• Steven Heller

Josef Váchal Made What He Felt

Josef Váchal (1884–1969) was a respected Czech painter and graphic designer with a distinctive fantastical expressionist sensitivity for emotive illustration and exotic typography. In 1910 Váchal published his first two books. In addition to his stylistic qualities he was known for a handwritten magazine in which his linear drawings show what one biographer called “strange spasms, which resemble living creatures, but also ‘unsuccessful’ ‘babbling’ lazy and colorful blots along with parts of poems, dramas, puppet-plays or criticism; secession stylization next to a demonic caricature style of expressive grotesque or a completely unrestrained ‘childish’ display next to his parody.” His early work owes a debt to German expressionism (J. Ensor, E. Munch, E. Nolde, A. Kubin, E. L. Kirchner). “The consistency with which Josef Váchal combines answers and solutions to contemporary problems or feelings of mystery along with personal aspirations within them in his work, is why Váchal has such a place in Czech art of the twentieth century.”

These images come from Josef Váchal: He Wrote, Scribbled, Printed and Tied edited by Marie Rakušanová (which is sadly sold out). The publisher writes: “The rich painting of the publication reveals the impressive form of Váchal’s monumental book projects, but it also does not neglect the wider creative context, including works from the field of free creation (famous paintings, drawings, photographs and graphics) and seemingly marginal prints and manuscripts. The remarkable main part of the book is complemented by a detailed catalog of Váchal’s book production, in which almost every item of the inventory is accompanied by a smaller picture reproduction. The need for publication corresponds to Vachal’s own approach to his books. He made the books an extraordinary, coherent and similar ambition.”

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