Karel Purkyně

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Karel Purkyně; portrait by
Jan Vilímek
Portrait of a Blacksmith (1860)

Karel Purkyně (15 March 1834, Wrocław – 5 April 1868, Prague) was a painter in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was one of the most prominent proponents of realism in Czech art in the second half of the 19th century.


He was the son of the physiologist and anatomist Jan Evangelista Purkyně, and developed an interest in art while still young. Early influences included the Baroque painters Karel Škréta and Petr Brandl and the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age. He spent a year in Munich studying with Johann Baptist Berdelle (1813-1876) before traveling to Paris, where he worked with Thomas Couture; there he copied paintings by the Old Masters and encountered the work of contemporary French artists. He was particularly struck by the works of Gustave Courbet.

Upon returning to Prague, Purkyně became known primarily as a portraitist, though a handful of works in other genres are known. He also made a name for himself as an organizer of artistic events and as an art critic.


  • Naděžda Blažíčková-Horová, ed. 19th-Century Art in Bohemia: (1790–1910) - Painting, Sculpture, Decorative Arts. Prague; National Gallery in Prague, 2009.

Further reading[edit]

  • František Xaver Jiřík, Karel Purkyně: An Account of the Life and Work of the Artist, with Reproductions and Portraits, J. Štenc, 1925
  • Vladimír Novotný, Karel Purkyně, Volume 7 of "Origins", Melantrich 1936
  • Jana Krofty, Karel Purkyně, Melantrich, 1942
  • Vojtěch Volavka, Karel Purkyně (exhibition catalog), Malá galerie 1962
  • Olga Macková, Karel Purkyně 1834-1868: Souborná výstava díla (a comprehensive exhibition), Národní galerie, 1962

External links[edit]