The casual hiker, walking through the hills of western Slovakia, will be astonished if they walk to the top of Bradlo Hill, 543 metres above sea level, to encounter a large, terraced, stone structure, consisting of a square platform, measuring 93 by 62 metres, supporting a second platform, 45 by 32 metres, on top of which is a pyramidal form, topped by sarcophagus, with 12 metre-tall obelisks on each corner. Its monumental scale and the rusticated nature of the stonework might lead the uninformed visitor to imagine they had stumbled across some ancient temple, except for the lettering around the sarcophagus, which reads: ‘The liberated Czechoslovak nation to a great son / Czechoslovak minister and general Dr. Milan R. Štefánik, 21 July 1880 – 4 May 1919 / He perished in an aircrash on 4 May 1919 near Bratislava / With him [were] the royal Italian sergeant U[mberto] Merlino and private. G[abriel] Aggiunti’ (Veľkému synovi oslobodený národ československý / Čs. minister a generál Dr. Milan R. Štefánik + 21. júla 1880 4. mája 1919 / S ním kráľ. taliansky serg. U. Merlino a Sol. G. Aggiunti / Zahynul pádom lietadla dňa 4. mája 1919 pri Bratislave).
Artwork of the Month, July 2022: Head by Vally Wieselthier (1928)
This striking ceramic head, nearly 28 centimetres in height, depicts a young woman wearing a slanted fashionable cap, counter-posed with a green flower in her hair. It was executed by Vally Wieselthier (1895–1945) and is one of many female heads she produced for the Wiener Werkstätte in the late 1920s. Indeed, not only did Wieselthier produce distinctive ceramic heads of this kind; many other artists associated with the Wiener Werkstätte, such as Gudrun Baudisch (1907–1982), Hertha Bucher (1898–1960) and Erna Kopriva (1894–1984) made similar heads. Baudisch, in particular, executed a number that are sometimes difficult to distinguish from those by Wieselthier.
Bedřich Feuerstein, Architect: Prague – Paris – Tokyo: Exhibition review
The history of architecture is littered with designers who, for various reasons, have disappeared from the record or have remained on the margins. One of the unfortunate architects to have suffered this fate was Bedřich Feuerstein (1892–1936), who is known primarily for the crematorium he designed in Nymburk. The exhibition of his work now at the Technical Museum in Prague is a welcome and long overdue event. The curator, Helena Čapková, has already published a book on Feuerstein’s work, and this exhibition is a crystallisation as well as a development of her earlier research on him.
Artwork of the Month, September 2021: The Industrial Exhibition Hall in Hiroshima by Jan Letzel (1915)
In the summer of 2021, the Jaroslav Fragner Gallery in Prague staged an exhibition celebrating the centenary of the setting up of diplomatic relations between Japan and Czechoslovakia. Bearing the title 1920–2020 Prague–Tokyo / Exchanges, Parallels, Common Visions, the exhibition had been delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Its focus was on architecture, and it was testimony to the rich exchange of ideas and practices between Japan and Czechoslovakia (and, subsequently, the Czech Republic). The best-known architects in this story are Antonin Raymond (1888–1976) and Bedřich Feuerstein (1892–1936), who has already been discussed in another post on this site as the architect of the crematorium in Nymburk. Raymond and Feuerstein have benefitted from a ‘rediscovery’ due to new research in the past few years. However, the subject of the Artwork of the Month essay for September is an earlier, less familiar, figure: Jan Letzel (1880–1925) who was in many respects their forerunner. Unknown to many, he was the architect of one of the most famous buildings in Japan: the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Exhibition Hall (1915). Since 1996 it has been a designated UNESCO world heritage site, and has been named the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (or Gebaku Dome), for it is one of the very few structures to have withstood the detonation of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on the 6th August 1945. The building of the Hall falls outside the strict chronological boundaries of the CRAACE project, but it serves as a powerful symbol of the engagement of Czechs and Slovaks with Japan, which began in the late nineteenth century and gained momentum into the mid-twentieth. Consideration of the building also prompts us to reflect on the way that Czech and Czechoslovaks interacted with Japanese culture and the light that casts on Czech and Czechoslovak culture and self-perceptions.
Artwork of the Month, May 2021: The Church of St. Anthony of Padua by Gyula Rimanóczy (1931–34)
In the western suburbs of the 2nd district of Budapest, on Pasaréti Square, is one of the more striking examples of interwar modernist architecture in Hungary: the Franciscan Church of St. Anthony of Padua. The innovative nature of the design is apparent if we compare it with other churches built in Hungary shortly before, such as the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Győr of 1929, or the Church of St. Emeric in Balatonalmádi (1930). We can also gain a sense of the striking addition it made to the cityscape when we view it in its environs, a low-density neighbourhood of villas. It is commonly regarded as one of the most important churches built in interwar Hungary, and as evidence of the embrace by the Hungarian Catholic church of modernity. Consecrated in October 1934, it might have been the first example of functionalist church architecture in Hungary, had it not been for the tumultuous process of its approval that delayed its completion. As a result, the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Bertalan (1901–1971) and Aladár Árkay (1868–1932) is generally held to have that distinction.