Study of Hands

The work of Hanuš Schwaiger, which combined realistic presentation, fanciful themes, historicizing stylization, and decorativism, did not seem ‘Czech’ to many contemporary critics, such as S. K. Neumann. This painter, influenced by his studies in Vienna and his stays in Holland and appreciated by foreign modernists, personified both the cosmopolitanism and foreignness of the modern artist. He symbolized this experience with the motif of the Pied Piper, a nomadic being both despised and indispensable, who serves and makes demands. Conservative societies that heed these demands are bound to alienate the youngest generations, who will follow the sinister man and his art—like the children in a well-known legend.

Since the end of the 1870s, Schwaiger has portrayed the Pied Piper—along with other fantastic characters (e.g., the water goblin)—many times, and the variety of these forms can be related to the piper’s mythical proteanism. At the end of his life, between 1910 and 1912, he even depicted it—in collaboration with the textile artist Rudolf Schlattauer (in his Moravian Tapestry Manufactory in Valašské Meziříčí)—on tapestries. Thanks to the chosen technique, the new paraphrases (differing in color) emphasized the ghostly character of the figure and weakened the naturalistic character of the original depictions. This time, the face is completely hidden and is represented by hands that control the musical instrument, thus directly referring to seductive music as a distinctive artistic expression.

Author: Schwaiger, Hanuš
Title: Study of Hands
Date: undated
Technique: pencil drawing on paper
Dimensions: 14.4 × 8.6 cm
Origin: Jarmil Krecara Collection
Licence: Free license
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