Prestigious award for the Jewish
A major award - the Dr. Bernard Heller Prize - has been
conferred upon The Jewish Museum in Prague. Hebrew Union College - Jewish
Institute of Religion handed over the prize to the Director of the Museum,
Leo Pavlát, in Cincinnati, Ohio on 30 May. The College, which established
this annual prize to honour the memory of Dr. Heller (1897-1976), a
great scholar and humanitarian, was founded in 1875 and is the oldest
institution of Jewish higher education in America and the intellectual
centre of Reform Judaism. The College provides professional courses
for future rabbis, cantors and educators with a Reform focus and offers
graduate and post-graduate degree programmes. The librariesof the College,
comprising almost 700,000 volumes and 6,000 manuscripts, constitute
one of the largest repositories of Judaica and Hebraica in the world.
The College also maintains the American Jewish Archives and is home
to the Skirball Museum, which is one of the leading Jewish museums in
the US. Educational centres of the College are active in New YorCZK,
Los Angeles and Jerusalem.
Since its inception in 1990, the Heller Prize has been
conferred annually for worCZKthat contributes to the betterment of humanity.
The Prize carries an award of $10,000. Past recipients have included
historians Serge Klarsfeld and Raul Hilberg and diplomats Uri Lubrani,
Dennis B. Ross, Richard C. Holbrooke and Stuart Eisenstat. The Jewish
Museum in Prague is the first institution to be awarded the Heller Prize,
recognition for ”the clarity of vision with which it has preserved the
unique historical material documenting the centuries of vibrant Jewish
life in Bohemia and Moravia and the destruction of European Jewry during
the Shoah”. It was further stated: ”Principle repository for one of
the most extensive collections of Jewish art, silver and textiles, the
Museum is today an inspiring example of an institution governed by conscience
and memory. The Museum representing Jewish history and heritage is a
vibrant symbol of Jewish survival as an institution devoted to memory,
scholarship and education for future generations”.
Leo Pavlát, the Director of the Museum, received a tremendous
welcome from Hebrew Union College and was treated to an eventful programme
during which he was shown around the institution and introduced to its
leading representatives, including the Acting President Dr. Norman J.
Cohen, Dr. Paul M. Steinberg, and Co-Trustees of the Dr. Bernard Heller
Foundation, Ruth O. Freedlander and Beatrice Weidman. Both institutions
expressed the desire for close ties in the future.
The Dr. Bernard Heller Prize is a great honour for the
Jewish Museum in Prague, as well as an encouragement for all its future
activities. The Museum expresses its sincere thanks to Hebrew Union
College - Jewish Institute of Religion.
Apart from a brief period between 1945 and
1948, the Jewish Museum in Prague has never (up until now) had its own
gallery for temporary exhibitions. As a result, the Museum was not previously
able to feature the results of its research and restoration worCZKor
to provide the public with ongoing displays of its collections.
The newly opened venue - located on the ground floor in
the north-east facing part of the Museum’s new premises - offers over
80 sqm of exhibition space and meets all the technical requirements
of a modern gallery. The use of high-quality adjustable window shades
and a double-door entrance reduce the direct impact of external factors
and provide for optimum climate control. Thanks to this and the precise
regulation of lighting, it is possible to showcase even the most sensitive
of materials, such as parchments, old prints and textiles. In addition,
the use of a cornice fitted with security sensors makes for a safe and
aesthetic display of artworCZK.
The opening of a new gallery for temporary exhibitions
has been a long-awaited event for the Museum. Since the Museum’s art
collection has boasted the most significant acquisitions in the past
decade, the new gallery will be a venue primarily for the display of
artworks which to date have been shown only to a very limited extent.
The exhibitions will focus mainly on Czech Jewish artists from the late
19th and early 20th centuries, but the gallery also aims to showcase
contemporary modern art.
The gallery is named after the well-known Prague naive
painter Robert Guttmann (1880-1942), whose worCZKis featured in the
first exhibition. The aim of the gallery is to bring this artist to
public attention and to promote young artists in their search for original
forms of expression. There will also be exhibitions of historical works
that highlight the contribution of Jewish artists to various areas of
Czech culture. We intend to hold between four and five displays each
year and in the future plan to showcase the worCZKof a number of Czech
Jewish artists, including Emil OrliCZK, Alfred Justitz, Jiří Kars, Bedřich
Open daily 10am - 5pm until 6pm in summer, closed on Saturdays
and Jewish holidays.
