1995 Rakow Commission Artist: Jiří Harcuba

Jiří Harcuba (1995)

Two Portraits: Václav Havel and Vladimír Kopecký - Jiří Harcuba

Two Portraits: Václav Havel and Vladimír Kopecký

Jiří Harcuba (Czech, b. 1928)
Czech Republic, Prague, 1995
Cast and engraved glass
H: 27.7 cm, W: 23.9 cm, D: 6 cm; H: 20 cm, W: 21.4 cm, D: 4.7 cm
95.3.60, 95.3.61, 10th Rakow Commission

Our designs are always based on life studies. Even if the design is abstract, we believe that everything comes from life, and so the proportions are always human. –Jiří Harcuba

Jiří Harcuba is a widely respected artist and educator whose specialty is portraiture in engraved glass. Whether the subjects of his portraits are friends, renowned artists, or historical personalities, Harcuba treats them all in a similar fashion, using spare sculptural cuts and subtle optical effects to create their individual profiles. Internationally known for his expert cutting and engraving techniques, Harcuba has also been recognized for his understanding of sculpture, specifically as applied to the design of coins and medals. 

Harcuba works in an abstract style that is inspired by the pureness and simplicity of prehistoric art. “By engraving,” he says, “we leave traces, traces of ourselves.” He adds, “I show the relationship between prehistoric carving and contemporary art. . . linking the past and the future.” Harcuba sees himself as an innovator and as a guardian of tradition, which is a perfect description of his approach to his art.

In the Rakow Commission sculpture, Václav Havel (1936–2011), the prominent Czech playwright, poet, and political dissident, is portrayed with minimal cuts. An inspiring leader, he is a powerful symbol of political and personal freedom. After the fall of communism in 1989, Havel was president of Czechoslovakia (1989–1992) and then the Czech Republic (1993–2003) during its important first decade of independence.    

The other personality that Harcuba honors in the Rakow Commission is the respected Czech artist Vladimír Kopecký (b. 1931). An innovator, and an accomplished painter and sculptor in glass and mixed media, Kopecký represents freedom in art and in glass for Harcuba, who depicts the artist with a mass of energetic cuts.