Vladimír Boudník

Vladimír Boudník

Born March 17 1924, Prague
Died December 5 1968, Prague

Vladimír Boudník was a legendary Czech artist, a founder and the only true representative of the artistic direction of explosionalism; he was primarily associated with the area of graphic arts. His experiments with active and structural graphics are significant and original. He promoted the humanistic idea of "art that can save the world" through his public actions, exhibitions in industrial settings, and prolific publication activity.
(Barbora Kundračíková)

graphics, happening, photography


Vladimír Boudník created his first known drawings and water-colour paintings during his studies at the College of Mechanical Engineering in Betlémská street, making cartoons of his teachers, schoolmates as well as himself. For the first time he became seriously interested in art. He wrote a collection of Poems from Germany during his forced stay at the Technische Nothilfe work camp (Dortmund), and sent home illustrated letters in verse.


In 1945 Vladimír Boudník was accepted for study at the State School of Graphic Art in Prague, in particular in the drawing class of professor Rudolf Beneš. He quickly became close friends with his schoolmates, especially Hanes Reegen (1922-1952), Jaroslav Rotbauer (1929) and Zdeněk Bouše (1928-1997). An interest in the creative potential of association connected him with the latter. They tested it on a model of accidental stains. He mastered graphic techniques during his time at the SSGA. He took part in the printing of peace proclamations and anti-war appeals (the last known was the 12th of May 1948 To the Nations!). He also illustrated his earlier collection of Poems from Germany (or Poems of Adolescence).


1948 was the beginning of a gradual refinement in the formulation of Explosionalism. A free formation consisting especially of Boudník's schoolmates became cemented at the SSGA summer school in Nový Falkenburk. Its programme was published on the 24th of March of the following year under the title Art-Explosionalism, and in refined wording on the 15th of April as the Explosionalism Manifesto No. 2. At the end of April Boudník begun the so called Events in the Streets, which were held with breaks until 1957. The creative gatherings in the streets with the assistance of his friends were intended to verify theoretic postulates in practice (art is comprehensible and natural for everybody). The Manifesto was sent to Paris in May and it was offered to cultural centres, schools, newspapers and magazines during July. He did not hesitate to promote his principles as a regimental painter also during his military service. After successfully passing the Master's exam and graduating from the SSGA, Boudník held his first public exhibition, together with Bouše, in his parents' flat. He made contact with Mikuláš Medek (1929-1974) and Zbyněk Fišer, alias Egon Bondy (1930-2007). A visit to the exhibition The Oldest Art (National Gallery in Prague, 1949) convinced him that his journey was correct and lead him to the territory of abstraction for the first time. Apart from painting, Boudník also engaged in creating mosaics, made of gravel and stone flints embedded in plaster. Boudník strived for the recognition of Explosionalism as a universal artistic trend, he dealt with the organization of school curricula, he tried to keep in touch with the original formation of Explosionalists to augment the effect, he exchanged frequent letters with Bouše and Reegen, and he made friends with Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997). He was employed as a graphic designer at Machine Works Prague. However, he continued to organize the street gatherings and invent technical improvements. He invented the scraping technique in graphic art, he dealt with monotype, and he printed on an improvised rolling machine. In March 1951 he issued the third Manifesto of Explosionalism, Explosionalism – A Letter on Fine Art and Theory of Supra-energy. During his street gatherings he supported children's fantasy drawing and he himself was engaged in using the scraping, waxing and soot techniques, as well as sculpture and photograms.


