Shakespeare in Prague and Bratislava:
The work of Čestmír Pechr
By Haley Ritzert
From February 10 to May 21, the 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 Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute.
This post is first in a series highlighting designers in the Burian and Czech Theatre collections whose work will be featured in the Shakespeare exhibit at CMA.
One of the featured artists is Slovak graphic designer and scenographer Čestmír Pechr. Pechr studied graphic design in Prague from 1944 to 1947. In 1955, he began working as a designer and advertising graphic designer at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava. He was one of the most important early designers of theatre posters in Slovakia. His work is notable for its emotional, dramatic, and sometimes grotesque images.
Czech theatre scholar Anna Dvořák writes that Pechr’s “talent for expressing the spirit and mood of a theatrical production is best documented in a series of posters introducing identical symbols–pale hands, for example–in varying degrees of stylization.” Here Dvořák is referring to the pale hands of Pechr’s posters for Richard II, Othello, and Henry IV, which are seen below.
Pechr’s work also includes set designs for plays put on at the Slovak National Theatre, including Hamlet, Henry IV, and The Comedy of Errors. His posters for Shakespeare productions include Henry IV, Timon of Athens, Richard II, Othello, and two designs for King Lear. The Jarka Burian Collection holds the four posters shown here.
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.
Daubrava, Miroslav. “Čestmír Pechr.” Slovenské národné divadlo. 4 October 2016.
Dvořák, Anna. “Contemporary Czech and Slovak Poster Design.” Ideas 6, no. 1, 1999.
“Shakespeare in Prague.” Columbus Museum of Art. n.d.
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.