15th December 2004—20th February 2005
Exhibition organised — by Prague Municipal House in cooperation
with the Vlastislav Hofman Society
Exhibition curator — Mahulena Nešlehová in cooperation with Jiří Hilmera, Rostislav Švácha
Exhibition design — Emil Zavadil
Graphic design — Robert V. Novák
Video clips from the exhibition
Vlastislav Hofman (1884—1964), the leading protagonist of the internationally unique Czech Cubist movement, first made his appearance in the history of the 20th century modern art as part of the avant-garde Group of Fine Artists. From the very beginning, he was the most radical advocate of new ideas and at the same time an exceptionally inventive artist and designer. Soon he became a pioneer of Cubism in architecture and applied art — in which he achieved highly original results. His expressive nature, desire to innovate and create freely soon clashed with the orthodox approach of the Group. In autumn 1912, he withdrew from it, along with the similarly disillusioned Čapek brothers, Václav Špála and Josef Chochol and others, and began to follow his own artistic path. The quality of his work from that time can be seen in his linocuts of buildings, published in the German magazine Der Sturm in 1914, in drawings of organic-looking façades, rippling with dynamised matter, in his monumental design for the remodelling of Palackého náměstí in Prague (1913), and in particular in his expressive drawings from the Dostoyevsky Series (1916), which later became the point of departure for further works focused on the spiritual side of human existence. — Towards the end of the First World War he was at the heart of a new grouping of young artists, who called themselves the Tvrdošíjní (the Stubborn). Among members were the painters Josef Čapek, Václav Špála, Jan Zrzavý, Rudolf Kremlička and Otakar Marvánek. The group´s debut exhibition was held on 30th March 1918 in the Weinert exhibition and auction house in Prague. Here Hofman presented himself as both a painter and graphic artist and as such went on to exhibit with the Tvrdošíjní at all their local and foreign events. From then on he never stopped painting and drawing, passing through various striking expressive, geometric, classicist and realist phases. At the same time he had a day job in the planning department of Prague City Hall, where he — among many other things — co-designed several Prague bridges. — From 1919, after meeting the theatre director Karel Hugo Hilar and winning praise for his stage design for Dvořák´s drama "The Hussites", Hofman embarked on yet another artistic path as a stage designer — a path which later brought him great acclaim, international recognition and many prizes. As well as with Hilar, in whom he found an exceptional collaborator, he also worked with Karel Dostál, Ferdinand Pujman, Jiří Frejka and other leading directors. His inventive design, combining a feeling for the dramatic as well as an ability to link all the components of theatrical expression, became — from the beginning of the 20th century — the foundation of modern stage design. By 1957, when he stopped designing for the stage, he had completed nearly 300 different sets, more than 200 of which were for the National Theatre in Prague. — This exhibition is the first to show Hofman´s many faceted, extraordinarily stimulating work in as complete a form as possible. It intentionally tries to convey it as a uniform, internally linked organism in which the individual fields in which Hofman worked both complement and confront each other. We believe that this approach not only reflects the artist´s creative thinking and drive, but also that it makes clearer the foundation of his talent — that ability to express an idea powerfully, but efficiently and to spice it with originality and sensual and spiritual energy. — To accompany the exhibition, the Vlastislav Hofman Society has published a definitive, richly-illustrated monograph in separate Czech and English versions, presenting Hofman not only as an architect, stage designer and outstanding designer of applied art, but also as a painter, graphic artist, illustrator, theoretician and co-architect of bridges.