Alén Diviš

  • Born 1900 in Blato u Poděbrady, Bohemia, Austrian Empire
  • Died 1956 in Prague, Czechoslovakia

After decades as a forgotten outsider artist embracing moody, symbolic content, painter Alén Diviš has received sustained critical attention since his death. Born in Bohemia, he moved to Paris in 1926 to focus on his work, where he experimented with Cubism and Expressionism. With other expatriates, he formed the House of Czechoslovak Culture in 1939 to protest the German occupation. When France entered World War II, the group’s members were arrested for espionage. Diviš spent six months at the brutal La Santé Prison, and an additional few years in concentration and internment camps. The harsh treatment he endured and the graffiti he witnessed in his solitary-confinement cell at La Santé deeply influenced his work. After his release in 1942, he moved to New York City. In this period he created landscapes and work later termed art brut, based on the images scrawled on the walls of his former prison cell. Diviš returned to Prague in 1947 and enjoyed brief success with a memoir of his time in La Santé. Following the communist coup d’état in 1948, however, he had limited opportunities and turned to spiritual themes, such as “Christ of the Blacks.” His work was finally rediscovered after the Communists were ousted in 1989.

Artworks by Alén Diviš in the exhibition