Karel Teige nudes
2 min

Subconscious Sensuality in the Collages of Karel Teige

2 min

This time, we're going to examine the art of another Czech avant-gardist from the circle of Toyen. Karel Teige was a prominent artist, writer, critic, and one of the founders of the Czech avant-garde association Devětsil ("Nine forces," also the name for the butterbur plant). In the 1920s, the picture poem was the most popular genre among the Devětsil members. Collages of Teige may be regarded as visual verses depicting dreamy metamorphoses of the human body in the natural and urban landscapes.

 karel teige Collage 355

Fig. 1. Collage 355, 1948 (magazinuni.cz)

 Karel Teige Collage 316

Fig. 2. Collage 316 (ce-review.org)

 Karel Teige art

Fig. 3. wordpress.com

The Collage and The Myth

Manipulation with body parts is the leading practice of avant-garde movement. It's performed in paintings, poems, movies, and collages. We can easily find analogs of Teige's dreamy constructions in pictures of Magritte and Dali. The ideological ambiguity of avant-garde art manifested itself in these weird yet captivating visual metaphors. Like the god Janus looking in opposite directions, avant-gardists claimed themselves as heralds of the future and modernity with their curiosity for skyscrapers and airplanes, at the same time, praising ancient instincts and irrational forces. Karel Teige preferred collages over paintings as they were connected with the modern art of photography. Yet the content of these collages apparently tends to be mythological. The body parts with urban landscapes in the background can't but remind us of ancient narratives about suffering gods like Osiris or Dionysus, who were torn to pieces by their enemies. Teige mainly uses the images of the female body, so his works create a story about the maternal side of nature. The adherence to the figure of the woman is a crucial feature of surrealist art. While for Teige's collaborator Štyrský the woman is a source of erotic pleasure, for Teige himself, the woman is the name for everything that surrounds humankind (or, at least, surrounds Teige). A principal feature of collages, the connection of things that can't be connected naturally, is also a characteristic of pagan gods and their infinite metamorphoses. Thus, Teige's collages demonstrate us transitions of the eternal feminine.

 Karel Teige photography

Fig. 4. wordpress.com

 Karel Teige photographer

Fig. 5. wordpress.com

 o Toyen whom I love Karel Teige

Fig. 6. To Toyen whom I love

 Left: Teige; right: Magritte, Intermission

Fig. 7. Left: Teige; right: Magritte, Intermission, 1928 (wikiart.org)

Karel Teige Eve. Collage 47