ADOLF HOFFMEISTER
ADOLF HOFFMEISTER

Biographical Timeline

 

1902

AH born in Prague. As the son of a well-known lawyer, he is raised in a cultivated milieu; one of his uncles is a composer, another a philologer of the classics.

1912-1921

Studies at the modern high school on Kremencova Street in Prague, where most of the future founding members of the avant-garde group “Devetsil” met.

1917

First attempts toward a literary and artistic career—engravings in linoleum and drawings inspired by cubism.

1919

Develops relationships with the pre-war modernist generation, particularly with Stanislav K. Neumann and the Capek brothers. Publishes his first poems.

1920

March 1, attends the Dadaist evening organized by Richard Huelsenbeck and Raoul Haussmann in Prague. He will later relate his memories of the event in an article entitled “John Heartfield, Dadamonteur.”

October 5, foundation of the “Devetsil” group—an association of young avant-garde artists with left-leaning tendencies. Hoffmeister, the youngest in the group, fulfills the duty of the Secretary-General.

1921

Obtains his Baccalaureate and enrolls at the law school of Charles University in Prague.

“Devetsil” begins to develop international contacts with, among others, the Yugoslav avant-garde journal Zenit, where AH first publishes a drawing, then, the following year, some poems.

Participates in the first morning recitation event at the Revolutionary Stage.

1922

Publication of his first book, The Underwater Stars (Podmorské hvezdy), a collection of short texts in prose and some poetry.

Presents a series of primitivist tableaux influenced by Le Douanier Rousseau at the First Spring Exhibition (I. Jarní vystava) of “Devetsil”

First trip to Paris—meetings with Man Ray, Ivan Goll, Zadkine

1924

Summer studies at Cambridge University. His experiences in England will provide the raw material for the chronicles he will later present in the book Cambridge-Prague (Cambridge-Praha, 1926)

First caricatures for the daily newspaper Lidové noviny.

1925

Receives his doctorate in law at Charles University, AH becomes an intern at his father’s law office, where he will become an Associate in 1930. He will travel as a lawyer through 1939, representing, after Hitler’s rise to power, many German émigrés, including Thomas Mann-Gessellschaft.

Begins to make regular trips abroad and to provide Czech journals with details concerning international cultural developments. First portraits of important personalities in European and Czech culture.

1926

Publishes a novel, The Tropic of Capricorn (Obratník Kozoroha), and a collection of poems The Alphabet of Love (Abeceda Iásky), in Prague.

1927

The Free Theater, the theatrical section of “Devetsil,” performs his play The Fiancée (Nevesta: production by J. Honzl, décor and costumes by AH) and his ballet The Park (Park). The two works are published the same year by the Prague publishing company Odeon.

The same publisher organizes the first exhibition of his caricatures; a much larger showing will follow at the Manes Art Circle, an association open to new orientations and of which he will then become an active member.

Publication of a volume of chronicles and of epigrams by Aventinum Publishers, Hors d’Œuvre, illustrated by designs and caricatures by the author.

Meetings in Prague with Vladimir Mayakovsky and Philippe Soupault.

In Paris, draws the group “Le Grand Jeu” during one of its first meetings in Josef Síma’s workshop, cour de Rohan.

1928

Discussions with James Joyce in Paris regarding the Czech translation of Ulysses, which will be published in 1930 by Václav Petr.

Visages—his first individual exhibition in Paris, at the Galerie d’art contemporain, introduced with a text by Philippe Soupault. The same exhibition is then transferred to the L’Époque gallery in Brussels with an introduction by G. Ribemont-Dessaignes.

Becomes a member of the administrative council of the P.E.N. Club of Prague.

1929

Joins the “Leftist Front” (platform, in the Czech territories, for leftist intellectuals who were committed to modern culture) and officially supports the Czech communist party.

Exhibition of portraits at the Aventinum Publishers gallery in Prague (The Mansarde), with an introductory text by Karel Teige.

Participates in the International Exhibition of Cartoons and Caricatures, in Louisville (United States)

Publication, by Aventinum Publishers, of an Almanac (Kalendár), a collection of essays discussing caricature as well as contemporary painters and writers.