Boudník published about twenty original stories-reports, reviews and statements in a newly established samizdat Explosionalism Series. After the death of Hanes Reegen on 2 July 1952 he published their correspondence. In 1952 Boudník left Machine Works and took a machinist job at the Central Bohemian Metal Works. He involved his colleagues, apprentices and young workers in his experiments – this resulted in an invention of active graphics (originally spontaneous graphic expression, 1955). He frequently used uncommon materials. However, he only printed small runs in spite of an extensive production of dies. From the second half of the 1950's he participated in the activities of the factory art club and in the production of the factory magazine To the Start. He exhibited abstract graphics for the first time in an exhibition of popular art held in the canteen of the Central Bohemian Metal Works and he won first prize. From 1953 his interest in Surrealism deepened. He continued with his creative street gatherings and revising the definitions of Explosionalism with Stanislav Vávra (1933) (cooperation until January 1957). In 1954 he met psychiatrists František Písařovic and Františka Martonová who encouraged his interest in Rorschach tests. He considered them an unsophisticated tool for diagnosis, especially for patients with an augmented ability to make associations. He had his activity recorded in medical records.


Members exhibition of visual circle (group exhibition, Prague)


About a hundred people participated in Boudník's Easter public drawing at Jungmannovo square. In 1956 Boudník finished the lithographically illustrated Poems for Irene and a set of drawings Corpus delicti, he wrote articles for Lidové newspaper, he brought himself to the attention of Brno people through the Guest in the House magazine and he started to exchange letters with the Lambert Gallery in Paris. Jaromír Pergler made a document about the street gatherings and took photographs of Boudník at work.


A private retrospective of Jiří Šmejkal (1922) and Vladimír Boudník's work was held in January, mapping their work from 1950. On the 22nd of September the ideas of Explosionalism were published for the first time in an official newspaper – Ervín Hrych mentioned them in a derogatory article (More about Stains or It Was Heard…). Boudník made efforts to create an official Avant-garde group after meeting Jan Kotík (1916-2002) and Josef Istler (1919-2000). Thanks to Kotík he held an independent exhibition for the first time in the Brussels Gallery Les Contemporains. He dealt with prints of large monotypes and gestural abstract drawing. He strived for the recognition of the original Czech abstract work through correspondence with Jiří Padrta and other art historians. He established contacts with a younger generation of artists, such as Aleš Veselý (1935), Jan Koblasa (1932), Karel Nepraš (1932-2002) and Čestmír Janošek (1935). He made friends with Jiří Kolář (1914-2004) and Belgian Michel Seuphor (1901-1999). In spite of all his effort he was not admitted into the Union of Fine Artists. An exhibition presenting Boudník and Přibyl's (1937) works titled Boudník – Přibyl was held in the factory at the end of 1959.


Boudník created the active graphics cycle Unconventional Formats. He participated in an unofficial March exhibition Confrontations I (16 March/ in Jiří Valenta's studio), October Confrontations II (30 October/ Aleš Veselý's studio) and exhibitions of the Association of Czech graphic artists Hollar. Thanks to this he finally came to the attention of art reviewers (Jiří Padrta, Miroslav Lamač, Luboš Hlaváček) and the whole cultural community. He became acquainted with foreign experts from France and the United States who participated in the AICA international conference in Warsaw. He illustrated stories for the World Literature monthly (3 and 4/ 1960).


In 1961 Boudník became a member of the Confrontation group. However, the UFA did not recognize it. He was encouraged by Jiří Kolář to engage in "antianatomy" and "deimplementations". In the 1960's he also held several exhibitions, attracting attention at home and abroad. In 1961 he participated in the IVth international graphic exhibition in Ljubljana. On the 22nd of March 1962 an exhibition of graphics was opened in the Krzyve Koło/Crooked Wheel gallery in Warsaw (introductory speech by František Šmejkal). He also participated in the Argumenta confrontation exhibition in Poland. He was provided new opportunities overseas thanks to a meeting with the president of the Miami Museum of Modern Art, Bernard Davis (an exhibition in November 1963). Michel Seuphor included him in his Dictionary of Abstract Painting (published in English, French and German). On the 14th of January 1963 Boudník's first (partially) official exhibition was held in the Manes Union of Fine Arts in Prague. Bohumil Hrabal used the occasion to present his story The World Cafeteria/The Death of Mr Baltisberger (adapted for the screen a year later by Věra Chytilová), which was inspired by Boudník's life. It was followed by a presentation at the Czech Modern Art Exhibition Rychnov 63 and the first positive reviews of home critics, which gained the interest of the Regional Gallery in Hradec Králové, Aleš South Bohemian Gallery and the National Gallery in Prague. Boudník engaged in printing colour monotypes. He prepared graphic designs for the cover and the book by Cyril Jolly The Vengeance of Private Pooley (1963).


