Adolf Kašpar the Philosophers' Story

Exhibition of illustrations in Alois Jirásek's book Filosofská historie (the Philosophers' Story)

held by the Regional museum in Litomyšl

apartment of birth of Bedřich Smetana from 10th June to 30th October 2011 

In 2011, we commemorate the 160th anniversary of the birth of the writer Alois Jirásek, who spent 14 years in Litomyšl and worked here as a grammar school professor of history and geography. But he also got inspiration for his literary work from the Litomyšl environment, the most famous being Filosofská historie (the Philosophers' Story) (1878). This book has been published numerous times with illustrations by various artists, but the illustrations by Adolf Kašpar are unsurpassable.  

Adolf Kašpar was born in 1877 in Bludov near Šumperk. He attended a grammar school and German Teachers' College in Olomouc. However, he focuses on the Czech society and on the initiative of prof. Polívka (he illustrated his Flora of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown) he started making drawings for the calendar for the Olomous publisher R. Promberger in 1898 - drawings portraying motifs of Moravian folk songs. In 1899, Promberger published the translation by K. H. Borovský of Mickiewicz's Ballad of Ms Twardowska with Kašpar's pen-and-ink drawings and brought him to k H. Schwaigr in Bystřice pod Hostýnem. He recommended Kašpar to the Academy of Visual Arts, M. Pirner (1899 - 1904). In Prague, Kašpar met Jan Vilím from the Czech Graphic Union, he attended a private school of graphic art led by Eduard Karel and perhaps the printing workshop of Alessandro de Pian, the elder.

Adolf Kašpar travelled a lot, he visited Walachia, Slovakia, Italy, Munich, Paris, Venice, Dubrovnik, Split and Sarajevo, Tyrol and Salzburg. In the summer, he often stayed in Loštice in his native region of Šumperk and Rusava pod Hostýnem and in 1934 in the region of Chodsko, where he died in Železná Ruda.

Painter, graphic designer, and illustrator Adolf Kašpar was a contemporary to Braunerová, Stretti, Šimon and Preissig, painted numerous water colour studies; however, he took an important post in the Czech art mainly as an illustrator. After Schwaigr-type drawings in the book by I. Hermann, Z. Winter and J. Teig Pražské ghetto (Prague Ghetto) he became known through his illustration in Babička (Grandmother) by Božena Němcové (Česká grafická unie, 1903). The illustrations have permanently imprinted in the Czech reader the visual idea of the environment and people in the literary works and opened up the way for Kašpar towards the national historical novels written by Alois Jirásek (the Philosophers' Story) ) and Zikmund Winter. One of the milestones in the Czech art includes his pictures accompanying Kytice z lidového básnictví našim dětem (Bouquet of folk poetry for our children) by František Bartoš, published by Promberger in 1906. This was followed by a plenty of drawings in Moravské národní pohádky (Moravian National Fairy Tales) by B. M. Kulda, Neruda's short stories, Kronika naší rodiny (Chronicle of Our Family) by F. Táborský etc., in particular, illustrations in Jirásek's F. L. Věk, U nás (At our place), Temno (Darkness) , Bratrstvo (the Brethren), Winter's book Mistr Kampanus, Rais's Zapadlí vlastenci (The Forgotten Patriots), Západ (The West), O ztraceném ševci (About the lost cobbler) and Stehle.

Kašpar's work is related to the 19th century Czech tradition, similarly to the work of Umělecká beseda. His illustrations are based on Schwaigr's drawings, paintings of the German Romantics L. Richter, W. Busch, Baroque woodcuts and works of Josef Mánes and Mikoláš Aleš.

The works of Adolf Kašpar are represented in the collections of the commemorative hall and the house of Adolf Kašpar in Loštice, Geographical and Historical Institute in Šumperk, Museum of National Literature in Prague, Museum of Alois Jirásek and Mikoláš Aleš in Prague, Museum of Božena Němcová in Česká Skalice, Geographical and Historical Museum in Vysoké nad Jizerou and the collection of works in Museums of Arts in Ostrava, Olomouc, Prague (NG and GHMP) and Brno.

(Jaroslav Sedlář)

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