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Joseph Sima (transcription of his Czech name) was born on 19 March 1891 in Jaroměř in Eastern Bohemia. After studying painting in Prague, he arrived in France, his country of choice, in 1921 and lived mainly in Paris, with brief interruptions, until his death in 1971.

Between 1928 and 1932, as a member of the Grand Jeu, a movement born in the shadow of Surrealism and rapidly dissident, he quickly earned a reputation as the group’s leading painter, the author of dreamlike works and enigmatic landscapes or portraits; he illustrated the works of his friends Pierre Jean Jouve, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes and Roger Gilbert-Lecomte.

In 1939, crushed by the events that had led to the disappearance of his homeland, he stopped painting and moved to the south of France, only to return to Paris in 1945 as cultural attaché to a liberated Czechoslovakia. In 1949, some time after the Communist coup in Prague, he left this post and gradually returned to painting, which was now deeper, subterranean, watching for drops of light in the abysses of the earth. He was once again recognised as a great painter of light and shadow, thanks in particular to the bookseller and gallery owner Jean Hugues and his Parisian gallery Le Point Cardinal.

In 1968, three years before his death, his first retrospective exhibition opened at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. In his native country, he was considered one of the greatest Czech painters of the twentieth century, along with his Parisian compatriots Mucha, Kupka and Toyen.

Exhibitions at the gallery

Guide de voyage de l’avant-garde tchèque

Group show


Josef Sima / Henri Michaux

Group show




PRAGUE – PARIS, Guide de voyage de l’avant-garde tchèque, Exhibition catalogue, 2022

Lumière : autre terre, 2019