Robert Guttmann - Painter and
Traveller from Prague
The exhibition ‘Robert Guttmann - Painter and
Traveller from Prague’ opened at the Museum on 11 April. This is the
most extensive display to date of artworCZKby the renowned naive artist
from the inter-war period - an eccentric character whose antics on the
streets of Prague are remembered to this day. The exhibition includes
not only all of Guttmann’s pictures that have been preserved in the
Museum’s collection but also a host of sketches and caricatures of Guttmann
by other artists, period photographs and documents which the Museum
has gathered together over the years. We would welcome any kind of help
from the public in tracing further pictures, photographs or any other
material relating to Robert Guttmann. The exhibition is curated by Dr.
Arno PaříCZKand continues until 19 August 2001.
Robert Guttmann was born on 20 April 1880 in Sušice, SW
Bohemia, and spent his childhood in Sušice. He attended secondary school
in České Budějovice but after two troublesome years was sent home to
learn the family business. Fond of flowers and animals, he spent most
of his time roaming around the countryside. He became known as the ”village
poet” on account of his dreamy nature.
Guttmann came to Prague in 1895, attending the Bergmann
Business School. He is said to have acquired a splendid baritone voice
and had hopes of becoming a cantor. As a keen athlete he also dreamt
of becoming an Olympic champion. For three years he attended a private
art school run by the landscape painter Alois Kirnig. But all these
interests were pushed aside by Guttmann’s first encounter with the burgeoning
Jewish national movement, which proved to be a pivotal moment in his
life. He attended lectures held by the Maccabi Students’ Association
(1893) and in 1897 he hiked his way to the First Zionist Congress in
Basle. He was subsequently to visit nearly all of the Zionist congresses
in various towns throughout Europe until 1925. But not everyone understood
Guttmann’s devotion to the Zionist movement: ”The local [Prague] Zionists
repaid me with the worst gratitude you can imagine… As a result of the
personal animosity and antipathy I came across in Zionist circles I
began to focus more intensively on painting.”
In the inter-war period Guttmann was better known in Prague
for his distinct appearance than for his pictures. His views, photographs,
caricatures and reproductions were often featured in Prague newspapers.
In the summer he would set out on long hikes to Zionist congresses or
on criss-cross walking tours of Czechoslovakia from Karlovy Vary to
Košice, Užhorod and Mukačevo. He often stayed at spas where he would
sketch the guests or sell his own caricatures.
Guttmann’s paintings are unconventional and unclassifiable,
and, as a result, unsettling. They give us an insight into a secluded,
sensitive soul that was drawn to nature, the integrity of childhood
and profound faith. As an artist, he refused to be a mere reproducer
of reality and defended his right to his own creative self-expression.
”I am completely independent and happy that I have escaped the pedantry
of the academic world and that I am free to live and rage!”.
After the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in March
1939, Guttman lost the genial world in which he had been accustomed
to live. He continued to paint from 1939-41, but only from memory. These
last pictures were all characterized by bright colours and, apart from
a few exceptions, are the only ones to have survived.
On 16 October 1941 Guttmann was put on the first transport
that left Prague for the Lodz ghetto. Ghetto life must have been incomprehensible
and unbearable for such a globetrotter who had criss-crossed half of
Europe on foot. He became completely apathetic and uncommunicative,
just staring into space and clutching his old artist’s folder. He died
at Lodz on 14 March 1942.
History of the Jews in Bohemia
and in Moravia
Part I - From the First Settlements until the Beginnings of Emancipation
A newly arranged and extended exhibition of
the Jewish Museum in Prague opened in the Maisel Synagogue on 19 April
2001. Replacing an earlier display that was housed here for six years
and seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the world,
this new exhibition provides a cross-sectional overview of the history
of the Jews in the Czech lands from the 10th to the late 18th centuries.
The exhibition is thematically based around individual aspects of Jewish
life in Bohemia and Moravia, such as legal status, forms of settlement,
depiction of Jewry, professions, self-government, literature, spiritual
life, prominent representatives, spiritual oppression, scholarship,
persecution and discrimination, ceremonial processions, and messianism.
The new exhibition does not greatly differ from its predecessor
in terms of the number or nature of exhibits, but it does feature a
wealth of old artefacts from the collections of the Jewish Museum in
Prague and other institutions that have never previously been exhibited.
