National Museum in Prague presents unique collection of artworks by Czech symbolist painter Josef Váchal (1884–1969)

Text by Klára Bartášková, Martin Mejzr, and Pavel Muchka | National Museum, Czech Republic

2. Josef Váchal, Corcyra Nigra - Mor in Korcula, 1927The exhibition Josef Váchal: “The Magic of Seeking” which takes place at the Prague City Gallery from 17th of September 2014 till 4th of January 2015, introduces the visitor to Váchal’s artworks held at the National Museum Library. Many of those are exhibited for the very first time. The focus of the exhibition is on Váchal’s inspiration from sources involving elements of magic and the occult which inspired him in his early works and was path-breaking for his future production. Váchal’s occult aesthetic corresponds with the idioms of Symbolism and Decadence.

Josef Váchal, an artist of many professions

Josef Váchal – a Czech painter, graphic artist, illustrator, sculptor, woodcarver, writer, and poet – was born one hundred years ago, in 1884. At the turn of the century he began to write poems, and in the years before World War I, he deepened his knowledge and skills of painting, print-making, designing and book printing. Váchal was never considered a “main-stream” artist; he was influenced by occultism, mysticism, and oriental philosophy, and we can find in his oeuvre relations between elements of the grotesque, bizarre, fanciful on the one hand, and darkness  and “horror” on the other hand. The second half of his life Váchal withdrew into seclusion; he lived in the countryside in a small Czech village called Studeňany. Váchal´s work gained fame only after his death in 1969.

Váchal at the online collection platform

3. Josef Váchal, Šumava dying and romantic, 1928 - 1931The opening of the before mentioned exhibition and the unwaning public interest in Váchal´s oeuvre led to the creation of the sub-page “Vacháliána” on the website Within the web presentation – which was a decision of the Department of Book culture of the National Museum Library – is to be found a complete scanned version of “Gabreta dying and romantical” (Šumava umírající a romantická, 1931), which Váchal originally dedicated to Karel Dyrynk, a famous Czech typographer and translator. In addition to that, in September 2014 photographs of Váchal´s printing fonts and a large collection of archive documents and broadside prints (sometimes called ”chapbooks”) were published. If you open the website, you can find these materials under the following link: Institutions – National Museum – National Museum Library – Subcategory Book culture. There are several “subcategories”, where you can find various types of Váchal´s artworks, namely: Bibliophile, Massive monuments, Broadside ballads, Publishing archives, and personal collections. For the future further additions of “Váchaliána” on the the website are planned. It is the aim of the National Museum to make accessible Váchal´s work to the general public.

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