Wenzel Hablik, Starry Sky, Attempt, 1909
78.74 x 78.74 in.
Wenzel Hablik (1881-1934) was a painter, architect, and graphic designer who became part of German Expressionism. Born in Bohemia, now Czech Republic, Hablik trained in Vienna and Prague, initially as a cabinet maker. His earliest work is generally a Surrealist/Expressionist take on landscape, where the personal impressions of the artist, in this case intensely colorful vistas, take precedence over adherence to objective reality. Hablik's paintings explore colors and geometry in a thoroughly original way; many of these works were inspired by a crystal fragment he found as a boy. We can see the universe fracture like glass, only for Hablik to put it together again to show the luminosity and intensity within. Some of his paintings are downright psychedelic and seem decades ahead of their time. Starry Sky, Attempt is another piece that seems ahead of its time, but in a very different way. I think the "attempt" in the title is quite telling; Hablik is alerting us to the fact that this is a mere attempt to capture the majesty and awe-inspiring heavens. Hablik populates this sky with innumerable stars, planets, and other celestial bodies. This painting seems to presage so much science fiction imagery that came after it, as well as the actual images of deep space that we have now seen. That Hablik saw so much that was still decades (and lightyears) away is astounding. In this large painting, with its dense composition and mind-blowing colors, Hablik shows the true splendor of the natural world.