink, “The Golem”)
|Jakub Schikaneder "Early Evening on the Hradčany" (around 1900)|
|Jakub Schikaneder "All Souls' Day" (1888)|
Schikaneder grew up in Prague’s Old Town as the son of an Austrian customs officer, not exactly in bourgeois upper middle class surroundings, but as the scion of an art loving family who had the author of the libretto of Mozart’s “Magic Flute” among their forebears, the lad had at least the moral support to further an artistic career, first in the theatre and, since he was 15, at Prague’s Art Academy. He began to exhibit his works already during his time at the academy to an audience that hungered for works by genuine Czech artists. Even though the young painter’s inherent sarcasm and irreverence that went against the grain of the hard core of Bohemian patriots like the journalist and author Jan Neruda who criticised Schikaneder’s works rather severely in the National Newspaper, the “Národní listy”. Never the less, Schikaneder won the prestigious artistic commissions to contribute to the decoration of Prague’s iconic National Theatre and other public works and had finally assembled enough money to finance several trips and stays across Europe, first and foremost in Paris and Munich. Becoming a professor at Prague’s new Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in 1891 helped him to travel again and again to Europe’s artistic hotspots and stay in touch with current art trends while he led an otherwise quite un-bohemian life, overshadowed only by the death of his only child during the first year of its life. Getting inspired by Whistler’s Nocturnes and reading Schopenhauer in Prague’s moody atmosphere does things to one’s inspiration, though. When the last decade of the 19th century ended, Schikaneder entered the arguably most important phase of his artistic work after a couple of years of refocusing. It was the time when his night images of Prague came into being.
|Prague and her defenestrations. Here: Jakub Schikaneder "Murder in the Hiouse" (1890)|
|Jakub Schikaneder: "A Lane in Old Prague" (1907)|