Interested in surrealism, he collaborates in the proto-surrealist journal Zverokruh (Zodiac), edited by Vitezslav Nezval, and also translates some of Tzara’s poems.

Otakar Storch-Marien, director of Aventinum Publishers, asks him to give interviews and to draw the leaders of European culture for his bulletin, Rozpravy Aventina (subjects include T. Tzara, J. Joyce, A. Gide, P. Valéry, E. Piscator, G. Grosz, H. Meyer, A. Lunacharsky, etc.). The following year AH will bring these interviews together in a book, Write as you hear it (Pis jak slysís).

1931

The Outsiders of the Five-Year Plan (Povrch petiletky)—collection of reports published after a long stay in the Soviet Union.

1932

Participates in the translation of a fragment of Joyce’s Work in Progress, which is published by Odeon Publishers with the title Anna Livia Plurabella.

Return to painting. Takes part, at the Manes Art Circle, in the exhibition Poetry 1932, which brought together works by the Czech avant-garde (Filla, Hoffmeister, Janousek, Makovsky, Muzika, Sima, Styrsky, Toyen, etc.) and by the Parisian surrealists (Arp, Dalí, Ernst, Giacometti, Masson, Miró, Tanguy).

1933

Supports surrealist ideas in a series of articles (including one study devoted to Ernst) and creates, in the pages of the journal Volné smery (Free Tendencies) a debate with Ehrenburg’s pamphlet against the Parisian surrealists.

1934

Organizes an international exhibition of caricature and humor at the Manes Art Circle, with an overtly antifascist orientation that will engender protests from the German embassy in Prague (particularly because of the participation of German exiles: T.T. Heine, J. Heartfield, G. Grosz, etc.).

Publication of an album of caricatures (Pobody) by the Art Circle of Manes.

Member of the Czechoslovak delegation to the First Congress of Soviet Writers in Moscow. This stay will provide him with material for a new series of articles and new portraits.

Foundation, in March, of the surrealist group of Czechoslovakia. Although not a member, AH takes part in its activities and in December meets André Breton, whose trip to Prague he will organize.

1935

The new avant-garde theater D 34, directed by E.F. Burian, puts on his play Youth at Stake (Mládí ve hie).

Callaborates with the organizers of the Free Theater, Jirí Voskovec and Jan Werich, on the antifascist show The World Under Lock and Key (Svet za mrízemi).

Special honors at the Venice Biennale, where he presents a series of portraits.

Publication of an album of portraits in Moscow.

Organizes an exposition of Soviet art in Prague and of Czech art in Moscow.

1936

Joins the Committee for the Support of Democratic Spain. Contributes with the collection Neither Swan Nor Moon (Ani Labut ani Luna), published by the surrealist group of Prague.

1937

Gold medal at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris.

Travels to the United States and publication of a book of reports, An American Swing (Americké houpacky).

Participates in the Exhibition of the Czech avant-garde (Vystava ceskoslovenské avantgardy), organized in Prague by the theater D 37.

1938

58 drawings by Adolf Hoffmeister—exhibition at the Maison de la culture, Paris.

Attends the Congress of antifascist writers in Paris and in London

Participates in the Congress of the P.E.N. Club in Prague

Defends the principles of modern art in a polemic with Stanislav K. Neumann.

1939

Seeks refuge in France, thanks to a special visa from the French government. Founds the Maison de la culture tchécoslovaque (Czechoslovak Cultural Center) in Paris and engages in intense political activities with the International Association of Writers. Beginning of a long friendship with Louis Aragon.

Arrested in September by Daladier’s police forces and incarcerated at the Santé prison.

1940

Interned in French camps.

Escapes in June and proceeds to Morocco, where he is again imprisoned.

Upon being freed, goes to Lisbon and requests a visa for the United States.

1941

Arrives in New York in January.

Describes his experiences as a political refugee in the book The animals are in Cages (New York, 1942), which will be republished in London the following year under the title The Unwilling Tourist and will be translated into Czech and Polish after the end of the war.

Organizes a series of conferences for associations supporting Czechoslovak natives in the United States and begins to publish antifascist caricatures.

1942

Becomes a writer and presenter on radio emissions broadcast in Czechoslovakia.

