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Home > Permanent Exhibitions > Artists > Vincenc Makovský - AJ

Vincenc Makovský

(3. 6. 1900 Nové Město na Moravě – 28. 12. 1966 Brno)

A section of the permanent exhibition is comprised of the work of sculptor Vincenc Makovský. The permanent exhibition contains pieces from the gallery’s archives, which have been carefully restored for this purpose, and is composed of original designs for both exterior and interior sculptural realizations which can be found both at home and abroad. The exhibition documents the evolution of the artist’s sculptural work, whose thematic focus always reflected current events of the time.

The Czech sculptor, who was born in 1900 in Nové Město na Moravě, is considered to be a leading representative of interwar avant-garde. His work went through many diverse phases from early civilism, through cubism in the 1920’s, to abstraction. From the latter half of the 1930’s onwards his work is mostly characterized by realism.

During his studies he showed an interest in painting, but shortly after graduating was drafted into the army, and served in Jihlava. In 1919 after being demobilized from the army, he applied to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, where he studied in the painting studios of Jakub Obrovský and Karel Krattner. When his revolutionary opinions became a source of conflict between him and his professors, he was saved from expulsion by professor Jan Štursa, under whose guidance he turned to sculpture. His early work can be seen as a dialogue with Štursa, with Makovský dealing with similiar themes as his professor.

After finishing his studies in 1926 he was granted a stipend from the French government, and travelled to Paris, where he worked at the studio of Antoine Bourdelle and attended lectures by František Kupka. During his four year stay he absorded many artisic impulses from the local environment, drawing influence from cubism and the work of Pablo Piccaso.

In the early thirties he moved to Brno, and it was in this period that created some of his most important work, significantly outrunning the development of Czech sculpture with these pieces – Lying woman (Ležící žena), Design for fountain statue (Návrh plastiky pro fontánu) Leaning female nude (Skloněný ženský akt), Girl’s dream (Dívčí sen), Woman with child (Dívka s děckem), Leda (Léda), Woman with vase (Žena s vázou)). The avant-garde style of the pieces lead him to a group of like-minded artists called Poesie 32.

During the Second World War he lived in Zlín, where he helped fund an art school, and as member of the outlawed Národně revoluční výbor inteligence took part in the resistence to Nazi occupation. The Zlín period is linked with his work in industrial design and the creation of a series of sculptural portraits (B. Němcová, K. H. Borovský, A. Jirásek, J. A. Komenský).

After the war he returned to Brno and became professor and associate professor of modeling at the Faculty of Architecture of the Technical University in 1947. It was at this time that he was a member Czech Academy of Sciences and Arts. In 1952 he became a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts and would go on to mold many successive generations of sculptors. In the postwar period he concentrated mainly on monumental memorial realizations.

He died near the end of 1966 in Brno and is buried in the evangelical cemetery in Nové Město na Moravě. The local school is named after him.

Zemřel koncem roku 1966 v Brně a je pochován na evangelickém hřbitově v Novém Městě na Moravě. V rodném městě je po něm pojmenováno Gymnázium Vincence Makovského.

A section of the permanent exhibition is comprised of the work of sculptor Vincenc Makovský. The permanent exhibition contains pieces from the gallery’s archives, which have been carefully restored for this purpose, and is composed of original designs for both exterior and interior sculptural realizations which can be found both at home and abroad. The exhibition documents the evolution of the artist’s sculptural work, whose thematic focus always reflected current events of the time.

Some of the work displayed is can be considered a reaction the work of Jan Štursa, who was a great inspiration to Makovský. An example of this may be found in the sculpture Skier (Lyžař) (1923) which cannot be denied a certain similiarity to Štursa’s Wounded (Raněný). The influence of Štursa’s art is also apparent in the sculptures Crouching nude (Schoulený akt) or Bathing woman (Žena v lázni) (1929).

The evolution of Vincenc Makovský artistic expression is distinct in that he moved from an avant-garde, surrealist standpoint to a more traditional, realistic approach in the postwar years, while most artist were moving from the realistic to more abstract forms. In his early work, Makovský kept in touch with realism mainly through his portrait work, a fine example of which being Portrait of Hana Wichterlová (Podobizna Hany Wichterlové) (1931).  The surrealist Prométheus (1935), created for the two hundredth anniversary exhibition of the Mánes Union of Fine Arts, heralded a new direction for Makovský’s sculpture, in which he drew from classical tradition. His interest in greek mythology is also echoed in Alegorical head of the Republic (Alegorická hlava Republiky) (1934) with which he took part in the competition for the Czechoslovak national emblem.

He responded to the events of the Munich agreement by creating portraits of significant personalities from Czech history, for example Karel Havlíček Borovský (1938) or Božena Němcová (1939). While in Zlín he created a portrait of Alois Jirásek (1940) for his memorial in Litomyšl.

In the years 1943 to 1944 he created a series of important female nudes, which include Female nude with flowering branches (Dívčí akt s kvetoucími větvemi) and Thoughtful (Zamyšlená). In their lyrical poetry and compositional patterns they bear similarity to certain works by Josef Václav Myslbek.

The unusual relief Approaching the end of my misery (Blíží se konec mého utrpení) (1945) is a reaction to the artists harrowing experiences from the occupation. It depicts the lying figure of a dying prisoner in his last moments, as he etches a symbol of hope into the wall of his cell. He also dedicated a memorial to victims of fascism in Krucemburk – Skull (Lebka), Planet earth in flames (Hořící zeměkoule), (1946) which symbolically addresses the subject of war.

His memorial to Jan Amos Komenský for Naarden in The Netherlands differs in its approach to earlier concepts by Jan Štursa and Jan Lauda in it’s simplicity, whilst still managing to convey Komenský’s magnitude. He diverged from the complex styles of earlier depictions and instead paid close attention Komenský’s hands and head, conveying his wisdom and serenity.

The exhibition is accompanied by designs for the series of reliefs Water in our lives (Voda v našem životě) (1961 – 1964) created for the Kružbersko reservoir. In contrast to the modern purpose of the structure, Makovský concentrated on the past, depicting motives from folk songs and other subjects, and forging a synthesis of themes present throughout Makovský’s body of work. In its scope and rendering this project not only completes the artist’s work, but is a significant realization in Czech sculpture as a whole, which can be sided along monumental statue of earlier decades.

Items pertaining to Vincenc Makovský Around Nové Město:

  • Memorial stone on his old home at no. 11 on Vratislavovo náměstí (author: Miloš Axman, the artist’s student and assistent.)

  • Figural column head on house no. 112 on Vratislavovo náměstí (an early work from 1922)

  • Bust of Leandr Čech (1931) on Lendra Čecha street in front of the school (Leander Čech – literary historian and critic, first headmaster of the Nové Město Realschule school in the years 1894 - 1911)

  • Woman holding grain Žena s klasy (1936) in the town hospital yard – a variation on the female figure on the fountain in Mělník.

  • Memorial stone to the victims of the Second World War Approaching the end of my misery (Blíží se konec mého utrpení) (1945 - 1946) on Komenského náměstí

  • The tombstone of the artist in the evangelical cemetery with the relief Proč, kalino, v struze stojíš (1967) from the series Water in our lives