Oscar-winner Theodor Pištěk turns 90 while holding first joint exhibition with son

Theodor Pištěk (Pištěk & Pištěk, Two Worlds)

The great Czech artist Theodor Pištěk, who turned 90 on Tuesday, won an Oscar in 1985 for his costumes for Amadeus. However, he regards himself primarily as a painter – and a cross-section of his works can now be seen at a joint exhibition in Prague with his son Jan.

'Amadeus' | Foto: Orion Pictures

Theodor Pištěk is probably best known internationally for designing the costumes for Miloš Forman’s cinematic masterpiece Amadeus, for which both he and the film itself won Oscars (the film in fact picked up an impressive eight Oscars in total, including Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture). But for his part, Theodor Pištěk said years later in an interview for Czech Radio that the award came as a complete surprise.

“I really didn’t expect it – we expected a completely different outcome. I already had one foot half out the door when they announced that I’d won.”

And yet, despite the international recognition for his costume designs, Theodor Pištěk says that he sees himself primarily as a painter.

“My main profession, even my life’s calling, is painting. Everything else is secondary – side projects which don’t play such an important role in my life.”

It is precisely as a painter that he is being represented in the exhibition Pištěk & Pištěk, dva světy (Pištěk & Pištěk, Two Worlds), his first joint exhibition with his son Jan. The fresh nonagenarian’s works have been drawn from his oeuvre by curator Martin Dostál and the artist himself.

 Paintings by Theodor Pištěk  (Pištěk & Pištěk,  Two Worlds) | Photo: Kateřina Šulová,  ČTK

The exhibition offers an extraordinary cross-section of his art, spanning hitherto unseen paintings from the start of his career in the late 1950s and early 1960s, right up to his most recent work, a series of large-scale drawings titled Conversations with Hawking, inspired by the great theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking.

 Paintings by Jan Pištěk  (Pištěk & Pištěk,  Two Worlds) | Photo: Kateřina Šulová,  ČTK

These early works include the painting The Musicians, which was hung on the wall in the artist’s own kitchen for many years before being bought by Prague’s Kunsthalle, and his portrait of film director František Vláčil, which lay gathering dust in his attic until his son found and painstakingly restored it.

This son, Jan, is the second Pištěk in the eponymously named exhibition. He is showing mainly more recent work from the last five years, which reflects his interest in natural and civilizational phenomena.

While his father is known for his hyperrealistic paintings, Jan is part of the group of artists from the 1980s and 1990s who helped steer Czech painting in a postmodern direction after the fall of communism.

Jan Pištěk  (Pištěk & Pištěk,  Two Worlds) | Photo: Kateřina Šulová,  ČTK

Vladana Rýdlová, director of Villa Pellé, says that this exhibition continues a series of successful exhibitions at the gallery featuring artistic duos – but that this one is special.

“This particular duo is unique in that they are connected not only by their work as artists, but also by their familial relationship, a relationship which is rather fragile and intimate. I am really happy and grateful that they both accepted my invitation, because it was immediately clear to me that not only their relationship as father and son, but also their relationship in the world of art, can’t have been easy, but they managed it.”

The exhibition is open to visitors in Galerie Villa Pellé in Bubeneč, Prague 6 until 20 January 2023.

Pištěk & Pištěk, Two Worlds