Writes the play The Blind Man’s Whistle, or Licide (Slepcova pístalka aneb Lidice), about the extermination of a Czech village by the Nazis. A performance sponsored by the International Workers Order union (IWO) will take place in New York the following year with a staging by J. Voskovec.

1943

Participates in an exhibition of Czech art at the Demotte Galleries in New York.

Exhibition of A. Hoffmeister’s and A.T. Peel’s political caricatures at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (entitled: Hoffmeister and A.T. Peel’s Exhibition of Political Caricature).

The deportees from the Theresienstadt ghetto perform The Grumbler (Brundibár), a children’s opera by Hans Krása based on a libretto by AH.

1944

Appointed director of the Czechoslovak section of New York Radio (OWI).

Represented in Jesters in Earnest, an album of political caricatures, published in London by John Murray.

1945

Returns to Czechoslovakia and becomes Director of International Cultural Relations at the Ministry of Information.

Contributes in this way full-time to the development of cultural exchanges in which he had already devoted his energies.

Joins the Czech communist party.

1946

Member of the Czechoslovak delegation to the first General Assembly of UNESCO, in Paris.

Aids in the organization of the exhibition Art tchécoslovaque 1938-1946 (Czechoslovak Art 1938-1946) at the La Boétie Gallery in Paris.

Named Officer in the Légion d’Honneur by the French government.

1947

Member of the Czechoslovak delegation to the second Assembly General of UNESCO, in Paris.

1948

Appointed ambassador of the Czechoslovak Republic to France (a post he will keep through 1951). During the same period, he will represent Czechoslovakia five times at the General Assembly meetings of the UN in New York as well as serve as the permanent representative of his country at UNESCO.

Publication of an important monograph, AH, sketch artist (Kreslír AH, Prague, Melantrich), which includes a large selection of his portraits and political caricatures.

1951

Appointed Professor at the School of Decorative Arts in Prague, where he directs a special workshop for films with marionettes and animation.

1952

Publishes an article entitled “Critique de la critique d’art” (Critique of Art Criticism), which brings about a slow process of revising the doctrinal interpretation of the idea of socialist realism.

1953

Travels to China as a member of a cultural delegation. This journey will provide material for two books that will be published in Prague the following year: Postcard from China (Pohlednice z Ciny) and Kuo-hua, a report on Chinese painting.

1955

Organizer of a Czechoslovak exhibition in Beijing.

Publication of the book One-Hundred Years of Czech Caricature (Sto let ceské karikatury).

1957

Organizer of an exhibition of gothic Czechoslovak painting at the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris.

Attends the XXIXth International Congress of the P.E.N. Club in Tokyo.

Publishes a book of reports, Seen from the Heights of the Pyramids (Vyhlídka pyramid).

1958

Begins to use systematically the technique of collage in his portraits as well as in his illustrations.

Publishes another book of reports, Made in Japan.

Member of the jury of the World’s Fair in Brussels.

Exhibition of AH’s illustrations at the gallery of the publishers Ceskoslovensky spisovatel in Prague. The same editor plans for the publication of his Complete Works in six volumes.

Named chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.

1959

The collage technique brings him back to free creation. Cycle of typographical landscapes similar to the lettrism approach.

Illustrations for Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days.

Publication of Contemporary Chinese Painting (Soucasné cínské malírstvl), a collaborative work with Lubor Hájek.

1960

Exhibition of portraits and illustrations at the Vaclav Spála Gallery in Prague.

Louis Aragon publishes an important article in Les lettres françaises, entitled “Adolf Hoffmeister and Beauty Today;” the text will be reprinted in Les Collages (Paris, 1965).

Received in the Order of the Republic by the Czechoslovak government.

1961

Begins to use old xylographic reproductions in his collages. Renews Ernst’s technique of novel-collages which had previously provided inspiration for an admiring article in 1934 (“The dream element”), published in the journal Volné smery.

Begins showing his new works abroad.

Exhibition in East Berlin—Illustrations and Caricatures by AH (Illustrationen und Karikaturen von AH)—inaugurated by his old friend John Heartfield. In Les lettres françaises, another old friend, Philippe Soupault, focuses an enthusiastic article on the Visages exhibition, AH’s collages at the Maison de la pensée française in Paris.

