WEB POSTER EXHIBITION - The Czech film poster in the 20th century

The following text and the pictures were kindly provided by Marta Sylvestrova, curator of the exhibition.

Marcellin Auzolle: Lumieres Kinematograf, about 1896

Anonym: Nosferatu, 1923

Atelier Petrman, Pekarek: Posledni lasky Dona Juana, 1934

Anonym: Tajemstvi vynalezce, 1937

R.Lisovsky: C. a K. polni marsalek, 1930

Willy Rotter: Ekstase, 1932

The Czech film poster in the 20th century

Manes exhibition hall, Prague, Czech Republic
9 January - 9 February 2003

    The Moravian Gallery in Brno
    Exlibris Prague
    The Czech Art Fund
    The Museum of Applied Arts in Prague
    The National Film Archive, Prague

This reprise of the 20th century Czech film poster exhibition in the Manes exhibition hall is part of a Moravian Gallery project, organised with the support of the European Union Culture 2000 Programme.

The Czech Art Fund foundation, as a joint organiser of the event, has provided space for the exhibition on both floors of the Manes exhibition hall from 9 January to 9 February 2003. This has enabled curators Marta Sylvestrova and Petr Stembera to expand (in fact, double) the original Brno set of exhibits to nearly 400 works by Czech artists, designed for Czech and foreign films. Manes visitors will thus be offered a comprehensive overview of the Czech film posters in the 20th century, a period in which the film poster was a major element of visual communication in public spaces.

The collection on display is divided into several thematic units:

An introductory section is dedicated to the origins of cinematography. It features, apart from an 1896 promotion poster by Marcellino Auzolle for the Lumieres' Cinematograph with a scene from the Sprinkled Sprinkler movie, posters of French provenance for Czech films presented in France H.E. Wagner - Le Dernier Masque, Roger Cartier - Midinettes and original French posters by Candide Aragonez de Faria with Czech print used by Viktor Ponrepo to promote his first Prague permanent cinema in the "U modre stiky" house in Karlova Street, Prague.

The silent film section includes several unique items such as Wenig's Golem, a replica of the original German work by Bernd Steiner. Furthermore, the section displays posters by Vaclav Cutta The Four Awful Riders of the Apocalypse, Mary Pickford and others and poster designs by film director Mac Fric Poor Girl, II Carnival of Czech Film Actors.

A particularly rare work is the nearly three-metre poster for the film Prague Executioner, with actor Gustav Fristensky. The poster selection in this part of the exhibition covers typical films from the 1920's, including slapstick comedies (Pat and Patachon) as well as the vampire thrillers popular at the time (Nosferatu).

The section of 1930's posters consists of dramatic works for American film productions, featuring striking scenes (King Kong, The Man Who Changed His Mind with Boris Karloff, The Private Life of Don Juan with Douglas Fairbanks, San Francisco with Clark Gable) and posters promoting Czech films; for example, poster designs by Frantisek Zelenka influenced by poetism, posters with actors Hugo Haas (The White Disease, Ferdys Pistora Turns Over a New Leaf, Voskovec and Werich Powder and Gas, Heave-Ho!, Your Money or Your Life, Vlasta Burian (Imperial and Royal Field Marshal) and actresses Lida Baarova (The Masked Lover) and Hedy Lamar (Extase / Ecstasy).

The transition period of 1945-1948 manifests the final echoes of poster art trends between the wars ( Mr. Habetin is Leaving, Jan Rohac of Duba).

A significant part of "The World of Stars and Illusions" exhibition is the section entitled "Stars Shining Red" presenting posters for Czech soc-realist films from the 1950's that accompany the "Czechoslovak Socialist Realism 1948-1958" exhibition in the Rudolfinum exhibition hall and the festival of social realism films in the archive projection hall of the National Film Archives in the Bio Konvikt cinema ( It Happened in May, Way Leading to Happiness socialist drama starring Jirina Svorcova, Karhan's Team, The Red Glow Over Kladno, Anna the Proletarian, Dawn above Us, Tomorrow People Will Be Dancing Everywhere, Cuk and Gek, Far from Moscow).

The core of the exhibition is made up of an extensive collection of Czech film posters from the "golden era" of the 1960's. An independent section named "All The Bright Young Men and Women", after a book Josef Skvorecky wrote in exile, brings together a selection of posters representing the famous "new wave" of Czech film. Some of these posters for "safe" films were only issued or reissued for reprised premieres of these films in the 1989/90 (Larks on a String, Cremator, Ear).

Posters for famous foreign films from the 1960's (Blow-Up, The Birds, Psycho, Easy Rider), in another independent section entitled "Golden Age of the Poster 1960 - 1970", are no less artistically impressive. It is followed by the "Loss of Illusions - normalisation period 1971 - 1985" section covering the 1970's and the first half of the 80's, when the Czech film poster, in the "normalisation" environment, left the zenith of its fame. The section called "Way to the Fall of the Central Film Distribution Office" presents works from the late 1980's and early 1990's.

The last part of the exhibition, "In the Sign of the Czech Lion", gives predominance to posters designed by Ales Najbrt and his graphic studio, Pavel Lev and Zuzana Lednicka. The character of contemporary Czech film posters, in their pure graphic approach, combines international design and creative photography. After the abolition of the Central Film Hire in the early 1990's, Czech poster production stagnated as posters were mostly issued only for Czech films.

Apart from final posters, visitors can also view several non-executed designs, such as the original film poster serigraphy by Josef Flejsar for The Birds and a unique series of large-format posters, issued in a limited edition, for 1960's Czech musicals Lady on the Tracks and The Hop-Pickers by Jiri Rathousky and If a Thousand Clarinets by Jiri Hilmar. Moreover, there are posters presenting the Beatles' cult musicals Yellow Submarine, Help! and A Hard Day's Night.

The exhibition, which attracted keen attention in Brno, presents the poster as an important and characteristic medium of last century's visual culture, in an unparalleled selection from the collections of the Moravian Gallery in Brno, the Museum of Applied Arts in Prague, the National Film Archive and Exlibris Prague. It is a joint contribution to the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the National Film Archive in Prague, and will be accompanied by a NFA selection of Czech films, shown in the Manes exhibition hall during the course of the exhibition.

Jiri Figer: Daleko od Moskvy, 1950

Frantisek Zalesak: 5 milionu svedku, 1965

Milan Grygar: Zert, 1969

Anonym: Cesta ke stesti, 1951

Karel Vodak: Probuzeni, 1959

Antonin Sladek: Zluta ponorka, 1971

PhDr. Marta Sylvestrova, tel 604 626 280, email sylvestrova@volny.cz
Klara Vomackova;, tel 603 112 036, email manes@galeriemanes.cz

home  previous exhibitions  page last revised on January 14, 2003 / this section is part of Rene Wanner's Poster Page /