Běla Kolářová

Běla Kolářová

Born March 24 1923, Terezín
Died April 12 2010, Prague

Běla Kolářová, Czech artist and wife of Jiří Kolář, is particularly well known in the Czech environment for her photographic experiments and creation of subtle assemblages. As Marie Klimešová put it: "her seemingly calm works are full of surprising energy and ingeniousness. They are based on a sensitive balance of opposites: they are intelligent and reserved, but at the same time personal and corporal, involving humour and dignity.“
(Barbora Kundračíková)

photography, object, drawing, assemblage, installation, show in map


Běla Kolářová started to systematically take photos in the mid-1950's. The first integrated series was called Dětské hry / Children's Games (1957) and it was formally classified under the then popular genre of documentary photography. However, Kolářová was primarily interested in the principle of a secret or personal world. It was a motif which made her participate in the civilian style of Group 42 in later years. Her photographs from the end of the decade show the same interest in randomly discovered discarded objects and forgotten places, and contain traces of surrealism strategies (Na jedné ulici / On a Street, 1956


Even though Běla Kolářová was self taught, she participated in most of the significant exhibitions in the 1960's. Her works were presented at the Křižovatky / Crossroads meeting (1964), and at the Surrealismus a fotografie / Surrealism and Photography (1966) and Nová citlivost / New Sensitivity (1967) exhibitions. In 1969, along with her husband Jiří Kolář (1914-2002) and the Ságls, she participated in the Někde něco / Something Somewhere exposition in the Špála Gallery in Prague


In the works which followed, Běla Kolářová stopped using photographic apparatus and began to use direct light exposure. She used small objects (so called vegetage in the case of organic objects, and photomontage in the case of inorganic objects) which she either directly projected onto a paper screen or which she fixed in a thin paraffin layer onto celluloid tape and exposed them to light as matrices. The resulting Umělé negativy / Artificial Negatives (Muškátový ořech / Nutmeg, 1961
Dripping II (photography)
The transit ticket (photography)


In these years, Běla Kolářová further developed her interest in photography techniques. She endeavoured to create an absolute photograph, which means photographs "…without a model, without a camera.“ The Rentgenogramy / X-ray Images was a distinctive reflection of the interwar avant-garde (Duchamp's rotoreliefs), its experimentation and dynamism. Continuous motion, rotation, formation of rows and - with a view to the title - an attempt to reveal the unseen and the invisible were typical for her. At the same time, Kolářová dealt with random change, the manipulation which disturbs the system (Spínací špendlík / Safety Pin, 1963).
Grey phonograph
Grey phonograph (photography)
[Bulbs] (photography)
[Untitled] (photography)
The X-ray circle (photography)
The X-ray circle (photography)
The X-ray circle (photography)
The X-ray circle (photography)
The X-ray circle (photography)
The X-ray circle (photography)
The X-ray circle (photography)
The X-ray circle (photography)
The X-ray circle (photography)
The X-ray circle (photography)
The X-ray circle (photography)


Běla Kolářová maintained her interest in photographic experimentation in her works. She worked on a series of photographic derealisations (Baudelaire, Ionesco, Morgenstern and others) which once again represented an atypical response to the inspirations of rational constructivism. Kolářová sought order and rhythm in things. As with Kolář, her approach (chiasmages, rollages) was distinctive for keeping the visual richness of the depictive tradition: through questioning the subjectivity, a continuous use of the principles of random, intuition, and games, and through evoking the intimacy and close proximity of the known world. In her derealisation cycle, she combined (as did Vladimír Boudník under the influence of Jiří Kolář) two autonomous layers, photographs of poets, her own light paintings and X-ray images of a circle. This made it possible for her to work with metaphor, to develop and emphasize specific motifs, and to use them to emphasize the literary dimension of a given personality. A good example is the metamorphosed painting of Walt Whitman (1964): Kolářová used the original portrait as a background of geometrically regular assemblages consisting of small objects which she then photographed. She used the same method for a few symptomatic works of European culture: Michelangelo's Creation of Adam da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine, etc. Kolářová became increasingly attracted by the three-dimensional world. She moved from photo-assemblages to real material assemblages in which she used human hair (with reference to classical poetry) and other small objects.
Emila Medková
Emila Medková (photography)


Alphabet II.
Alphabet II. (mixed media)
Sampler of matches I.
Sampler of matches I. (mixed media)

Křižovatka (group exhibition, Prague)


Object (group exhibition, Prague)


In 1966, her first solo exhibition was held in the Gallery in Charles Square (Prague) in which she presented assemblages of small elements, snap fasteners, razor blades, matches and beads.
Poezie písma (group exhibition, Prague)
The Picture and Font (group exhibition, Prague)
Surrealismus a fotografie (group exhibition, Brno)
Spring Exhibition 1966 (group exhibition, Prague)
Běla Kolářová (solo exhibition, )


At the end of the 1960’s, Kolářová reduced the range of materials to razor blades (Žiletka I./ Razor Blade I., 1969), snap fasteners (Variace na dva trojúhelníky / Variation on Two Triangles, 1968) and paper clips (Kdybychom mohly vyprávět / If only we could talk, 1969).
Reflection (mixed media)


Spiral (photography)


Nothingness (mixed media)


In the second half of the 1970's, Kolářová started to use a make-up kit for her works. The resulting, often large-scale, works were characterized by intimacy and corporality (which corresponded with the chosen method), which were compensated by the geometrical and rational character of the paintings’ surfaces (Marie a Eva / Mary and Eve, 1975


In the early 1980's, Kolářová worked on assemblages of hair, cosmetics, and artificial jewellery, using picture reproductions as the background (Japonka / Japanese Woman, 1980


From 1981 to 1985, Běla Kolářová lived in Prague without her husband. She summarized her long-term efforts in ten autobiographical boards of the Životopis jedné patentky / Life of a snap fastener (1981) set. Besides her personal experiences, cultural and historical impulses resonated in the topic of a Large Pin: the cycle consisted of boards which reflected childhood (Koncert v parku / Concert in a Park


The Gallows sampler
The Gallows sampler (mixed media)

Boxes (group exhibition, Kostelec nad Černými lesy)


Běla Kolářová lived with her husband Jiří Kolář in Paris.


Screen (mixed media)


In the late 1980's, Běla Kolářová returned to the derealisation series from two decades before. She used the Jiří Kolář's original chiasmages and combined them with texts of popular poets, such as Dante, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Morgenstern, Apollinaire, and Eliot. Kolářová simulated the structure of a poetic text using the form of assemblage of small artificial jewellery (Apollinair's Rain), feathers (Morgenstern's Feather), hair (Villon) and other materials.


Bela Kolarova (solo exhibition, )




Běla Kolářová (solo exhibition, )
Photography as Art in Czechoslovakia 1959 - 1968 (group exhibition, Brno)
Object - Object: Metamorphoses in Time (group exhibition, Prague)


[Běla Kolářová] (solo exhibition, )
Běla Kolářová (solo exhibition, )
Art is an Abstraction. Czech visual Culture of the 60s (group exhibition, Prague)


Czech Photography of the 20th Century (group exhibition, Bonn)
Běla Kolářová (solo exhibition, Munich)



Ludwig Goes Pop + The East Side Story (group exhibition, Budapest)


Double Take: Drawing and Photography (group exhibition, London)


Czechoslovakia / A Critical Reader (group exhibition, Bratislava)
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)
Běla Kolářová: Pohyb / čas (solo exhibition, Liberec)

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