All About Glass

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Jan Kotík

All About Glass

This vase, which illustrates the abstract style of engraving characteristic of Jan Kotík’s work, was shown for the first time in the United States as part of the special exhibition, Glass 1959. A similar vase was exhibited at the 1959 Moscow Exhibition, where it drew unfavorable attention. The abstract style of the vase, which was clearly at odds with the tenets of Socialist Realism, was criticized by the Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev. Kotík was not allowed to display his abstract paintings in public from 1948 to 1957. His interest in the applied arts is often explained as a compensatory activity. However, he never accepted the idea that the applied arts were of any less value than the fine arts.

Vase with Abstract Decoration Jan Kotík

An accomplished painter and industrial designer, Kotík attended the School of Decorative Arts in Prague from 1935 to 1941, studying with the graphic artist, Jaroslav Benda. In 1947, he was appointed head designer at the Center of Folk Art Production in Prague. From 1947 to 1968, he was a graphic designer and member of the editorial board for Tvar, a magazine about artistic activities in Czechoslovakia during the post-war period. From 1949 to 1967, he worked as an independent glass designer, collaborating with the glassworks in Škrdlovice, Nový Bor, Karlovy Vary, Železný Brod, and Kamenický Šenov. 

Kotík‘s highly original work was exhibited at the XIth Triennale in Milan in 1957, and an abstract sculpture of painted and stained glass and steel, titled “Water, Sun, Air”, appeared at Expo ’58 in Brussels. This sculpture demonstrated new possibilities for the artistic use of glass. He exhibited his last work in glass, which was a collaboration with René Roubíèek, at Expo ’67 in Montreal. After the Soviet invasion of 1968, Kotík emigrated to Germany, where he spent the rest of his life.

Vladimír Kopecký trained at the Specialized School of Glassmaking in Kamenický Šenov in 1946 and then moved to Nový Bor, completing his studies there in 1949. He joined Josef Kaplický’s studio at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague and graduated in 1956. Kopecký transferred his knowledge of and skill in painting and graphic arts to his work in glass. Under Kaplický’s tutelage, which encouraged freedom of artistic expression, Kopecký executed a series of enameled vases, like the one you see here. These vases were described by Kaplický as representing "new thinking in glass." Kopecký received a gold medal for his work at Expo ’58 in Brussels. Early in his professional career, Kopecký began to consult regularly with architects, designing panels and wall mosaics. He continued to apply his preferred techniques of etching and painting to sheet glass in architecture. His large, brightly colored, stained glass window, on display at Expo ’67 in Montreal, demonstrated his original and independent viewpoint.

Published on October 18, 2011