Landscape (mixed media)

Arguments 1962 (group exhibition, Warsaw)
Hollar´s Guests (Exhibition of Prints Hollar´s Guests ) (group exhibition, Prague)


Graphic print
Graphic print (graphics)

Vladimír Boudník: Sculptural Monotype, Graphics (solo exhibition, Miami (FL))
Rychnov 1963 (group exhibition, )


On 15 January, Boudník's first official and independent exhibition was opened in the Regional Gallery in Liberec. He was also represented at the February exhibition in Norway (under the auspices of the Dílo art and business organization). The Tvář magazine (2/64) published an article on Boudník written by Arsen Pohribný. The April issue of the Prague News Letter published a text by Karel Trinkewitz, The Viewer Should be Creator – A Theory of Explosionalism. A text by the same author was also published in Im Herzen Europas Erfinder der aktiven Graphik. In contrast, the censors refused an article by František Šmejkal Do You Know, Who Is Vladimír Boudník (Výtvarná práce / Art Work) and a catalogue for the exhibition D held at Nová síň at Voršilská street with Boudník's participation, from the 25th of March. Vladimír Boudník was presented at the IVth International Congress of Psychopathological Art in Barcelona (Stanislav Drvota: Personality of Vladimír Boudník, Inventor of Active and Structural Graphic Techniques). This was repeated on the 14th of September 1964 at the Psychiatric Clinic of the Faculty Hospital of the Institute of National Health in Prague. Arsen Pohribný presented it at the symposium of scientists, artists and intellectuals Europäisches Forum Alpbach/ European Forum Alpbach (1964 and 1965). At the end of the year Boudník cooperated on shooting a 16-minute film Rorschach's Gallery by Petr Bukvič and Jan Simer.
Graphics (mixed media)
Totems (Print 5)
Totems (Print 5) (graphics)

Vladimír Boudník (solo exhibition, )
Tschechische Graphik (group exhibition, Alpbach)
Exhibition D (group exhibition, Prague)


A new rolling machine enabled Boudník to print larger format art prints
Vladimír Boudník (solo exhibition, Prague)
Tschechische Grafik heute (group exhibition, Heidelberg)
Confrontation III. (Prague, 1965) (group exhibition, Prague)
Young Czech Graphics (group exhibition, )
Graphics 65 (group exhibition, )
Mladí čeští grafici, 1. část (group exhibition, Alpbach)
Vladimír Boudník (solo exhibition, Prague)


In 1966 Vladimír Boudník held an exhibition in the Petr Bezruč Theatre in Ostrava, at the Syracuse University in New York, in the Gottwaldov Regional Gallery. He prepared presentations for foreign Art Centre and the Prague National Gallery, in cooperation with Jiří Valoch in Brno (1967). Jindřich Chalupecký described Boudník as a predecessor of happenings. He published his documentary story The Street in the Výtvarná práce /Art Work magazine (13/66). Alexej Kusák shot a five-hour interview with the artist (published in Art Work 26/67). At Drvota's insistence Boudník started to lead an art club at the Prague Psychiatric Clinic. In his own work, he dealt with structural portraits of Prague's walls and he developed the topic of humane abstraction. He experimented with cardboard as a base material for engraving (as an analogy to dry point). From November, he worked on a cycle of variations to Rorschach tests (described as symmetrical graphics). He illustrated books for the Odeon publishing house and he dealt with abstract painting and printing in the cross-sectional collections of his graphic works. He continually destroyed his wooden dies.
Doppelgangers (graphics)
Graphic print (graphics)
Graphic print XI.
Graphic print XI. (mixed media)
The head of man (graphics)
Letter (graphics)
Monotype II
Monotype II (graphics)
Monotype II.
Monotype II. (mixed media)
Monotype II.
Monotype II. (mixed media)
Monotype III.
Monotype III. (mixed media)
Siqne (mixed media)
Untitled (graphics)
Large T (graphics)