Publication in Prague of a selection of essays, Poetry and Caricature (Poezie a karikatura).

1962

Exhibition of caricatures, collages, and illustrations in Moscow.

Publication of an anthology of western science-fiction, The Labyrinth (Labyrint), for which he pens a long preface. The same theme also appears—in a rather ironic iteration—in many of his collages.

Presents each year his new work in numerous Czech and Slovak cities.

Named “Artist Emeritus” by the Czechoslovak government.

Publication of the fourth volume of his Complete Works, Prototypes (Predobrazy), preceded by an important text on the birth of “Devetsil” and the beginnings of the Czech avant-garde.

1963

Retrospective show at the Manes gallery in Prague.

AH exhibition, Galerie an der Gedächtniskirche, Charlottenburg, West Berlin.

His first trip to Latin America (1962) inspires the book Skyscraper in the Virgin Forest (Mrakodrapy v pralese).

1964

AH Exhibition, Faces and Collages, Arthur Jeffress Gallery, London.

Exhibitions in Cairo, Mannheim, and in many Czech cities.

The influence of pop art becomes apparent in a suite of collages dedicated to literary heroes of his youth (Nick Carter, Buffalo Bill, etc.).

French publishers publish his written and drawn portraits.

Elected president of the Union of Czechoslovak Artists.

1965

Exhibitions in Havana, Liberec, Prague, and Bratislava.

Participates in the exhibition Image and Writing (Obraz a pismo) at the Vaclav Spála Gallery in Prague.

Publication of a book of portraits, memories, and essays, Time does not return (Cas se nevrací).

1966

General organizer of the exhibition Paris-Prague at the Musée national d’art moderne in Paris, a show that presents for the first time works of the Czech cubist school, as well as a selection of cubist canvasses from Czechoslovak collections.

Czechoslovak delegate to the General Conference of UNESCO in Paris and to the International Congress of the P.E.N. Club in New York.

Publication of an important monograph, The sculptural work of AH (Vytvarné dílo AH), under the direction of Miroslav Lamac, by the Union of Czechoslovak Artists.

Publication of a selection of richly illustrated texts entitled Idou po zemle by the Moscow-based publisher Progress.

1967

Collages, drawings, and illustrations by AH (Collagen, Handzeichnungen und Illustrationen von AH), exhibition at the Folkwang museum, Essen.

Landscapes and Townscapes, exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery, London.

Illustrations for the Slovak edition of Lautréamont’s Poésies.

Reelected president of the Union of Czechoslovak Artists.

Elevated to the status of “National Artist” by the Czechoslovak government.

Publication in Prague of a collection of essays, Paris and its surroundings (Pariz a okolí).

Elected member of the International Association of Art Critics.

AH 68 portraits and collages (Podoby a koláze), exhibition at the Fronta Gallery Prague.

AH Collages and drawings (Collagen und Handzeichnungen), exhibition at the Mahlerstrasse Gallery, Vienna.

Participation in the collective show Collages of Prague (Collages a Praga, 1923-1967) at the Ferro di Calvo Gallery, Rome.

Member of the Coordinating Committee for all Czechoslovak artist unions.

1969

Exhibition of portraits and collages at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.

Exhibitions at Karlovy Vary and Havlíckuv Brod.

Named Associate Professor at the University of Vincennes where he will teach a course on modern Czech culture during the 1969-1970 school year.

1970

Participates as a screenwriter at the Exhibition of Czech and Slovak Culture at the Grand-Palais, Paris.

Retires from the École des Arts décoratifs.

1971

Begins gathering materials to write his memoirs.

Works on still-unpublished illustrations for a book of scenes from Lewis Carroll, with the projected title Alice’s Surprises (Alencina prekvapení).

1972

Long convalescence after a heart attack.

1973

Organizes an exhibition of his last cycle of collages, with an environmental theme, in his apartment.

AH dies July 24 in Rícky (Eastern Bohemia).

 

Now exhibiting in Minotaure Gallery :

Summer exhibition of the gallery`s collection including: Igael Tumarkin, Hanna Sahar, Dganit Berest, Khen Shish, Avshalom Okashi, Andre Lanskoy, Bela Kadar and more