Graphic arts

by Dr Ivan Jančár

The history of the Slovak graphic art of the 20th century may be characterised as a fascinating journey enlivened by the individual life stories of artists. Many of these artists transcended time as well as space; immersing themselves in their inner feelings in order to create an image or legacy of their own world; some managed to become integrated into the context of European as well as non-European fine art; but many discovered new forms of graphic art only in the intimacy of their ateliers, without appropriate and in many ways necessary wide confrontation, while others won recognition only in the evening of their lives.
The 20th century was a period of unexpected turns and tensions but also of paradoxes.
For more than a half of that century, the possibilities of free artistic expression were considerably restricted in Slovakia. But as we will see, genuine artistic personalities appeared during years of both liberty and non-liberty. Slovak graphic art gradually crystallised into a special phenomenon. In its development we can find stories of courage, humility and zeal for liberty, but also of meditational silence broken only by the cries of solitary figures seeking to ensure a stable place in history for the graphic arts.
Throughout this period Slovak graphic art has experienced both peaks and troughs. Whatever perspective we might take in relation to its evaluation, we cannot deny its importance in connection with the development of Slovak art. From a contemporary standpoint many of its forms may seem to be conservative, while others may seem to be timeless. But all were created in a certain time and certain context, under certain conditions and in a particular environment.
The development of Slovak graphic arts has been uneven and ambiguous. During the first decades of the 20th century, when the art of painting had already progressed to a relatively high level, only a few authors devoted their time to graphic work, and even then graphic art represented only a marginal component of their work. Some periods were characterised by a search for domestic inspiration, while in other cases artists directly followed contemporary European art tendencies. Frequently solitary personalities had a greater impact than groups on the future direction of graphic art, due to their substantial contribution and the connection of their output with previous development.