Exhibition shows diverse work and fortunes of Josef Čapek
If artist Josef Čapek is less known to non-Czechs than his younger brother Karel, the writer, that’s all the more reason to visit the new exhibition dedicated to his life and work at the National Library. The show, which opens on Wednesday, commemorates the 125th birthday of the jack of all artistic trades, and recalls the very different fortunes and pursuits of his professional life.
But Josef Čapek, like his more famous brother, was truly an artistic Renaissance man: a graphic designer, scenographer, poet and literary critic, among many other things – all presented in the new exhibit on display at the Clementinum in Prague. Gina Boháčková of the Karel Čapek Memorial told me more:
“We made an exhibition about the life and work of Josef Čapek, who was an important painter and personality but has always been in the shadow of his brother Karel. He was not only a painter, but also a writer, a poet and a philosopher. So on 30 panels we document his artistic work and his life, showing not only his youth but also his studies, his first writings with his brother, pre-war avant-garde paintings and, at the end of his life, his fight against fascism and totalitarianism, and his death in a concentration camp.”
Čapek spent almost all of WWII in a concentration camp, and died just weeks before the end of the war. How is that painful period of his life recalled in the exhibition?
“It is remembered with two paintings that he made in the concentration camp Sachsenhausen, and an original collection of poems from the concentration camps that were published after the Second World War.”
The exhibition at the Clementinum, however, deals also with the happier times of Josef Čapek’s life, such as his work for children. It also includes many of the publications of the National Library on which he collaborated either as a writer or an illustrator, and many of the monographs kept by the Karel Čapek Memorial fund.
The exhibition will be open until July 4.