Sep 19, 2015

Josef Lada [part 01] | Czech Republic

As I wrote in my previous post, lately a lot of old Czechoslovakian postcards came to my possession. Apart from the Krtek ones, many of them belong to Josef LadaIllustrator, painter, scenographer and writer Josef Lada was born on December 17th, 1887 in Hrusice, a small village in central Bohemia, not far from Prague. He grew up in the poor family of a local shoemaker, in house no. 15. The family also had a small piece of land, where they could grow vegetable for their own need.

Josef Lada could draw sooner before he could write. When he finished his elementary school in 1901, he decided to continue his education in a special craft school, where he would become a room painter and stage design painter at the studio of Mr. Petránek at Vinohrady (Prague). He left this studio after one month and started another professional training – this time to become a bookbinder and decorator at Mr. Karásek, whose studio was at the corner of Ječná Street and Karlovo Square in Prague. Here he received his certificate of accomplishment in September 1905. At the same time he attended evening drawing classes of professor A. Jakesch at UMPRUM, Prague. For a short period he was accepted as a regular student and he attended classes of professor E. Dítě and professor Hofbauer. Nevertheless, soon he chose to leave the school and start his own artistic career.

In 1905 he met Hana Budějická, whom he married on June 18th, 1923 in Prague. Their best men were writers František Skácelík and Karel Vika. Josef and Hana Lada had two daughters – Alena (1925 – 1992) and Eva (1928 – 1945). From 1925 on they lived in Prague in Ohradní street (nowadays Lada street), where Lada had his studio, too. In 1925 he became the editor in chief of the Sunday issue of České slovo – Kvítko z čertovy zahrádky, and he kept this job till 1940. After that he concentrated more on his non-commissioned work and reduced his work for various journals and newspapers. After 1924 he started returning to his native village of Hrusice. He and his family would spend here their summer holidays, in his case filled with work. In 1930 he decided to buy a piece of land here and have a house built.

Lada’s style of drawing is very specific; it reflects his excellent memory and talent of observation. In his pictures he recollects his modest childhood in a small village, the world of poor artisans, their simple joys, passing of time marked by seasonal work and holidays. His favorite techniques were drawing, gouache and tempera. He was especially famous for his illustrations of children books but he would illustrate books for adult readers, too. His talents were many; he was also a popular writer of books for children. He died on December 14th, 1957 in Prague and he is buried at the Olšany cemetery in Prague.

During his long and artistically fruitful life he created more than 15 000 black and white and colorful illustrations. His illustrations for the novel The Good Soldier Švejk are probably his most famous ones. His non-commissioned work is also of interest, there are more than 400 pictures. His favorite characters were water sprites and night-guards. Scenes related to classical Czech winter are also very typical for his work. His work can be found both in private and public collections. 

More than 14 monographs or books of memoirs were written about Josef Lada, there were more than seventy one-man shows of his work and he participated in many collective exhibitions. [The Memorial of Josef Lada and His Daughter Alena]

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