Jiří Kolář

Jiří Kolář

Born September 24 1914, Protivín
Lived in Kladno (1920 – 1945)
Lived in Prague (1945 – 1977)
Lived in Paris (late 20th century)
Lived in Prague (1999)
Died August 11 2002, Prague

A distinguished Czech poet, writer and translator, who won recognition in the field of international fine arts, especially with his experiments with various types of collages and his work with paper, which he transformed into a form of original pictures, reliefs and spatial objects. He was the author of a number of variations based on his interest in the shifts and regroupings which aim to find new meanings, and in which the element of repetition represents a central principle of thought.
(Olga Staníková)

visual poetry, object, collage


Jiří Kolář grew up in a poor family


He lived in Kladno, where he trained as a carpenter (1932), but he also tried many occupations (labourer, nurse, waiter, writer and journalist).


He wrote his first poems and created collages under the influence of Surrealism.


His first solo exhibition of collages took place in the D37 E. F. Burian Theatre hallway, followed by a pause in his artistic work. However, he continued to write poems.


He wrote poems (Sedm kantát / Seven Cantatas, 1945


He made his debut with the collection of poems Křestný list / Baptism Certificate, in which he created a so called literary collage by placing unrelated pieces of conversation next to each other, and this resulted in surprising poetic associations.


He and Jindřich Chalupecký founded Group 42 (among other members were: Kamil Lhoták, Karel Souček, Ladislav Zívr, Jan Smetana, František Gross, Miroslav Hák, Ivan Blatný). He started to incorporate the motif of city folklore, a characteristic of the Group, in his work.
Was member of Skupina 42


He translated poems and plays by E. Albee, S. Beckett, G. Eich, T. S. Eliot, E. L. Masters, R. Nash, S. J. Perse, C. Sandburg, W. Whitman and T. Williams. He contributed to the Život / Life and Světová literatura / World Literature magazine as well as publishing his own works.


He moved to Prague and started to work as an editor in the Družstvo Dílo publishing house. He joined the Communist Party but sobered up from the post-war exaltation in the same year and terminated his membership.


Made a trip to Paris.


He headed the literary section of Umělecká Beseda.


The communists banned the publication of his works. He visited England and Scotland.


He married Běla Kolářová (née Helclová, 24 March 1923 - 12 April 2010) who strongly supported him in his systematic work
Is spouse of Běla Kolářová


He worked on a set of confrontages which he composed, using poor quality magazine prints, in the form of simple uncoloured collages. In doing this he observed how new, unexpected relationships and new common meanings emerge when creating several different contexts. By incorporating seemingly inhomogeneous contrapositions but in scenes similar in composition, as he also applied in the collection of poems which he was creating at the same time, he pointed out not only the ridiculousness of ideologies and the shoddiness of human vanity, but also the span of human life balanced between fatality and the civility of the every day. He thus showed his sense for grotesque sarcasm and crudity of reality and he revealed his involvement against the regime. He marked the collages with exact dates and titles, thus making them a specific artistic diary, along with his literary work.


He first met Václav Havel, who later spoke about the strong influence of Kolář's early work on the young generation of artists, especially his transition to literary-artistic expression.
His work on a series of reportages was interrupted by his imprisonment on Christmas of 1952 due to a manuscript from his radical collection of poems Prométheova játra / Prometheus' Liver (written in 1950, published in samizdat in 1979, officially in 1990). It was discovered in the home of the literary historian Václav Černý, during a search by the secret police. In the manuscript Kolář confronted painting reproductions and pieces from newspaper reports, among which he also included almost fifty year old pictures from the Japanese-Korean war. He updated the cruelty of events at the time of the unleashed tragedy in June 1950 after the invasion of North Korean into the territory of South Korea. Apart from his criticism of communism, another excuse for his arrest was his membership in the Group 42 and his friendships with the representatives of the Czech avant-garde who decided to emigrate.


He was held on remand in prison for 9 months, and later sentenced to 1 year’s imprisonment. However, he was soon released after being granted amnesty.


