Famous Czech sculptor Karel Nepras died last week

Karel Nepras, photo CTK

Last week, a legend of modern Czech sculpture, Karel Nepras, died of a stroke in a Prague hospital. It seems like a trick of fate that a man who had always mocked absurd things died just two days after his 70th birthday, at a time, when a retrospective exhibition of his life-long work is being prepared.

Nepras's sculptures are made of industrial materials held together in most peculiar ways. He created them using all kinds of wires, hoses, scraps of metal and water pipes. He painted most of his works red. The Communists hated both Nepras and his work, mainly because of his use of the red colour and the fact that his sculptures obliquely poked fun at the Communist regime.

In the years 1952-57 Nepras studied at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts. In the mid 1960s, at the U krizovniku pub in Prague, he and some of his colleagues founded what they called the 'Crusaders' School of Pure Humour Without Jokes'. Their group became known as 'the pub academy' of Czech bohemians and won fame thanks to numerous practical jokes and pranks. 1969 was an important year for Karel Nepras, as it was then that he first discovered cast iron, a material that he was to use in his art till the end of his life. In Ostrava in the late 1960s he created a monumental work called Family Ready to Depart but it was pulled down on the order of the Communist authorities. Due to his tense relations with them, he was barred from exhibiting between 1974 and 1988. He nearly gave up making sculptures and devoted himself to conservation work. In the late 1980s, Nepras created one of his greatest works, a fountain called Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which was composed of drainage lids, industrial ceramics and fixtures for an art fair in Basel, Switzerland.

After the fall of Communism, Karel Nepras was appointed professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. His sculptures gained him recognition in many countries and can be found in collections in Paris, Washington and in Germany. The retrospective of Nepras's life-long work will open in Prague's Wallenstein Riding School in September.