Selected works by Jan Matulka

Jan Matulka

1890 - 1972

A native of Czechoslovakia, Matulka immigrated to New York in 1907, and became one of the pioneers of American modernist painting during the 1920s and 1930s. His ability to understand and assimilate avant garde developments in progressive painting put him in a small group of artists who advanced the principals of American Modernism during the first half of the 20th century.

When Jan Matulka began visiting Cape Ann in the 1920s, he brought along the influence of the major European art movements of the early 1900s. Moving easily from style to style, he was an early admirer of Pablo Picasso and cubism. Together with Arshile Gorky, he explored surrealism. During the 1920s and into the 1930s, he often spent summers painting and drawing in Gloucester, as did his friend Stuart Davis.

Matulka and Davis had a number of things in common besides painting. Both were New Yorkers, contributors to the leftist publication The Masses, and devotees of jazz. Their shared interest in maritime/fisheries motifs are most evident in their drawings which are replete with anchors, capstans, wharves and boats. In Matulka's Cape Ann paintings and gouaches, simplified forms are drenched in color. Among the subjects he favored are streetscapes, the waterfront and the granite quarries.