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Courage of an Artist

Exhibition by Vojtech Preissig (1873-1944), renowned graphic designer, painter and activist. In collaboration with the Military History Institute in Prague. As part of the Acts of Courage, more than two month program at the Czech Center New York celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, honoring the brave men and women who did not remain silent in the face of horror.



MARCH 3 – APRIL 24, 2015

Opening Reception and Exhibition: Tuesday, March 3rd, 7PM
Followed by a documentary film screening of Accidental Army.

Curator´s talk by Charlotta Kotik: Tuesday, March 10th, 7PM

Closing Reception: Friday, April 24, 7PM
Followed by the concert series Sounds of Serendipity.

 “The real test of a man is not how well he plays the role he has invented for himself, but how well he plays the role that destiny assigned to him.” — Václav Havel

The role that destiny assigned to artist Vojtěch Preissig was a significant one, and he accepted the responsibility toward his nation without hesitation and with singular bravery. 

Born in the Czech part of Austria–Hungary in 1873, Preissig attended Prague’s School of Art, Architecture and Decorative Arts in the 1890s and moved to Paris in 1897. Interested in printmaking, he also worked with Alphons Mucha and quickly attained renown as a skilled graphic artist. In 1903 Preissig moved back to Prague and established a press where he published graphic works by leading Czech artists of the day. His reputation as a master of etching, aquatints and engravings grew, and in 1909 he published the acclaimed book Color Etchings and Color Engravings. The next year, in 1910, he moved to New York City before going on to work at the Wentworth Institute in Boston.

During World War I, Preissig committed his talent and resources to the cause of liberating Czechs and Slovaks from the domination of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  He created posters and other printed matter calling on citizens of the United States and Europe to support his people’s fight for independence. In this way he played an active role in the political movement that ultimately resulted in the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918.  After the entry of the United States into World War I, Preissig also created materials urging Americans to support the war effort.

In the 1920s, Preissig returned to his new homeland, which he so fervently helped create, and worked as a graphic and book artist as well as a painter. With the onset of Nazism in Germany, Preissig’s work became politicized again and he launched the clandestine magazine Into Action. He joined the resistance in the late 1930s and was arrested by German authorities in 1940, together with his daughter, Irena. She was executed in Berlin in 1942, while Preissig himself died in Dachau concentration camp in June 1944.

While highly regarded for his work in various media, exploring ideas of modernism and abstraction, Preissig also never hesitated to step into the role of artist-activist. His commitment to the ideals of freedom and self-determination for all people was unwavering in the face of brutal dictatorship. His art is a living testament to the principles of humanism for which he did not hesitate to sacrifice his own life.

Charlotta Kotik, Curator Emerita, Contemporary Art, The Brooklyn Museum
a native of Prague, has organized more than one hundred museum exhibitions. From 1992 to 2007, she was Curator and Chair of the Contemporary Art Department at the Brooklyn Museum. Ms. Kotik served as the United States commissioner for the Venice Biennale in 1993 where she presented works by Louise Bourgeois. Presently, she works as a writer, lecturer, independent curator, and teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

ACTS OF COURAGE, March 3 – May 8, 2015, the Czech Center New York, under the auspices of the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations and the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in New York, presents Acts of Courage, a program honoring the brave men and women who did not remain silent in the face of horror. All events start at 7PM at the Bohemian National Hall.

More at: www.czechcenter.com


The Military History Institute in Prague is a military institution, governed by the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic. The Institute is the research center, museum, library and archive facility of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic. Its mission, as defined by law, is to gather constantly and purposefully the written and material relics related to the history of our militarism and army; to take the expert care of these funds and collection; and to research them scientifically. The results are presented by the exhibition activities, archive and library services, at expert conferences and seminars, in books and magazines, and by other services provided for the army units, institutes and general public. Museums and exhibition areas are integral part of the Military History Institute in Prague. They include the Army Museum Žižkov, Air Museum Kbely, Military Technical Museum Lešany and the exhibition areas in the Mihulka Tower at the Prague Castle.  More at www.vhu.cz

The Czech Center New York (CCNY) is the official cultural institute of the Czech Republic, dedicated to promoting Czech art abroad and fostering interaction between Czechs, Americans, and the wide international community in New York City. The CCNY, established in 1995, is part of an international network of Czech Centers supporting artists, professionals, and cultural exchange in 23 countries on three continents. CCNY is located in the recently redesigned Bohemian National Hall (BNH) on the Upper East Side, on E. 73rd Street between First and Second Avenues, which is a five-story building, built in 1896. It is a rare survivor of the many social halls built in the nineteenth century for New York City’s immigrant ethnic communities. Our facilities include a gallery, cinema, performance hall seating 300 people, and a rooftop terrace.

For more information please visit:  www.czechcenter.com


Jan Zahour zahour@czechcenter.com

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