Adolf Born — Windows

Adolf Born was a Czech painter, drawer, illustrator, animator, caricaturist, occasional photographer and costume designer...

Inventory No.: G 314

Artist: Adolf Born
Title: Windows

Year: 1968
Technique: colour lithograph
Material: paper
Dimensions: height 49 cm; width 32 cm
Signature: under the print, in pencil: 9/30 A Born 68

Adolf Born was a Czech painter, drawer, illustrator, animator, caricaturist, occasional photographer and costume designer. He has become famous mostly thanks to his work on an animated TV series called Max and Sally. As a caricaturist, he had a specific sense for cartoon comedy and he was also no stranger to dark humour. His sharp, but also conciliatory attitude toward various human weaknesses can be perceived as a typically gracious Czech humour. His freelance work was inspired mostly by his travels, admiration of both historical and literary figures and mythological heroes, childhood memories, but also dreamlike fantasies or primitive peoples’ art. His prints were based primarily on cartoon humour. These two lineages of his work had developed in parallel and started merging only in the 1970s. In his early days, he preferred the techniques of woodcut and linocut and later began turning towards lithography. From the 1960s, he concentrated primarily on this technique, especially due to its wide range of expression vehicles he liked to experiment with.

A colour lithograph titled Windows from the Nitra Gallery’s collection, dates back to the late 1960s when Born’s printmaking was in the last stages of searching for its unique style which found its final form in the 1970s. Some of its typical features include vivid colours and pastel-like patterns, which, however, still play second fiddle to the predominant drawing which is full of expressive lines, especially in the background. The depicted image is rather simple and straightforward: a uniform apartment building full of windows – the likes of which can be found in every urban neighbourhood – with its residents staring out at us. Each of them is a unique character portrayed as a caricature. The lithograph’s theme, but also Born’s attitude toward printmaking during this period is described by Simeona Hošková in regard to another colour lithograph from the same year titled Indian Villager: “His ornamental sign language of letters and markings lies the foundation for Born’s supposed world labyrinth. On the other hand, he used caricature-like language to depict the principle of ʻlabyrinth’ in the Windows lithograph that comments cheerfully on the otherwise dull uniformity of an urban apartment building lifestyle.” [1] The Windows print was issued in a rather small volume of 30 copies, which was typical for Born. It was not irregular to produce a volume of around 200 copies at the time, which makes the ownership of one of his pieces all the more valuable to the gallery.

Adolf Born was born June 12, 1930 in České Velenice. When he was 5, his family moved to Prague. From 1949 to 1950, he studied fine art at the Faculty of Education at Charles University in Prague. From 1950 to 1953, he attended the studio of caricature and newspaper drawing at the Academy of Arts, Architecture & Design in Prague led by prof. Antonín Pelc. In 1953, they both switched to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague which he graduated from in 1955. He started working as a caricaturist, together with Oldřich Jelínek, for a famous humoristic weekly periodical Dikobraz [Porcupine] and later for a popular weekly periodical Mladý svět [Young World] and other periodicals. In 1974, he was named “The Cartoonist of the Year” at a caricaturist exhibition in Montreal, Canada. After this period, he is leaving the world of caricature and shifts his focus to freelance art, but also book illustration and animated films. He illustrated over 230 books for both children and adults which received dozens of awards all over the world. His artistic and sometimes even directing skills were used in the production of around 70 animated films and cartoons. The most popular one was the Max and Sally TV series which was created in 1976 in cooperation with Miloš Macourek. Most of Born’s films were produced in cooperation with Macourek and Jaroslav Doubrava. He also used to work on stage designs, for instance for Antonín Dvořák’s 1990 production of The Devil and Kate presented in Prague’s National Theatre. In 1988, he was named Deserving Artist. In 2003, he received the 1st Class Medal of Merit. In 2013, he received the Lifetime Contribution to Animated Film Award at the AniFest International Festival of Animated Films in Třeboň. He was also a Knight of the French Order of Arts and Letters. He was a famous monarchist and passionate collector of historical hats. He died May 22, 2016 in Prague.

[1] MALINA, Jaroslav (ed.): Adolf Born. Brno : Nadace Universitas Masarykiana [Universitas Masarykiana Foundation]; Boskovice : Albert; Praha : Středoevropská galerie a nakladatelství [Central Europe Gallery and Publishing House], 1995, ISBN 80-85834-13-8, p. 49-50.

Omar Mirza
June 2020