Kim Novak Revisits her Family Roots (in Prague)

Kim Novak's exhibition at the Strahov Monastery in Prague runs until April 19th

The honorary VIP of this Spring's Febiofest, Prague’s international film festival, was the 1950’s Hollywood actress Kim Novak. She is best known for her role in Alfred Hitchcock’s famous mystery-romance-thriller Vertigo. However, Kim Novak has been interested in painting all of her life, and she ultimately ceased her acting career in the mid 1960s to devote herself to painting.

Born in 1933 in Chicago to Czech parents, Kim often spoke Czech at home growing up. Throughout her life she has been an artist in different forms, first as an actress in Hollywood, though it was always her childhood dream to one day become a visual artist. By exhibiting approximately twenty paintings at the Strahov Monastery in Prague, she revisits her roots while also reconnecting with this childhood dream.

Novak has always spoken about her gratitude towards the directors and actors she has had the opportunity to work with in her time in Hollywood; she explains that they have taught her many wonderful lessons that she has been able to use in her art. Specifically, she loves to describe how Alfred Hitchcock was one of her most valuable teachers, because he taught her the sense of mystery, and that not every aspect is meant to be illustrated.

Beyond art being one of her greatest passions, Kim has also utilized art as her main form of therapy. After working in Hollywood she suffered depression as a result of her bipolar disorder, and these deep personal emotional struggles become evident through her brushstrokes and color choices.

One standout in the exhibit at Strahov Monastery is entitled After the Reign and this was presented as a gift to the monastery. When she was younger she had visited Prague with her family, although, the only vivid memory she retained was of a puppet show, that they saw. This painting was inspired by her admiration of Czech puppet shows, and it illustrates a puppet being freed from the strings that control it.

Kim Novak also often accompanies her paintings with verses that she has written. Beside After the Reign she writes, “Time will soon tell the what, where and why/ A hand in the sky, that made the clouds cry/ Releasing a puppet so now she is free / No treason, she dances for our liberty./ Finding her voice, she now made her choice;/ Living with peace, we now can rejoice.”

In the background of After the Reign you can also see what appears to be a puppet mask, which suggests by this verse that the mask she used to wear as an actress, was released when she became an artist (painter).

Novak often cites famous painters such as J.M.W. Turner and Marc Chagall as influences, which can be seen in her method and use of color. Novak, like Turner, often places human beings in many of her paintings, indicating her affection for humanity on the one hand, but on the other its vulnerability and vulgarity among the awe-inspiring nature of the world. In a painting entitled They Danced Till Dawn, she depicts two trees that she has imagined in a different setting, giving them a story and life. She imagines them as young lovers that secretly celebrate life each night by “lighting up the sky with the fire they feel for each other…” Here she combines the beauty of nature by personifying the trees with the mystery and fantasy of young love.

Kim Novak will forever be known as a famous and beautiful actress, but today she is a full-time painter and a poet--not an actress. She has not ruled out making another movie, but for now she plans to continue pursuing her love of visual art, creating beautiful paintings filled with mystery that each encapsulate a bit of her persona.

Kim Novak's exhibition at the Strahov Monastery in Prague runs until April 19th.

Strahov Monastery
Open: daily 9.30 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.,
lunchtime break 11.30 a.m. - 12.00 p.m.

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