Alexandr Vladimír Hrska (1890-1954)
academical painter, scenograph, graphic artist
The year of Czech music
Poster "Lída Pírková"
A Man in a Cage
Antonius and Kleopatra
Svanda the bagpiper
A. V. Hrska – posters
Young Hrska, a student of the drawing academy /of Prof. Roubalik, Bukovac and Svabinsky/ was inspired to propose posters maybe because of the theatre in the year 1915. And that is why the director of the Vynohradsky scene, Karel Hugo Hilar found him. He needed to realise his new revolutionary and modern imaginations of an artist who was young and not impressed of the style which existed at that time. The next year started Hrska to work in the theatre for three years. Most of the plays but not all of them were directed by Hilar, also the operetta was prepared but Hilar was not interested so much, he proposed plays and to some of them evens posters. Almost ten of the posters from Hrska at that time are on the one hand the contents of what the play is about, on the other hand the changing style of the artist. Some of the posters made in these years are only the pictures from some important events or artists of some plays which took part at that time, but some of the posters are about the coloured decorativism which started to exist in the middle of 1915 to 1920, later on it was a kind of Art Deco like: Boccaccio (1916) in renaissance style or Antonius and Kleopatra (1917) egypt styled figures of gods and a sitting Kleopatra. In this case it is a graphic "overwritten" detail of the decoration of Hrska for the play, which was the third one which he directed together with Hilar. The most coloured background from Hrska for Hilar was Don Juan (1917) and the Krasinsky comedy "Not god", which was the first play of the theatre in the year 1918 which had an own exhibition of Hrskas pictures. The posters for both plays are only in one colour.
The first years after the change are the entrance years of the "National decorativism", and the main actor in posters became Frantisek Kysela. Even Hrska could not stop his influence in posters for plays like "Me vlasti" from Smetana or "Osvobozeni naroda" in the year 1919, and even in unrealised proposes like "La Republique Tchecloslovaquie" and "Kazdy Cech jednou v Praze".
Let us stay a little bit more in theatre posters: After two years work in the theater in Brno is Hrska moving back to Prague, the posters of the plays of that time do not exist any more but it is possible that none of them had ever exist. Now he is working closely together with the National and Vynohradsky Theater and the Vynohradsky singing play. Only a few posters remained from the years 1924-1927. The most exciting are "The Blue bird" (Vinohradsky Theater, 1925) with little deformed growing children, a boy and a girl holding each others hand and for the opera "Svanda dudak-Svanda the bagpiper" (National theatre, 1927).
The last impressive theatre poster is called "A man in a cage" for the Burian Theater (1925), the fourth incineration for the not long excising theatre for which Hrska proposed also a background. Vlasta Burian was the main actor and he played the monkey - that must be the skinhead creature which is holding the young girl, a prostitute?, in the background the big city and hysteric people. Everything is painted in poison colours, which are domaining, the play.
Already a few years earlier did Hrska found in his "free painting" his own style which we could call neo-classicism. The proposes of this posters are "set" on the perfect draw of a woman portrait, a little bit deformed, like it was in Art Deco in the first half of the twenties. The most expensive realised posters are the ones for the exhibitiones in Manes (in Vienna 1923) (Note 1) and the ones for the international music festival in Prague (1924) (Note 2).
Hrska even worked for spots. It would be interesting to compare two of his cosmetic spots because there is a time difference of ten years. While Maja (l925) is a symbolic creature made of flowers, the Sahara with a girl having a bath in her and holding a big hat is modern. (Note 3)
The opening of the Barrandov terrace (1929) is maybe the biggest spot of Hrska. (Note 4)
A lot of film posters were made from Hrska in the years 1932 - 1942. It is hard to find in them the authors opinion because of the big time difference. But we find the abstract modernised expressionism in "Vrazda v Ostrovni ulici - murdering in Ostrovni street, 1933), the ending thirties in "Maskovana milenka - masked lover", 1940 which has an Paris flair and the academic classicism in "Pohadka maje - farytail of may 1940". (Note 5)
Other posters, proposed/propagated books, voting posters(1925?) for the National democratic wing, theatre posters, posters of exhibitions and Barrandov:
1. It is maybe an unused propose of the Manes competition, a poster for the French art exhibition 1923. The propose of Benes was used.
2. Exhibition September-October 1924, realised poster October-November1924
3. A few years older poster (1919) for the same client, Sedlacek,and the same mark, Maja, from Karl Simunek, one of the first spot professionals in our country, he started at the end of the 19th century
4. A beautiful poster of Barandov, made by the same artist, Motycka?, in this case it is a perfect Art Deco, in vertical draw, the Hrska poster is only horizontal
5. A girl with spread arms. It is similar to the poster from Hrsek for the illustration of the roman from Mrstik (Prague 1941)
Petr Štembera, May 2000
(written for catalogue for exhibition at Gallery "U bileho zajice" in year 2000)