Contemporary Printmakers of Czechoslovakia (group exhibition, )
14 Graphic Artists from Prague (group exhibition, Essen)
Czech Modern Art from the Collection of Emanuel Hloupý (group exhibition, Prague)
The New Ways: Parade of Contemporary Avant-garde (group exhibition, Zlín)
Spring Exhibition 1966 (group exhibition, Prague)
Czechoslovak Contemporary Art (group exhibition, Berlin)
Vladimír Boudník: Graphic 1951 - 1966 (solo exhibition, Zlín)
The fifteen graphic Artists (group exhibition, Prague)


New artistic practices (group exhibition, Brno)
Czechoslovak Graphics (group exhibition, Kiel)
17 Czech artists (group exhibition, Den Haag)


Boudník violated the symmetric structure of his graphic pieces with drawings and overprints, strengthening the compactness of the matter. He experimented with mixing figurative drawing and graphic collage. During the summer Boudník became acquainted with Andrew Statik, president of The Pratt Graphic Centre, New York. Another presentation was held in the Miami Museum of Modern Art. He was given special acknowledgement for his work at the Graphic Biennale in Jihlava. He was also presented at the International Graphic Biennale in Tokyo. An exhibition was being installed from the 2nd of December in the Prague Viola. Boudník died on the 5th of December of that year.
Circus (graphics)
Circus (graphics)
Figure (graphics)


Czech Artists (group exhibition, Munich)


Vladimír Boudník: Graphic Works from the Years 1960 - 1968 (solo exhibition, Ústí nad Orlicí)
Tschechische Künstler (group exhibition, Düsseldorf)


The Art of Eastern Europe in the 20th Century (group exhibition, Garmisch-Partenkirchen)


Additions 1982-1984 (group exhibition, Olomouc)
Meeting - Microworld (group exhibition, )


Vladimír Boudník: Graphic (solo exhibition, )


In memoriam (group exhibition, Prague)


Czech and Slovak Contemporary Art 1950 - 1992 (group exhibition, Novara)
Vladimír Boudník 1924-1968 (solo exhibition, )
Font in the Picture (group exhibition, Brno)


Vladimír Boudník: Graphics (solo exhibition, Zlín)


Liben´s Musketeers (group exhibition, Prague)
Outbreaks of Rebirth (group exhibition, Prague)


Vladimír Boudník: Graphic (solo exhibition, )
Czech Imaginative Art (group exhibition, Prague)
Vladimír Boudník: Gateway to the Infinite (solo exhibition, New York (NY))
Ten times a woman (group exhibition, Brno)
Between Tradition and Experiment. Works on Paper and with Paper in Czech Art 1939-1989 (group exhibition, Olomouc)


Vladimír Boudník: Graphic (solo exhibition, )
Jiří Kolář the Collector (group exhibition, Prague)


Czech Graphics. A half-century of changes of Modern Graphic Art (group exhibition, Prague)
Vladimír Boudník (solo exhibition, Prague)
Black and White (group exhibition, Bruntál)


Olomouc Central European Forum I. Czech | Czech Art from the Collections of the Olomouc Museum of Art (group exhibition, Olomouc)
Hard to do 1945 - 1950 (group exhibition, Prague)
Vladimír Boudník: Boudník´s Year (solo exhibition, Prague)
In the Spectrum of Diversity 11+1 (group exhibition, Prague)
Selection (group exhibition, Prague)


Prague Imagination (group exhibition, Prague)


Vladimír Boudník (solo exhibition, Prague)


BOUDNÍK (group exhibition, Brno)
Culmination / The Apex of Czech Fine Art (group exhibition, Prague)

Muzeum umění Olomouc 2011-2021