Between the two wars

During the two world wars, Czechoslovakia ranked among the most industrially-advanced countries in Europe. Slovakia, however, was considerably behind the Czech Republic. The producers of furniture, glass and metal tableware kept being competitive in the international market. The innovation of their products and their production was based on the skills of Czech designers who from the 1920s helped to create the character of the international movement of functionalism. For example, Ladislav Zak and Bohumil Juznic created several designs for Sandrik Dolné Hámre. In 1920 another Czech, Jozef Vydra, founded the Society of Art Industry orientated towards the production and promotion of modern design. The Society intended to organise production workshops and enterprises, but the generally low level of Slovak industry resulted in it being dissolved in 1924. Josef Vydra later concentrated on educational activities. In 1928 on Vydra’s initiative the School of Arts and Crafts (1928-1939) was founded in Bratislava with support from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and quickly became one of the most progressive educational institutions in the area of utility creative art disciplines in Europe during the interwar period. Like Bauhaus, it focused on the interconnection between the manual skills and creative abilities of the students. The school’s intention was also to integrate national folk craft traditions into modern production. The school’s teachers included creative artists from Avant Garde circles, including Ludovit Fulla, Mikulas Galanda, Jaromir Funke and lecturers such as L Moholy-Nagy, J Tschichold, H Meyer and others. Instructions were mainly orientated towards functionalist methods of design production. Students of the wood production department led by Ferdinand Hrozinka, for example, designed standardised furniture of simple construction, and students of the metal production department led by Frantisek Troester designed metal furniture, lights and other metal objects in the spirit of progressive functionalism. The level of Slovak industry, however, did not allow the practical implementation of designs in production.
The typography and utility graphics department led by Zdenek Rossmann was more successful in co-operating with practice. Students of the department designed advertising materials for Sandrik, Schicht, Baťa and other companies. Many educationists in the School of Arts and Crafts figured among the most prominent figures of the Central-European moderne. Considering the situation in national industry, they were mainly successful in the area of graphic design. Avant Garde production in the spirit of constructivism and functionalism was published in the magazines Slovenská grafia (issued from 1929) and Nová Bratislava (1931), the graphic design of which was created especially by Ludovit Fulla and Zdenek Rossmann. Under the auspices of its director Josef Polak, the East Slovakia Museum in Košice organised exhibitions of contemporary European graphic art, for which a series of posters was created by the featured artists. The key figure amongst these artists was Eugen Kron, who came from Hungarian Avant Garde circles. Another Slovak, Martin Benka, presented a different kind of production in Slovak graphic design, with works that were close to the international art deco design movement, but which mainly tried to emphasise the national character of production. As the first Slovak to do so, Benka applied himself intensively to the creation of fonts.