THE IDEATIONAL HORIZON:
THE WORK OF LADISLAV VYCHODIL
By Haley Ritzert
From February 10 to May 21, Columbus Museum of Art will be presenting the exhibit “Shakespeare in Prague: Imagining the Bard in Central Europe.” The exhibit will feature the work of various Central European theatre artists and designers, including materials from the Jarka Burian Collection and the Czech Theatre Collection held by The Ohio State University Libraries’ Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute.
This post is second in a series highlighting designers in the Burian Collection whose work will be featured in the Shakespeare exhibit at CMA.
One of the featured artists is Slovak scenographer Ladislav Vychodil, who worked at the Slovak National Theatre from 1945 until 1999. He also established and served as principal professor of the Department of Scenic Arts at the Bratislava Academy of Fine Arts for over 15 years. His work in Czechoslovakia and abroad brought international attention to what Jarka Burian described as “the individual character of Slovak stage design,” noting that it is conceptually different from Czech scenography. Vychodil was a National Artist of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and in 1980, his designs were the centerpiece of an exhibition celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Slovak National Theatre.
Vychodil’s set design for the Slovak National Theatre’s 1980 production of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Katerina Ismailova (also known as Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District), pictured above, is featured in the Shakespeare in Prague exhibit. The artistic, somewhat abstract design demonstrates several characteristics typical of Vychodil’s work, as described by Vychodil to Jarka Burian: an “ideational horizon,” with the horizon disappearing into red suggestive of both a sunset and spilled blood; an “inner cylinder” with “lines or ribs extending to lines of force, like a magnet, to the floor, creating a basic space,” and a “functional stage.” The swing Ismailova sits on is part of the functional stage, held up by a round, half-cylindrical structure around her.
The Jarka Burian Collection has extensive holdings on Vychodil and his work, with no less than forty-five of his productions represented including notable productions of the works of Franz Kafka, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Václav Havel. His Shakespeare designs include The Comedy of Errors, Hamlet, Richard III, Twelfth Night, and Romeo and Juliet. The Burian Collection holds several of Vychodil’s drawings for Romeo and Juliet (Den Norske Teatret, Oslo, 1985) which Burian describes as a synthesis of the scenographer’s ideational cyclorama and functional stage.
The exhibition is organized by the Columbus Museum of Art; The Ohio State University’s College of Arts and Sciences Initiative; the Arts and Theatre Institute, Prague; and the National Museum, Prague.
60th anniversary announcement. Slovak National Theatre. 1980.
Jarka Burian. “Notes on the Slovak Scenographer Ladislav Vychodil.” n.d.
Jarka Burian. “Entry for encyclopedia.” n.d.
Jarka Burian. “Ladislav Vychodil’s Scenography Abroad.” n.d.
“Shakespeare in Prague.” Columbus Museum of Art. n.d.
Ladislav Vychodil, interviewed by Jarka Burian, circa late 1980s.
Haley Ritzert is a senior majoring in history and German with a minor in Slavic languages and literatures. She is currently working at the Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute and in Special Collections Descriptions and Access as part of a public history internship course.