School of Paris painter and wood-engraver; a pioneer of abstract art. Born in Opocno in Eastern Bohemia. Apprenticed as a youth to a master saddler, who initiated him in spiritualism; became a medium. Began to paint and received his first instruction from Studnicka at Jaromer. Afterwards studied at Prague Academy 1889-92 under the Nazarene painter Sequens and at the Vienna Academy 1892-3 under Eisenmenger, also a Nazarene. Influenced by Czech folk art, abstract ornamental patterning and Theosophy. Settled in 1896 in Paris, where he worked first primarily as satirical draughtsman for magazines such as L'Assiette au Beurre and as book illustrator. A friend and neighbour of Jacques Villon from 1901, first in Montmartre, then from 1906 in Puteaux on the outskirts of Paris. His paintings influenced by Symbolism, then Fauvism; experimented from 1909 with ways of rendering figures in motion inspired by high-speed photography. From 1911 his work became abstract with cosmic themes and rhythms, intersecting arabesques, rectilinear vertical planes, etc. First Paris one-man exhibition at the Galerie Povolozky 1921. Wrote a book on his theories, La Création dans les Arts Plastiques (first published 1923). Appointed professor by Prague Academy in 1922, to introduce Czech students in Paris to French culture. Co-founder of Abstraction-Création 1931, and adopted a more geometrical and classical abstract style. Died in Puteaux.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.403-4