A. V. Hrska cs facebook

Alexandr Vladimír Hrska (1890-1954)

academical painter, scenograph, graphic artist

Books



New stories of book covers

 

An Old Bureaucrat

An Old Bureaucrat
Caesar

Caesar

The key to modern style and avant-garde, which opens Czech artistic, precisely cultural scene of first four decades of 20th century, is not only insufficient but also misrepresentative. As soon as the background of all modern styled and avant-garde projects, works and utopian concepts opens, their boundaries defocus and reveal a deep space which is more complex because it is a lived space. There interfere early constructivism with displays of Art Deco, two projects of the world contrary to each other; but they belong to one society, to members of a new middle class forming itself after the First World War in the just formed republic of Czechoslovakia.

In 1924 Karel Teige annulled in the manifest of Poetism the boundaries between the arts and living space, and he took art its fatal mystery. "… Poetism is not an art… in the common romantic sense. It approaches proper winding-up of existing artistic styles and establishes the reign of pure poesy… It has cinema and aviation at its hands… sport, dance, circus and musichall places of everyday inventions and improvisation… It's clear that man though up art as everything else for his happiness, pleasure and amusement."


Viktor Dyk - Dvojí poesie (1932)

Viktor Dyk - Dvojí poesie (1932)
Maternice

Maternice
Mohamed

Mohamed

Into the place which was beginning to develop itself from the very beginning of 20th century came Alexandr Vladimir Hrska, who ended his study at Academy of Professor Max Švabinský in the second year of First World War. Once again in 1916 he was taken to the world of modern style by K.H. Hilar and was motivated to his first artistic change by binding to Vinohradská Theater, where he had been in charge as the stage setting manager till 1919. As a Švabinský's follower, he entered the society which of course penetrated up-to-date artistic events with wide social frame. He was well prepared for the encounter because in 1914 he stayed three months in Paris, getting in touch with art of Paris school, affecting his artistic gesture and imagination for the whole twenties.

It's quite revealing that his work found its starting point in scenography, expanding space for stories of his paintings coming in useful in his stage settings, costume designs and posters. Lom's Faustina (1919) on the scene of Vinohrady Theater revealed association with contemporary Czech scenic expressionism, which had filled the work of Hofman or Kroh. For that matter one of the most beautiful Hrska's posters by then belonged to evenings of Lída Theimerová in Red Seven.

Black-and-yellow fuss

Black-and-yellow fuss
A Nude Man

A Nude Man

Shortly after, there appeared young Otakar Štorch-Marien in Hrska's atelier at Vinohrady and they became friends and co-workers. Hrska fine-tuned poet's emergent poetic collection The Road (for Štorch's Aventinum), similar to Hradecký's Small republic (1919), with a painting of Moravian man on the book cover still along the same lines with academic monumental figuralism. For Štorch, Hrska provided many book covers, for example Wells' Mermaid (1924), Wassermann's Three Degrees Of Oberlin or Tharauds' The God's Kingdom. The books ranged over a wide reader's choice, the book covers also worked with comprehensible symbols formed in the style of neo-classical, current for both modernists and ingoing poetic avant-garde of Devětsil. Hrska's conception had also used elements from Art Deco. There's no contradiction in terms because his work was anchored in hedonism of forms, Hrska was bonded to women body all his life. For example he made a book cover for Maryse de Choisy's A Month With The Girls, woman's head bubikopf, a cigarette between red lips and slightly cubistic glass just to outline the troubles which he as an artist felt and let influence him. There were women as creatures which we know from Kars', Kremlička's or Justitz's paintings which, being dressed, belonged to clearly defined society and its fashion creed. The world, always wanted to be amused, had its definite features, it's distinguishable up to the beauty salon where were all the beauties dressed and taken care of.

In 1924 Hrska started to cooperate with Revue of modern man Gentleman. It not only dealt with fashion hits, but also with lifestyle of middle class for which it offered reviews of French art in Mánes. It analyzed social fashion gestures like snobbism, men effeminacy; it touched the topic of using cocaine. The magazine presented works of the best journalist: Ma-Fa (a journalist and a translator Marie Fantová), Milena Jesenská, Emil Vachek, Karel Poláček, a poet Vladimír Holan. Since the first volume sporadically, and till the last but one volume (1928), Hrska provided the magazine with covers and illustrations. Colored magazine covers caroused stories, painted in the spirit of lyrical urban civilism, which told the tale of society of the twenties: tennis, dance, balls, terraces (he made one of his splendid posters for the Barrandov's terraces comparable with Zelenka's posters), fashion accessories. Hrska's modish paintings, illustrations and caricatures went through every single issue, similar to those made by Adolf Hoffmeister or František Muzika. (Hrska was an illustrator and a caricaturist for The National Papers for many years).

Mermaid

Mermaid
Kata Kabanova

Kata Kabanova

But when Štorch's Aventinum in 1929 took over the magazine and František Muzika became the graphic editor, Hrska changed his attitude towards the magazine. In his interpretation the magazine focused on much limited social group to which belonged the contemporary avant-garde. The magazine also changed its visual appearance and Hrska abandoned the poster-like look of the cover which was then taken by photography of avant-gard-ish look. The lasting connection with the avant-garde society is supported by books (for example a collection of poems from Smrek), which Hrska fine-tuned for Slovak publishing house Ladislav Mazáč and edition EMSA.

In the thirties Hrska was cooperating mainly with the publishers of social novels for example editions of Janda's Sfinx and Palm tree, an edition of A Dream and Reality and made dozen of book covers for Bromfield, Böhnel, Aldington but the overwhelming majority was for female novels. Woman became the main motif; she was turned to melancholic, wistful, suffering femme fatale descending from posters to Innemann's and Vávra's movies. Even there Hrska worked with the icons of the society he knew and was familiar with and which was demanding it. On his covers he developed idealized or dreamy worlds.

Kata Kabanova

Kata Kabanova
Music

Music
Signature of the composer

Signature of the composer

He returned to the Tale Of The May quite a few times in thirties, forties and fifties. Hrska was representing the type of style which was searching for their receiver through book and movie marketplace. For a certain amount of time he sensed the frontier going through the middle class which responded with enthusiasm to both utopian leftish projects and entertainment in cabarets.

The world was amused, the gods were falling apart, and others were being made. They were not mysterious instead were flashing from the screens in dark cinemas. Hrska's dreams were slightly erotic but remarkable is that they always belonged to certain society whose fashion attitude he filled with Czech or Midlle-European attributes and symbols.

Jan Rous

 

 

Illustrations to the book "Memories of a child" by B. M. Hastings

 

Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child
Memories of a child

Memories of a child