Sunday, March 22, 2015

Trees and Forests on Ex Libris woodcuts by Jaroslav Dobrovolský

"To build a sustainable, climate-resilient future for all, we must invest in our world's forests. That will take political commitment at the highest levels, smart policies, effective law enforcement, innovative partnerships and funding."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

March 21 is the International Day of Forests.

In celebration of that event, some tree- and forest-themed bookplates.

Czechoslovakia produced many outstanding makers of ex libris plates. There was a vibrant bibliophile and collecting culture, and production of these small graphics also offered artists an appealing opportunity to develop a clientele and steady income.

One of my favorites among these ex libris artists is Jaroslav Dobrovolský.

Born into a working-class family in 1895 in Lužice u Hodonína, South Moravia, he both taught and produced art. He also became involved in civic affairs, serving as district school inspector from 1935 to 1939 and mayor of Hodonin from 1935 to 1940. Because he was active in the leading military resistance group under the German occupation, the Nazis arrested him in 1940 and deported him to Mauthausen concentration camp, where he died of starvation and other maltreatment in 1942.

Ex libris plates, primarily in woodcut and linoleum cuts, featured prominently in his artistic activity. He produced plates for many major collectors and exhibited his work in numerous international shows. In 1936, he led the Czechoslovak delegation to the international ex libris exhibition in Los Angeles.

His ex libris work is still represented in collections ranging from the Museums of Fine Arts in San Francisco to the art gallery of New South Wales, Australia. He worked in a number of styles, including Czech symbolism, but he is equally well known for his naturalistic woodcuts depicting buildings and landscapes. Trees and forests figure prominently among the latter.

The sampling here provides one with a good sense of his characteristic style: for example, the combination of two variants of the same color.

F. Navrátilová, 1927 (89 Xx 115 mm)
two-colored woodcut for Marie Řezníčková, 1930 (75 x 115 mm)

two-colored woodcut for Karel Kocian, 1931 (86 x 136 mm)

atelier stamp on the reverse of the above plate listing, describing it as "Woodcut 1931" (date corrected in artist's hand)

2-colored woodcut for Marie Sehnalová, 1931 (79 x 131 mm)

2-colored woodcut for Heřma Kořinková, 1931 (64 x 106 mm)
2-colored woodcut for B. Kučera, 1931 (71 x 110 mm)
2-colored woodcut for V. and J. Kratký, 1932 (99 x 130 mm)

back of preceding: artist's stamp and stamp of famed Moravian 
book collector Ctibor Šťastný, for whom Dobrovolský also worked

2-colored woodcut for István Réthy, 1937 (93 x 124 mm)
As in other cases, Dobrovolský produced versions in several colors. 
(I have one in another, yellower shade of green, as well.)

Dr. K. Leischner, 1937 (97 x 137 mm)
Jaroslav Mrázek, 1937 (93 x 124)

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