Gradually, the idea of the impossibility of an accurate expression of reality through poetry grew stronger, until it led him to his own art work. He created image interpretations and first versions of visually evident poetry. The titles of his artistic pieces resembled short poems or epigrams and in them he incorporated personal intellectual meditations and comments on the world. His Básně ticha / Poems of Silence, which he wrote at that time , are examples of the decomposition of "natural poetry" in the form of typograms presenting the first versions of his visually evident poetry. He also created a number of hole, depth, colour, note, coat-of-arms and razor blade poems, typoscripts, crazigrams, analphabetograms (a return to drawing and writing without knowledge of the alphabet), puzzles, assemblages and objects (mainly in the shape of an apple, but he also used everyday objects as well as small sculptures, covering their surface with collages), further varying and combining them in later years. In the 1950's, he created other forms of paper transformation besides regular collages. This included rollages (based on the similarity with Venetian blinds - "rolety" in Czech) balancing between geometrically regular structure and reproductions or disintegrating photographs. Next he employed chiasmages (various contrasting cutouts and torn paper pieces bound back together in a new composition with a different meaning), crumplages (collage-pressé) (deformed by crumpling the originally fixed form) and other methods such as prollages (openings in a picture revealing another scene), décollages, ventillages, stratifies (stratified and glued coloured papers cut, then with a scalpel interesting images of its bottom layers are revealed). These were built on the principle of mutual encounters of what, at first sight, appeared to be inhomogeneous elements, in intentions of Surrealism and randomness.


He created basic methods of collages (described for example in the Dictionnaire des méthodes, Paris 1991
Jiří Kolář: Depatesie (solo exhibition, Prague)


His first foreign solo exhibition was held in London. The Křižovatka / Crossroads group was established, with Kolář as a co-founder. He started to create relief chiasmages and mirror collages, as well as assemblages, unzipping collages, flags, banners and narrative collages.
Sebastian (mixed media)
Collage (mixed media)

Was member of Křižovatka
Jiří Kolář: The Visual Images of a Poet (solo exhibition, London)
Jiri Kolar: Photo-montage (solo exhibition, Miami (FL))
Jiří Kolář: Kollagen (solo exhibition, Alpbach)
Jiří Kolář: Rolage (solo exhibition, Liberec)


Tobias and the Angel
Tobias and the Angel (mixed media)

Umělecká beseda (1964) (group exhibition, Prague)
Křižovatka (group exhibition, Prague)


With Václav Hejna he transformed reproductions of significant works of art by the customs officer Rousseau and by Gaugin by painting over the main figures in the painting (customs officer Rousseau and Gaugin in his painting Good Morning, Mr. Gaugin) in such a way that they merged with the background which fulfils the title of this method - anticollage, also called erasers.
Creative group Umělecká beseda (1966) (group exhibition, Prague)
The Picture and Font (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)
Current Art from Czechoslovak (group exhibition, Ciudad de México)
The Actual Tendences of Czech Art: Images, Sculptures, Graphics (group exhibition, Prague)
Constructive Tendences (group exhibition, )


In the thawing political environment of the Prague Spring he managed, at least briefly, to exhibit and publish his works. He became the central figure of regular meetings of young artists in the Slavia Cafe in Prague, among whom was Václav Havel. They resulted in common projects which bordered the permitted and the forbidden. He was particular about the writer's responsibility and deep rooted matters and opinions. He wrote his principles in the form of preacher collections titled Mistr Sun o básnickém umění / Master Sun on the Art of Poetry (1956-1957).
PF 67
PF 67 (drawing)


The DuMont publishing house published his first monograph. The authors of the text were Miroslav Lamač and Dietrich Mahlow (it was confiscated in 1970). He worked as a representative of the art union coordination committee.
Lignano Biennial 1: Rassegna Internazionale d´Arte Contemporanea (group exhibition, Lignano Sabbiadoro)
5 Artists from Prague: Demartini, Kolář, Kratina, Kubíček, Malich (group exhibition, Paderborn)
Artists of Špála Gallery (group exhibition, Bratislava)
Concretists´Club and Guests (group exhibition, )
The New Things (group exhibition, Prague)
Documenta 4 (group exhibition, Kassel)
The New Sensitivity. Křižovatka and Guests (group exhibition, Brno)
Jiří Kolář (solo exhibition, Prague)
Jiri Kolar: Collagen, Rollagen, Objekte (solo exhibition, Nuremberg)
50 Years of Czechoslovak Painting 1918–1968 (group exhibition, Bratislava)
Recent Graphics from Prague (group exhibition, Washington, D.C.)


