Large-scale tapestries inspired by Josef Čapek on display at Prague Castle

Exhibition 'Reborn in Tapestry'

Large-scale tapestries inspired by the artworks of Josef Čapek and several other Czech painters are currently on display at the Imperial Stables of Prague Castle. The stunning pieces were created by the Moravian Tapestry Manufactory in Valašské Meziříčí, which was established more than a century ago.

Eleven large tapestries in striking colours inspired by the linocuts of Josef Čapek form the core of the exhibition, called Reborn in Tapestry, which will run at Prague Castle’s Imperial Stables until April 23.

The famous avant-garde painter, who was influenced by Cubism, created his linocuts between the years 1915 and 1919. The wall hangings based on his artworks were woven in the Moravian Tapestry Manufactory in Valašské Meziříčí during the past year.

Exhibition 'Reborn in Tapestry',  Josef Čapek | Photo: Archive of Moravian Tapestry Manufactory

The manufactory’s director, Jan Timotej Strýček, explains how the idea for the exhibition came about:

“I have been thinking about this for about 25 years. Now, in the context of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, it seemed very topical to me, because Čapek stood up against Hitler and paid for it. He was arrested on the first day of the occupation and died in a concentration camp at the end of the war. So I thought it made sense to bring up his work now.”

Jan Timotej Strýček | Photo: Tomáš Sláma,  Czech Radio

Mr Strýček stresses that the woven wall hangings are distinctive works of art that are inspired by Josef Čapek’s paintings, rather than trying to be their exact copies.

“Tapestry is never an exact copy of an artwork, it is a completely new medium. At the same time, it is interesting that the linocut technique is somehow close to tapestry, partly because it works with the surface.

But also because it is made in a mirrored way, just like tapestry, which has to be woven in reverse so that the face is in the right position.”

While the size of Čapek’s original linocuts is usually 2 x 10 centimetres, the tapestries measure 2.5 x 1.5 metres and the process of transforming the original artworks into a wall hanging is a complicated one, says Mr. Strýček.

Exhibition 'Reborn in Tapestry' | Photo: Archive of Moravian Tapestry Manufactory

“The preparation phase, when you have to figure out how to transform the linocut, takes quite a long time. Then you have to draw it out, determine the colours and structures and weave it.

“One tapestry takes about four months. It took ten tapestry makers a whole year to complete all of them and they finished the last pieces just before the show.

The exhibition of Čapek-inspired tapestries is complemented by tapestries based on the designs by other outstanding Czech artists, including Mikuláš Medek, Karel Malich, Jiří Sopko and Petr Nikl.

Meanwhile, the Moravian Tapestry Manufactory, which has been in operation since 1898, is working on an additional three pieces inspired by Čapek’s linocuts. Jan Timotej Strýček hopes that one day they will all be displayed alongside the original artworks.