Vojtech Preissig and Czech American Art Nouveau

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Vojtech Preissig (1873–1944), a Czech typographer, printmaker, designer, illustrator, painter and teacher, is a name you are not likely to see in many design history books. He studied in Prague at the School of Applied Industrial Art, worked in Paris and worked for two years with the Czech Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha. His Secessionist style was influenced by Japanese art and Symbolism. In 1903 he founded the periodical Ceska grafika (Czech Graphics) but in 1910 he emigrated to New York, where he stayed until 1930. Here he got a job as an art teacher at Columbia University and the Art Students League. He also had sinecure at the Wentworth Institute in Boston.

His Art Nouveau designs were elegant and balanced and he applied the style to magazine covers, calendars and posters. He even produced a few armed forces recruitment posters. He was an avid typographer and created various typefaces, including Preissig Antiqua.

Returning to his homeland in 1930 he joined the Czech resistance and produced an underground magazine called V Boj (Into the Fight). When captured by the Nazis, his affiliation ensured his execution in Dachau.

The material below is from a gorgeous Czech monograph titled Vojtech Preissig by design historian Lucie Vlckova; an English version can be ordered here.

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →