László/Ladislav Csáder, Design for a poster

Artwork of the Month, November 2022: Design for an Advertising Poster for Piešťany by Ladislav Csáder (1932–36)

When studying the history of the avant-garde movement during the interwar period, the Slovak avant-garde remains relatively unexplored and in need of further investigation. Omitted from international works and under-represented in its own country, this key moment in Slovak modernity has recently become a priority area of research at the Slovak Design Museum in Bratislava. [1] A key resource in this context has been the archives of Iva Mojžišová (1939–2014), an art historian who devoted much time and energy to studying, collecting and preserving materials relating the School of Design in Bratislava (ŠUR, Škola umeleckých remesiel). [2]  The school, around which the Slovak avant-garde was structured, no longer exists, and it is thanks to Mojžišová that documentation related to many of the designers who worked there are now to be found in the Slovak Design Museum. Other archives have also recently been opened to researchers, such as that of Ladislav (László) Csáder (1909–1975), a graphic designer whose rich oeuvre has yet to be fully discovered. Images like the one we will study more closely here testify to the merit of granting him a place in the international avant-garde movement.

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Artwork of the Month, September 2022: Sailor by Josef Čapek (1917)

Exoticism. It is said that exoticism is not a Czech trait; that we cling to our country like dough to a hole. Certainly this is true; but have you gentlemen never read Robinson Crusoe, The Last of the Mohicans, and Jules Verne, and have you not lived in Bohemia, and had friends like that, and is it a coincidence that one of them joined the Comedians, another perished in America, and a third was lost in the world as a sailor?[1]

In the text Krakonošova Zahrada (The Giant Mountains’ garden), a description of his adventurous youth along the Úpa river in Northern Bohemia, Josef Čapek (1887–1945) cannot deny the provinciality of life in Czechoslovakia. The heroes in the books by Jules Verne (1828–1905) seemed much more thrilling, as well as the famous French novelist himself, who sailed the seas as an avid sailor. Unfortunately, Bohemia does not lie by the sea, a fact that only Shakespeare (1564–1616) could change in The Winter’s Tale (1609–1611). The play is set in Sicily, in a pastoral fantasy world called Bohemia, which lies by the sea.

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Artwork of the Month, August 2022: The American House by Berty and Fanuška Ženatý (1928)

Built in 1928 on one of the slopes of Zlín’s hilly and quite bare landscape, the family home of Berty and Fanuška Ženatý became known as The American House. It was a replica of a house that the couple owned in the United States, where they had lived and worked for a few years. The villa was rebuilt in the new location upon the wish of the manufacturer Tomáš Baťa (1876–1932) for whom it was meant to serve as a model house that could be easily replicated for the employees of his factories.

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Still from Karel Plicka's film The Earth Sings

Artwork of the Month, May 2022: The Earth Sings by Karel Plicka (1933)

In 1934, two Czechoslovak films were sent to the Venice Film Festival. The first was Gustav Machatý’s Extase from 1933, which not only brought its protagonist, the young Hedy Lamarr, to fame, but also caused outrage for its explicit presentation of female sexuality. The second film was altogether different: it had no stars, no dramatic narrative arc, no great love story. It was not even a box office success, though critics lauded its artistic value as a ‘film poem’ that, as museum director Josef Polák claimed in the Prague daily Lidové noviny, exemplified ‘what cinema could be when the moving shadows are not simply a commodity’:[1] The Earth Sings (Zem spieva, 1933), written and directed by Karel Plicka (1894–1987), interwar Czechoslovakia’s most influential artist­­-ethnographer.

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