Jan Preisler (1872–1918)
charcoal, paper, 54.5×16.5 cm, 54.5×43 cm, 54.5×16.5 cm, acquired 1959, Olomouc Museum of Art, inv. no. K 2696
Easter is one of the main icons of Czech Symbolism from the 1890s. In this work Jan Preisler drew attention to himself as a strong talent in the younger generation. He made this coal-drawing triptych in 1895 and with this first autonomous work he introduced himself to the public. He won the prestigious Goldstein prize in the competition for the best drawing in the Světozor illustrated magazine, which published the drawing on April 10, 1896 as a large-scale representative reproduction, with a commentary. One year later the drawing was shown at the exhibition of the Krasoumná jednota and was positively praised by critics for its formal perfection and depth of emotion. Due to this work Preisler was discovered to be a “new strong Czech talent”. In the popular triptych form, conceived as a paraphrase for the altarpiece, Preisler dealt with the theme of the mystical experience of a young man – a shepherd boy, his vision of the spiritual and psychical awakening, linked with awakening nature, the onset of a new natural cycle, and evoked by the sounds of Easter bells and by visual scenes. The artistic expression of the work is unusual, with no trace of descriptiveness or literariness. The symbol of Easter, Christ’s crucifixion, connected with the spiritual transformation of man, is expressed by the artist as a passionate experience of the secular figure placed in the central part of the triptych. The lively Symbolist atmosphere of the drawing develops the Pre-Raphaelite trends in art, which found unique expression through Preisler.