The exhibition features a rich display of worCZKby Jewish goldsmiths
as well as such interesting details as a debt note secured by Jan Žižka
of Trocnov and the heraldic certificate of Jacob Bassevi (the first
Jew to be raised to the nobility). Bohemian and Moravian synagogue curtains
from the 17th and 18th centuries are featured in display cabinets between
the two main pillars. The two most precious exhibits - late 16th century
Torah curtains donated respectively by the Perlsticker family and Mordechai
Maisel - are located on the raised platform by the ArCZK. The new exhibition
is undoubtedly more diverse in terms of the amount of documents such
as maps, unique papers associated with the lives of local Jews and translations
of texts that reflect the spirit of the times. Certain exhibits (copies
of documents and illustrations) effectively highlight various forms
of discrimination against the Jews and reflect anti-Semitic stereotypes.
Of particular interest to visitors is the fact that the
new exhibition features depictions of various objects pertaining to
the earliest Jewish history in the Czech lands, which have never (up
until now) been on general view to the public. The exhibition is curated
by Dr. Alexandr PutíCZK.
Open daily 9am - 6pm. Closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays
Avi Biran: Dialogue with Time
A new exhibition entitled DIALOGUE WITH TIME opened in
the upper floor prayer hall of the Spanish Synagogue on 17 May, featuring
liturgical objects from the collections of the Jewish Museum in Prague
and contemporary worCZKby the Israeli designer Avi Biran. The exhibition
is curated by Jaroslav Kuntoš and continues until 26 October 2001.
The production of Jewish liturgical objects seldom finds
itself at the forefront of interest in the Czech Republic, where it
is generally regarded as something of a closed chapter. In view of tragic
historical events there were no new liturgical objects produced after
the Second World War; the few surviving Jewish communities made use
of liturgical objects that were often hundreds of years old. The exhibition
of objects by Avi Biran, complemented by their historical counterparts
from the collections of the Jewish Museum in Prague, demonstrates that
such objects are being made in the present and that these are no mere
replicas of earlier models. Historical counterparts from the collections
of the Jewish Museum in Prague have been selected with a view to their
similarity in shape and function, with no particular regard being paid
to their age or artistic and historical significance. The majority of
these objects are being displayed for the first time.
Avi Biran was born in 1964 in Haifa, Israel and graduated
in 1990 from Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Department
of GoldworCZKand SilverworCZK. Since 2000 he has been doing postgraduate
research in industrial design at the Academy. He specializes in the
production of Jewish liturgical objects in which he combines a feeling
for tradition with a contemporary aesthetic awareness and professional
craftsmanship. In what is a relatively short period of time he has already
gained considerable recognition for his unconventional artefacts. He
works mainly with silver and common metals but also uses wood and other
organic materials, plastic and ceramics. He lives and works in Jerusalem.
The Jewish Museum in Prague Calendar 5762/2002 illustrated
The Jewish Museum in Prague is preparing a new calendar
for the Jewish year 5762. The calendar begins with the festival of Rosh
ha-Shanah in September 2001 and ends at the close of the year 2002,
covering a total of 16 months. It provides a clear arrangement based
on the civic and the Jewish calendar and marks all the main Jewish holidays,
semi-holidays and commemorative days, the Sabbath, the beginnings of
the month and weekly portions of the Torah. Each month will be accompanied
by a picture and a sign of the zodiac which have been specially created
for this calendar by the eminent US artist and illustrator MarCZKPodwal.
The pictures reflect the respective Jewish holidays and recall the Jewish
Town of Prague which MarCZKPodwal knows so well and to which he has
already devoted a great deal of his worCZK.
Arno PaříCZK: Robert Guttmann
- Painter and Traveller from Prague
To accompany the exhibition of Robert Guttmann the Museum has prepared
the first ever detailed exhibition catalogue devoted to this eccentric
Jewish artist. It features quality reproductions of all his known works
from the Museum’s collections as well as numerous photographs from all
periods of his life, caricatures of Guttmann by many known and unknown
artists, and a host of other documentary material. The catalogue covers
Guttmann’s youth, his activities as a Zionist and traveller, his Prague
life in the inter-war period and his views on art, and outlines his
relations with the outstanding personalities of the day, the Prague
Jewish Community and the Jewish Museum. In addition, it looks at various
aspects of his worCZK(portraits, genres scenes and the ‘official’ allegorical
tableaux) and details his journeys to Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia and Slovakia,
his tragic demise in the Lodz ghetto and the fate that met his art works.
(48 pp., 115 full-colour reproductions, Czech and English)
The Jewish Museum in Prague is continuing with its long-established
tradition of inviting representatives of the diplomatic corps to tour
its exhibition spaces. On 24 April 2001 the Museum was visited by the
wives of ambassadors to the Czech Republic who had been on earlier visits.
A delegation of the American Jewish Committee from the U.S.