Czech Art Deco and the Post WW2 Period

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A distinct and flourishing design movement was established in the Czechoslavakia of 1918, with its own  distinctive national style created from elements of the czech cubist movement .During the 20s this evolved into a unique art deco style distinctive to czech sensibilities ,enriching public and private architecture and art.

. The Czech Republic became the manufacturing centre and supplier to neighbouring Austria and Germany .Many foreigners had migrated to be involved in the construction of the public buildings sponsored by the state , especially Italian craftsmen who were involved in glass and mosaic work on a large scale The region of Northern Bohemia exported glass beads and pearls , produced in factories there .Technical schools trained local populations in costume jewellery making ,including the engraving ,cutting and mounting of semi precious stones, with almost 1200 small jewellery workshops operating in this region in the early 30s. .Much of Europes pre WW2 production of costume ,glass and crystal jewellery comes from this part of Czechoslavakia .

Many Czech artists were sourced for their talents by companies in other other countries .Sculptor Jaroslav Horejc who had established a diverse career in many materials ,designed glassware in the 20s for Austrian company Lobmeyr ,and a series of 16 mounted glass panels for the Palace of Nations in Geneva . It was not uncommon for Czechs to be working for Swedish glass companies in the 30s as etchers and engravers . Photographer Frantisek Drtikol who won the Grand Prix for photography at the Paris Exposition of 1925 showed at 150 international exhibitions , and even had 11 solo exhibitions in America .In the 30s he diversified from photography into lighting fixtures to extend his talents.The Czechs proved themselves to be both talented and versatile and with a strong influence on european tastes.

All this ended with the coming of WW2 and the years that followed..As the war progressed , the artisan community was fractured and many noted artists died in concentration camps , others in the line of duty in battle . At the end of the war, unlike the rest of europe, the remaining Czech artisan community was unable to consolidate and regrow in the same way.The new communist regime denounced the work of the previous republic as "bourgeois" and decadent and condemned the artists that represented that period to oblivion .Many of the families of previously famous and respected artists had already died in the course of the war ,and now to add to this official records were screened to remove reference to their works.Artists who were not accepted by the new regime could no longer work and there was a seperation of art and architecture which created a devaluing by the general society of the arts as a whole . It was not until the revolution of 1989 that the new Czech republic had an opportunity to reflect and observe their artistic past freely.

Consequently many Czech artists who designed sculpure ,glass,art and jewellery in the 1920s and 30s remain difficult to trace and research .Their legacy is an anonymous and substancial body of work , instantly recognisable as Art deco and Czech , in a variety of forms and materials, which has languished unfairly unnoticed  in the history of 20th century art and design.It is only now in the new century that the worlds awareness of Czech talents and their artistic legacy is at last coming to light.


                                      czech 1930s deco figure 


                                          czech art deco enamel decorated decanter 

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