Jiří Harcuba

Jiří Harcuba

(6. 12. 1928 - 26. 7. 2013)

The name of Jiří Harcuba became respected all over the world. The legendary glass artist, medal designer, but also teacher and philosopher left behind many artefacts.

He lectured at universities all over the world where he was frequently invited as an expert up to his high age. Even after he celebrated his eightieth birthday he continued in his creative work with enthusiasm. At the same time he always preserved calm detachment and optimism. The range of Harcuba’s produced works includes the currently circulated five-crown coin which thousands of people in the Czech Republic use every day. His life, however, was extraordinarily colourful: he even spent four months in prison because of a medal which bore signs of a protest against the invasion of the Warsaw Pact armies into Czechoslovakia. Nevertheless, he regarded even this period as important experience and he never complained.

Jiří Harcuba was born in Harrachov where he was apprenticed as a glass engraver. He inherited his artistic talent after his ancestors, because both his parents and his grandfather were glass cutters. In 1945 he enrolled at the State Technical Glass School in Nový Bor, after completing it he continued in the studio of professor Štipl at the College of Applied Arts in Prague. He lived in Prague from 1949 until his decease.


You have got a strong relationship to philosophy. Which movement influenced you most?
I would not say it is some specific movement. I have got one book which I would have to save in the case of fire. It is a philosophical dictionary by Vladimír Neff and I bought it three years after the war. Neff did an excellent job in writing it, he is clear and gives his personal view. It is a book which barely holds together, but I keep it behind my head at all times and when I cannot sleep at night, I read in it.

Some of your designs literally radiate the influence of the East. A certain straightforward simplicity, sometimes not smooth in its detail, but with an apparent intention to capture the inner nature of the depicted object. When I saw one of your engravings, I immediately thought of Zen …
I have taken two things from Zen which I consider important. Shunryu Suzuki once wrote his book called Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. And that is what I teach. Man must always take the role of the beginner. The second practical thing is Zen drawing in which the author tries to switch off his rational control. The lines are no longer precise, they diverge, but this is what makes the drawing interesting. The result has the quality of modern art. For the Japanese, the Zen drawing has got, of course, a much deeper dimension, it is used as a therapy, it is connected with meditation.

Philosophy, art, but also science used to be communicating vessels in the past …
Philosophy has always addressed art. All great philosophers say that where reason or a rational explanation end, there begins art, the real art. Ethics plays an important part here, the other things do not concern me so much in philosophy. It is best explained in Wabi-sabi which for me represents the climax of everything that I have got to know in this field.

What models do you like most?
For the last thirty or actually forty years I have focused on portraits, on the faces of people. I have done so because in the1960s I passed through an abstract period but I missed some deeper content. This is what I find in faces because they reflect everything, from joy to anxiety. There was once an article written by a Canadian which had a connection with what I do. In this article he quoted a painter who said: If I were to paint a tree, I would choose a very old tree which bears marks of the weather and age and which is wrinkled. The human face is similar, everything is inscribed there.

Another artworks prepared by Jiří HarcubA

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