He visited Canada, the USA and Japan, where he participated in the World Exposition in Osaka. He suffered cerebral apoplexia at the beginning of November which resulted in his right hand becoming insensitive. After his return from hospital he further worked on collages, including a large environment titled Aesop. He worked as co-editor of a samizdat edition Petlice / Latch, founded in 1972 by Ludvík Vaculík.
Expo 1970 (group exhibition, Osaka)
Jiří Kolář: Rollages, Collages, Objects (solo exhibition, Düsseldorf)
Biennale internazionale d´arte (group exhibition, Venice)


He was once again banned from exhibiting and publishing
[Untitled] (mixed media)

Received award from Herder Prize



Eastern European Art from the Collection of the Museum Bochum (group exhibition, Bochum)
Tschechische Künstler (group exhibition, Düsseldorf)


He visited the USA during his first exhibition in the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Jiří Kolář (solo exhibition, New York (NY))


Three (3 eggs)
Three (3 eggs) (sculpture)

Czech and Slovak Concrete Poetry (group exhibition, Wrocław)
Jiří Kolář: Collagen, Chiasmagen, Rollagen, Prollagen, Crumblagen, Objekte (solo exhibition, Düsseldorf)
Jiří Kolář 35 (solo exhibition, Düsseldorf)


He became a signatory of Charter 77, followed by his emigration to West Berlin after winning the DAAD scholarship. He worked on a set of crumples which involved principles of deformation, depression and absurdity, reflecting the background of current social events and the publishing of Charter 77. By varying the same motif he celebrated the freedom of creation and the rules of the game, which was in sharp contrast with the uniform greyness of the regime. His first large monograph was published in Nuremberg.


Jiří Kolář at the Guggenheim (solo exhibition, New York (NY))
Jiří Kolář: Transformations (solo exhibition, )


He could not return to Czechoslovakia from abroad therefore he moved to France. His second exhibition was organized in the Solomon R. Guggenheim.


In Paris he lived and worked with his wife, creating new letter poems and perforated collages in which he developed the principle of chiasmage. Grid rollages, scores, zip collages and Evidence poems were evidence of the inspiration of Dadaism instead of Surrealism. He thought out formerly developed forms of prollages and magrittages by incorporating the principle of change and using superimposing, thus approximating them to his confrontages and reportages.
Jiří Kolář (solo exhibition, Recklinghausen)
Jiří Kolář: Berlin Collection (solo exhibition, Berlin)
Jiří Kolář: 100 Froissagen, Das Lied der Lieder (solo exhibition, Düsseldorf)
Jiří Kolář (solo exhibition, Cologne)
Jiří Kolář. "Neue Arbeiten". Chiasmagen - Collagen - Objekte - Crumblagen (solo exhibition, Bochum)
Eleven Contemporary Artists from Prague (group exhibition, New York (NY))


In March he established Revue K as a trimonthly publication and association dealing with the spreading Czechoslovak art of the Diaspora. He started to work with the Paris Maeght-Lelong Gallery, where he introduced his collages.
His wife Běla came to Prague to sort out legal and property matters (Czech authorities rejected Kolář's application for the extension of the Paris stay, which resulted in his imprisonment in absentia and loss of property). After that she was not allowed to return to Paris to her husband. She was granted approval four years later.


Jiří Kolář (solo exhibition, Paris)
Jiří Kolář. "Neue Collagen und Chiasmagen" (solo exhibition, Bochum)


Kolář acquired French citizenship on 8 May


Jiří Kolář: Chiasmages (solo exhibition, New York (NY))


He created several cycles of so called defective collages (by crumbling, washing out, scouring).
Jiří Kolář: Tagebuch 1968 (solo exhibition, Berlin)


An evening to celebrate his 75th birthday was organised on 22 September in the Prague Manes.


He returned to Prague after ten years, where he was awarded honorary citizenship. With Václav Havel and Theodor Pištěk, he initiated the establishment of the Jindřich Chalupecký award, which is awarded annually to young artists under 35 years of age.


