Ladislav Zívr / 1909–1980

Date: 04.04.2007 - 19.08.2007

Summer Palace of Queen Anne
Mariánské hradby 1, Praha 1–Hradčany

The exhibition is organized by the Prague Castle Administration in cooperation with the National Gallery in Prague – Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art as a part of the series Figure XX: Personalities of the Czech Sculpture of the 20th Century. 

Ladislav Zívr ranks among the most remarkable 20th century Czech sculptors. He occupies a place in the history of Czech modern art above all as the only sculptor in the noted Group 42.
He was born on May 23, 1909 in Nová Paka. He apprenticed as a potter with his father, who was a manufacturer of earthenware. Later he would also frequently help out in the family business in Nová Paka. Between the years 1927–1928 he studied at the state vocational school of ceramics in Bechyně, and between 1928–1931 at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. He emerged as an active figure on the art scene at the turn of the 1920s and 1930s. The work of Otto Gutfreund had made a strong impression on Zívr, and it was under this influence that in the early 1930s he created a number of distinctive Cubist sculptures and portraits bearing the mark of Gutfreund’s Civilism. Portraiture forms a continuous line in Zívr’s oeuvre as a whole, running from his early to his late works – only the most seminal samples of which are represented at the exhibition.

Before the mid-1930s, Zívr became part of the younger generation of the Prague Surrealist group. He started to employ in his objects the Surrealist aesthetic of the chance encounter, combining various materials in juxtaposition and developing an experimental technique he termed moullage. In the years 1942–1948 he was an active member of Group 42, and under the influence of its Civilist poetics he created some of his best sculptures, primarily portraying the human figure becoming whole with the apparatus – as a symbol of the modern era. The Civilist works created during the war and particularly those done in the years 1945–1948 are generally regarded as comprising Zívr’s strongest period. It is for this reason that the exhibition accentuates the collection of figural sculptures on the themes of labour and civilization (e.g. women and men working with various equipment, craftsmen, reporters, and subject matter drawn from medicine). 

As a result of the Communist coup of 1948 and the ensuing dictates of Socialist Realism enforced during the 1950s, Zívr greatly reduced his activities as artist, at least temporarily. This period is represented at the exhibition by several portraits of animals. Becoming a recluse during this period, the artist turned to the microscope and the telescope, and dedicated himself to the study of natural processes and microscopic and macroscopic forms, and to laboratory research. In terms of form, his later work, created after 1963 in seclusion in his studio in Ždírec near Stará Paka, draws above all on the inspiration of these long years devoted to the study of nature. Examples of this period can be found in a variety of representations of bio-morphous and organic forms reflected in the sculptures placed on the first floor. 

The exhibition is conceived as a cross-section through all the periods of Zívr’s creative career as sculptor, from the time of his studies to his final work dating from the 1970s. The chief part of the works on exhibition consists of sculptures made of burnt clay with added polychrome or patina, which had along with gypsum served as Zívr’s primary material since his early apprenticeship in his father’s ceramics workshop – which clearly bear the artist’s individual style. A small collection of pastel drawings accompanies nearly a hundred sculptures on exhibition, capturing Zívr’s full creative vision.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue.

Lenka Pastýříková

Full 100 CZK, Reduced 50 CZK, Family 150 CZK
School groups 20 CZK / 1 person

Opening hours:
Daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Summer Palace of Queen Anne 
Mariánské hradby 1, Praha 1–Hradčany, tel.: 224 372 368

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