Czech-born Toyen's 'Hidden in Their Reflections' fetches CZK 35 million

Auction of Toyen painting offered 'unique chance' to local collectors.

Ioana Caloianu

Written by Ioana Caloianu Published on 21.11.2022 10:42:00 (updated on 21.11.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

A work by the Czech artist Toyen sold for an impressive CZK 34.7 million in an auction organized Sunday by the European Arts auction house, ČTK reports. The price included a 24 percent auction surcharge, according to Miloš Svoboda from European Arts.

Toyen's art has been fetching record prices at Czech auctions. In April 2021, "Circus" sold for CZK 79.56 million, including the surcharge. This made it the third most expensive painting sold in auctions held in the Czech Republic, after Bohumil Kubišta's "Old Prague Motif," sold for CZK 123.6 million this May, and "Divertimento II" by František Kupka, sold for CZK 90.24 million in November 2020.

Svoboda called the auction a "unique chance for domestic collectors and investors," given that "similar artifacts in this quality are virtually inaccessible on the market now."

The artist behind the canvas

This year marks 120 since the birth of Marie Čermínová, who adopted the artistic moniker Toyen later in life, Czech Radio reports. The artist defied traditional gender norms, dressed in tuxedos, and asked people to use "he" as her preferred pronoun. She spent most of her adult life in Paris, where she was part of the local avant-garde, and counted poet Paul Éluard as one of her admirers.

According to urban legend, the Toyen pseudonym was invented by her friend, Czech poet Jaroslav Seifert, who allegedly scribbled the name on a napkin at Prague’s National Café. Enthused by the creation, Čermínová declared she would only be known as Toyen.

She first lived in Paris between 1925 and 1929, when she and Jindrich Styrsky developed the first original Czech style, called artificialism, which offered an alternative to the geometric abstraction and surrealism that were prevalent at that time. Toyen returned to Paris in 1947, and became a proponent of the surrealist movement until her death.

One of the artist's trademarks was the capacity to "work excellently with the dusk and dawn, with the hour between the dog and the wolf, as her surrealist friends used to call this state," expert Karel Srp said when reviewing "Hidden in their Reflections."

Prague hosted several exhibition of Toyen's work, including a retrospective in 2000, and a more recent one in 2021. The 2000 exhibition was seen by a record 70,000 visitors.

The painting "Hidden in Their Reflections" was put on display at the European retrospective exhibition Toyen, held in the National Gallery in Prague, Kunsthalle Deutschland in Hamburg and the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris in the past two years.

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