He was awarded Czech Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk Order for his excellent activities which enhanced the development of democracy, humanity and human rights. Kolář won the Jaroslav Seifert award for his collection Prométheova játra / Prometheus' Liver.
Received award from The Tomas Garrigue Masaryk Order
Received award from Jaroslava Seifert Prize
Tradition and Avant-garde in Prague (group exhibition, Bonn)
Wortlaut (group exhibition, Prague)
European Dialogues 1991 / 1st Festival Of European Culture Clubs (group exhibition, Bochum)
Jiří Kolář: Collages (solo exhibition, )
Jiří Kolář from private collections in Bratislava (solo exhibition, Bratislava)


Czech and Slovak Contemporary Art 1950 - 1992 (group exhibition, Novara)
Umělecká beseda 1992 (group exhibition, Prague)
Jiří Kolář: Dictionnaire des méthodes (solo exhibition, Paris)


Collage (mixed media)
Collage (mixed media)
Untitled (drawing)
Untitled (drawing)
[Untitled] (drawing)
Untitled (drawing)
Untitled (drawing)
Untitled (drawing)


Zwischen Zeit Raum I (group exhibition, Düsseldorf)
Jiří Kolář (solo exhibition, Brno)
Jiří Kolář (solo exhibition, )
Europe, Europe. The Century of the Avant-garde in Central and Eastern Europe (group exhibition, Bonn)
Grey Brick 66/1994 Exil (group exhibition, Klatovy)
Partitury (group exhibition, )
New Sensitivity (1994, 1995) (group exhibition, )
Jiří Kolář in Jan and Meda Mládek Collection (solo exhibition, Prague)


Jiří Kolář
Jiří Kolář (artist's book)

Jiří Kolář's Anniversary (solo exhibition, Bratislava)
Jiří Kolář: Objekte, Schriftcollagen, Collagen (solo exhibition, Darmstadt)
Font in the Fine Arts (group exhibition, )
Umělecká beseda 1995 (group exhibition, Prague)
Hommage à Božena Němcová (solo exhibition, Prague)


He and his wife Běla returned to the Czech Republic.
The Prague National Gallery organized the artist's first Czech retrospective titled "Příběhy Jiřího Koláře / The Stories of Jiří Kolář" at the turn of the millennium in the Trade Fair Palace in Prague, and later rerun in the Brno Moravian Gallery. A monograph Příběhy Jiřího Koláře / The Stories of Jiří Kolář and a Czech version of his Dictionary of Methods was published on this occasion.
Received award from Hans Theo Richter Prize


The National Gallery presented Kolář's artistic collection titled "Jiří Kolář - Sběratel / Collector" demonstrating the span of the artist's intellectual interests.
Jiří Kolář the Collector (group exhibition, Prague)
Object - Object: Metamorphoses in Time (group exhibition, Prague)


Europe. Art of the 60s (group exhibition, Karlsruhe)
Black and White (group exhibition, Bruntál)
In honor of creative Team - the First Part of the Collection of Jan and Meda Mládek (group exhibition, Prague)


Jiří Kolář (solo exhibition, Moscow)


Jiří Kolář (solo exhibition, Havlíčkův Brod)
Czech Collage from a Collection of Pragues Gas (group exhibition, Prague)
New Sensitivity (group exhibition, Beijing)
Years in Days. Czech Art 1945–1957 (group exhibition, Prague)
The Reality is more than Fiction: Assemblage as a creative Principle in Czech Art 60s and 70s (group exhibition, Brno)


Transparency – Looking Through (group exhibition, Budapest)
Doteky konstruktivismu (group exhibition, Prague)


Jiří Kolář: Transformations (solo exhibition, Karlovy Vary)
From Tizian to Warhol / Olomouc Museum of Art 1951-2011 (group exhibition, Olomouc)


Jiří Kolář: The Other Worlds (solo exhibition, Louny)
Centenary of the birth of Jiří Kolář (solo exhibition, Prague)


Image and Word in Czech Art of the 1960s (group exhibition, Plzeň)


Kuna nese nanuk: The Art of Reading Art (group exhibition, Humpolec)
Culmination / The Apex of Czech Fine Art (group exhibition, Prague)

Muzeum umění Olomouc 2011-2022