Capek, Josef

Čapek, Josef

Čapek, Josef (yôˈsĕfchäˈpĕk), 1887–1945, Czech writer and painter. He collaborated with his brother Karel on a number of plays and short stories. On his own he wrote the utopian play Land of Many Names (1923, tr. 1926) and several novels. Poems from a Concentration Camp (1946) were written in Bergen-Belsen, where he died. As a painter, Josef Čapek developed an original primitivist style. His works of art criticism include The Humblest Art (1920).
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Čapek, Josef


Born Mar. 23, 1887, in Hronov; died Apr. 1945, in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Czech artist and writer; antifascist. Representative of progressive Czech art.

Čapek studied at the School of Industrial Arts in Prague and in Paris. His first works, which he wrote jointly with his brother K. Čapek, were published in 1907. From 1910 through the 1920’s he worked for progressive newspapers and journals, wrote critical articles and topical satires, and drew caricatures for the Brno newspaper Národni novini.

As an artist, Čapek strove for expressiveness and simplicity, introducing devices of cubism, fauvism, and primitivism. In his paintings he depicted the life of the urban poor, as in Man With a Bag (1926, National Gallery, Prague). He drew illustrations, including drawings, lithographs, and linocuts of laconic composition for works by Czech writers, including his brother’s novels The Absolute at Large (1922) and Krakatit (1924) and his own Tale of a Dog and a Cat (1929).

Čapek combined subtle irony and the grotesque with dramatic force. In the cycles of paintings Fire and Dream (1938–39, National Gallery, Prague), he symbolically depicted the suffering of his people during the fascist dictatorship. His series of antifascist caricatures see the with passionate anger.


Stín kapradiny. Prague, 1930.
Umění přírodnich národů. Prague, 1938.
O sobě. Prague, 1958.


Pečírka, J. J. Čapek. Prague, 1961.
Thiele, V. J. Čapek a kniha. Prague, 1958.
Halík, M, and J. Slavík. Bojovné dílo J. Čapka. Hradec Králové, 1964.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.