Josef Váchal (1883–1969)
Josef Váchal was born in Milavče u Domažlic, as the illegitimate son of Anna Váchalová and Josef Aleš. He spent his childhood with his paternal grandmother and grandfather in Písek. At the age of fourteen, he moved to Prague to train as a bookbinder. On the recommendation of his uncle, the famous painter Mikoláš Aleš, he took several courses with landscape painter Alois Kalvoda. Apart from this, he was self-taught in all fields. In 1913 Váchal married Maria Pešulová. His wife died of tuberculosis in 1922. They had no children. Váchal’s second life-companion was the painter and graphic artist Anna Macková. In 1940 they moved to the Macková family farmhouse in Studeňany (near Jičín). They both died in May 1969, just days apart. Váchal’s work is extensive in terms of both sheer volume and the spectrum of techniques used. He devoted himself to woodcarving, painting with watercolours and oils, graphic techniques, especially colour woodcuts, the production of his own books, writing texts, typographical font carving and casting, photography, carving and painting furniture, as well as making puppets or painting on ceramics. Among his most famous works are his books – the ‘Bloody Novel’, ‘Šumava the Dying and Romantic’ or ‘The Recipe-book of Coloured Woodcut Printing’. Josef Váchal’s work reflects his interests – he indulged in mysticism and the occult sciences, was inspired by Eastern philosophies, Christianity, but also Satanism, by penny-dreadful colportage pamphlets, aka ‘bloody’ novels, as well as street-pedlars’ songs. He much admired baroque books. His artistic style was very much his own, and did not align with any established artistic trends. He remained unappreciated by many of his contemporaries and was himself aware he was creating for future generations.