FRANTIŠEK TRÖSTER: SPACE, METAPHOR, IRONY
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 third in a series highlighting designers in the Burian Collection whose work will be featured in the Shakespeare exhibit at CMA.
This week’s featured artist is Czech scenographer František Tröster. Tröster was born in northern Bohemia in 1904 and studied architecture in Prague from 1924-1931. Despite his architectural education, Tröster became a professional set designer in the early 1930s. After WWII, he was one of the founding members of the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (Divadelní fakulta Akademie múzických umění, or DAMU). He was named a National Artist by the Czechoslovak government and in 1958, he received the gold medal for best scenographer at the São Paulo Art Biennial.
Tröster’s work was influenced by German Expressionism, French Surrealism and Russian Constructivism. Tröster’s designs are defined by his shaping and dynamization of space. He introduced Modernism into Czech theatre design during the 1930s and 1940s, although from 1948-1956 his work took a more conservative turn. Following Khrushchev’s 1956 denunciation of Stalin, he influenced the development of a modern, abstract, and evocative style known simply as Scenography. Scenography continued to influence Czech stage design through the remainder of the Communist era and still influences it today. Tröster is regarded as one of the most influential Czech scenographers of the 20th century. His work has influenced set and costume designers alike in the Czech and Slovak Republics.
Tröster’s work is representative of the “Czech national consciousness composed equally of the grotesque and the ridiculous, Franz Kafka and Soldier Švejk, metaphor and irony.” (Unruh) His designs and the work of people inspired by him were presented in the exhibit Metaphor and Irony 2, curated by Helena Albertová and Joe Brandesky. The exhibit ran 2004-2005 in galleries at The Ohio State University, Bowling Green State University, the University of Toledo, and the University of the Incarnate Word. It featured designs from the major movements in 20th century Czech theatre: Modernism, Scenography, Action Design, and Imagism.
Three stage designs for The Winter’s Tale: “Staircase,” “Moon over cemetery,” and “Empty room”
Four original designs by Tröster’s from the Czech Theatre Collection are featured in the Shakespeare in Prague exhibit: three designs for a production of The Winter’s Tale, as well as a set design for Romeo and Juliet. The Jarka Burian collection contains photographs of several of Tröster’s designs throughout his career including for Hamlet, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Macbeth.
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.
“František Tröster” in Metaphor and Irony 2: František Tröster and Contemporary Czech Theatre Design. 2004.
Vladimír Jindra, “František Tröster” in Divadelní noviny, 1 January 1969.
“Shakespeare in Prague.” Columbus Museum of Art. n.d.
Del Unruh, “Modernism to Imagism,” in Metaphor and Irony 2: František Tröster and Contemporary Czech Theatre Design. 2004.
Marie Zdeňková, “Authority, Playfulness, Metaphor and Irony,” in Metaphor and Irony 2: František Tröster and Contemporary Czech Theatre Design. 2004.
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.