Highlights

Prague of the National Revival

The beginning of the 19th century saw increasingly urgent need for a large dictionary that would preserve the entire existing linguistic wealth of Czech and at the same time significantly broaden its vocabulary. But for whom did Jungmann and his collaborators intend their five-book dictionary? The advertising notice names three group of targeted subscribers: writers, preachers and officials. These people were the main bearers of revivalist ideas, and many of them wrote and published in Czech.

The 19th Century in Us

František Palacký died on 26 May 1876. The next day, the sculptor Josef Václav Myslbek removed the deceased’s death mask and the casting of his right hand which “had written the history of the Czech nation”. That evening, Palacký’s body was embalmed, and the following day it was moved to the small meeting room of the Old Town Hall, where the public was able to pay its respect for the next two days. An autopsy was performed on the evening of May 30th during which his brain was removed. The following day the remains were transported by funeral processions to the family tomb in Lobkovice.

 

A Mácha Intermezzo

Anthropological research of skeletal remains carried out in late 1938 and early 1939 brought new findings, which largely differed from the generally accepted idea of the poet’s fragile physical constitution. Scientific analysis revealed that he was a large man, 174 cm tall, with strong facial features and a slightly crooked, aquiline nose.

Others

In the work of Maximilian Pirner, renowned above all for his pessimistically tinged, mythicizing paintings, the physical and psychological world more often clash than unite in harmony, and their struggle testifies to the eternal instability and dissatisfaction of human life. Yet the inclination of these paintings toward allegorical expression reveals that they are not decisively separated and that the body can speak of inner events and can become their means of expression. Both sketches exhibited here can be understood not only as mere anatomical studies, but also as attempts to look through a simple physical manifestation to its psychological cause.

Music of the Springs

The most significant artistic proof of an amicable meeting, of creative collaboration, but also of a certain spiritual kinship between the poet Otokar Březina and the artist František Bílek, is Bílek’s publication of and illustrations for Březina’s fifth (and final) collection of poems entitled Ruce (Hands). This work also consisted of the culmination of the poet’s synthesizing and harmonizing efforts – including his concept of mystical collectivism and the articulated “wonder of the cosmos”. This is also reflected in the formal aspects of the collection, in the use of hymnic verse. Bílek accompanied Březina’s poetic cycle with nine monumental, ecstatic drawings, in which he endeavoured to visualize and interpret Březina’s poetic world and aesthetics. He also decorated many other of Březina’s collections of poetry and other writings (including the successful publication of the German translation of Ruce, 1908). Bílek created many portraits of Březina, as well as the monument for the poet’s tomb in Jaroměřice.

The ABC of Poetism

The book Abeceda (Alphabet, 1926) is a seminal work of the Poetist movement. It is a multimedia collaborative work combining various artistic disciplines presented by leading avant-garde artists. The poems of Vítězslav Nezval, inspired by the shapes of letters of the alphabet, were choreographically interpreted by Milča Mayerová. Photographs of her dance compositions taken by Karel M. Paspa were worked with based on the principles of new constructivist typography by Karel Teige. The impression of spatiality was created by combining photography and typography (typofoto). In expressing the form of the letters through modern dance, the borders of art were expanded by another element of performativity.

A Woman in the Pantheon

Mluvící pásmo (The Talking Zone) refers to both the avant-garde poetic genre and to the radio of that period. The polyphonic, polythematic composition can also be read as an inventory of European civilization as it ends, as an archive of images intended for future generations. Among the exhibits reminiscent of the extinct culture there is also a spokesman for the poem, “a man with a pen in hand”, whose name was forgotten: “Nobody remembers my name, / the dead world lives in my blind eyes.”

In the Network

Continuation without a magazine. Where did the writers go after the dissolution of Měsíčník (The Monthly) and what did Václav Černý think about their ensuing direction.

Solitaires

An original contribution to the relationship between font and text is Váchal’s Koruna bludařstva to jest: Postyla kacířská. Sbírka nekřesťanských kázání, glos a básní na všechny neděle a svátky v roce (The Crown of Heresy Is This: A Heretical Postil. A Collection of non-Christian Sermons, Glosses and Poems for All Sundays and Holidays of the Year). This artist book is 321 pages long and is decorated with fifty colour woodcuts. Josef Váchal worked on sixteen copies (six people ordered the book through a subscription) for over a year (1924-1926). It is an experimental work both in terms of content (Váchal gives his own interpretation of mostly biblical and theological subjects) and form. Although Váchal applies historicisms in some places, they are originally interpreted. From a typographical standpoint, the book is a showcase of various types and sizes of fonts that deliberately complicated the reading process. The blocks of text on the individual pages differ in colour, with the basic black-red combination referring to the appearance of old prints from the origins of book printing in a Baroque spirit, while the arrangement of letters in the shape of a cross evokes future lettrism.

One Literature?

Český snář (A Czech Dream Book), the story of the lives of the “parallel city” and dissident literature of the hard-line communist years of the 1970s, was begun by Ludvík Vaculík on the impetus of the artist Jiří Kolář on 22 January 1979 as a series of diary entries with the subtitle Dreams of 1979. Zdena Erteltová, a transcriber of manuscripts of banned writers and one of the characters of the “novel”, transcribed the text for Vaculík’s Petlice samizdat series. In 2017, the editor Vladimír Karfík donated Český snář in two versions. Vaculík had hid the first version with Karfík, who had made suggestions to it.

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