Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Jíří Kalousek: On the Trail of Brotherhood

This month's exhibit features images scanned from a travel journal made by my friend Jakub Kalousek's father Jíří (George) in 1953. These watercolours depict scenes from a hike/walk taken by Jíří, his wife Milena & their friend Ludya through then-exotic forests & villages of far-eastern Czechoslovakia and Hungary. I think these images are charming because even from this temporal distance they offer immediacy rather than nostalgia.


they went, drew pictures, in sweltering heat they suffered, sung,
and romped, with Talafus victorious,
and not even a triple-evil wolf were they afraid of,
they hated Mary, and yet commiserated with her,
got drenched, got lost, risked lives, but on they went
Milena - George - Luda


These two watercolours are not from the sketchbook described above, but I want to include them here. This first is from a children's history book:

This watercolour is probably from the artist's trip to Cuba in the early 1960's.


Jíří Kalousek (1925-1985)

Born on the 7th February, 1925 in Nový Bydžov. The first-born child, he had two younger sisters, Věra and Blanka. His father, Antonín, was in charge of a train crew and painted in his spare time. He took his family on regular train trips to visit Czechoslovak castles and ruins. The Kalouseks lived in Hradec Kràlové, in eastern Bohemia.

1936-1944: Studied at the classical grammar school in Hradec Kràlové. Took an interest in astronomy. Visited the Hradec observatory. From his third form. he attended drawing classes directed by Prof. Říha. Was an assistant in the studio of the sculptor Josef Škoda. Captained the S.K. Olympia Hradec Kràlové basketball league team. Was well-known for his tricky style of play, making unexpected breaks with the ball.

1945-1950: Studied at the Prague College of Applied Arts under Prof. František Muzika and Prof. Antonín Pelc. Took an active part in student activities of all kinds. Together with Milan Grygar. he organised the 'Prague Autumn Spring', a kind of musical happening on the steps of the Rudolfinum building. the National Museum and in Prague streets. Those who were interested by Kalousek's activities included the director Alfred Radok, especially in connection with the pre-première of the opera 'Mother' by Karel Hàba at the Estates Theatre. (The students' performance did not, in the end, take place).

1947-1948: Study trips to Bulgaria and France. His pen-and-ink drawings and watercolours were shown in 1948 at the exhibition staged by the Association of East Bohemian Artists at the Town Museum in Hradec Kràlové.

1951-1955: A member of the art editors' board of the magazine 'Československý voják' (Czechoslovak Soldier).

1953-1969: Created satirical work, drawn humour and caricatures. Collaborated with magazines, in particular 'Dikobraz' (Porcupine) and 'Mladý svět’ (Youth World).

1954: Married Milena Lamarová. His son Jakub is born in 1958.

1958-1969: First book illustrations for the State Children's Book Publishers. A co-founder and active member of the Polylegran group. (The group's founding members included A. Born, O. Jelínek. M. Jiránek. V. Jirásek. M. Lid'ák, J. Malásek, K. Nepraš, F. Skála, B. Štěpán and M. Žemlička. The first exhibition by Polylegran at the ÚLUV Gallery in Prague in 1960, opened by M. Horníček, represented a key event in Czech humour and satire. The same was true for the group's subsequent exhibitions, especially the third, held at the Czechoslovak Writers' Gallery, 'which was opened with a striptease.

1958-1986: Continued illustration work for the publishers Albatros, Čs. Spisovatel, Mladé léta, Mladá fronta, Státní pedagogické nakladatelství, Kruh. Melantrich and Artia, and also for the children's magazines 'Mateřídouška' (Thyme), 'Sluníčko' (Little Sun), 'Sedmička pionýrů' (The Pioneers' Seven) and 'Ohníček' (Little Fire), He developed a humorous stylisation, particularly in the 19705. which evolved into aioose and sensitively poetic drawing style in the 1980s.

1959-1965: Journeys to Greece, Egypt. Cuba and Great Britain, which influenced a shift in his painting of the 1960s and '70s from lyrical-humanist stylisation to work on the volume- and composition-related questions of landscape painting. His daughter Lucie is born in 1965.

1964-1978: Took great interest in philology. Discovered the 'cluster' method of teaching English. Learned Spanish and also tried learning Japanese. Wrote poetry and translated the poems of Christian Morgenstern into English. Collected dictionaries and old postcards. Staged the 'happening' exhibition 'Postcards in the Forest' in May 1978. Intense correspondence with his friends. Wrote about himself that he was 'a maniacal lover of words' and wished people a 'Happy New Car.'

1965-1983: Worked systematically on an illustrated geographical dictionary entitled 'With the Artist Around the World', which contained more than 1,400 colour drawings (first published by Albatros in 1984). This led him to a more thorough study of his favourite geography and to the strong cultivation of delicate, small-scale expression in drawing, mostly with watercolour.

1965-1985: Created animated films. and collaborated with Czechoslovak Television. Made a total of 15 films, of which 5 won prizes and commendations. Continued in book illustration and collaboration with magazines for children. Often travelled to meetings. in which he took an active participation.

1965-1985: Worked intensely; focused increasingly on painting, mainly at his summer studio in Kohoutov near the Krkonoše Mountains. There, he staged ir September 1982 a 'happening' exhibition of paintings in the landscape accompanied by photographs by Jíří Jahoda. In his narrative themes he dealt with immediate philosophical and ethical issues. In terms of painting technique. he cultivated a subtle, economical style of expression. Developed the work 'Correspondence Ar't. Continued to pursue lively correspondence with friends.

1985: Last trip abroad, to the USA, which inspired one finished and one unfinished painting as well as numerous sketches and notes.