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 Jaroslava Brychtova  (1924 - )

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Lived/Active: Czech Republic      Known for: glass design, glass artist

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Jaroslava Brychtova and her husband Stanislav Libensky are contemporary artists. Their works are included in many major modern art collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Jaroslava Brychtova, a sculptor, and Stanislav Libensky, originally a painter and later a glass artist, met in 1954. They married in 1963 and worked together until Libenský's death on February 24, 2002. Libenský painted and sketched the designs, and Brychtová made clay sculptures from his designs. Since Libenský's death, Brychtová has continued to produce castings. Their work is characterised by simple block shapes infused with subtle colours and nuances.

Stanislav Libensky began his study of glass in 1937 at the Specialized School of Glassmaking in Novy Bor, Czechoslovakia, a region encompassing the Czech-German border called the Sudetenland. When the German army occupied the Sudetenland in 1938, Libensky moved first to the school at Zelezny Brod, and later to Prague Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, known as VSUP (an abbreviation of Vysoká škola umeleckoprumyslová v Praze) from which he graduated in 1944. His first notable series in glass, created in Novy Bor between 1945 and 1948, were thin crystal vessels, delicately etched and enameled with themes from the Bible and Renaissance art.

In 1948 Libensky returned to VSUP, where he studied under Josef Kaplicky, a painter, sculptor and architect who headed the school of painting on glass. Through his dynamic teaching style and modernist ideas, Kaplicky had a tremendous influence on his students and thus on the independence of glass as an art form in Czechoslovakia. In 1953 Libensky returned to Zelezny Brod to become the director of the Specialized School of Glassmaking. It was during that time that he met Jaroslava Brychtova, the daughter of the school's co-founder, Jaroslav Brychta.

Jaroslava Brychtova began to experiment with casting and carving glass in the late 1940s. She founded the Center for Architectural Glass at the Specialized School of Glassmaking in 1950. Like Libensky, Brychtova studied at VSUP. The war interrupted her education, but she later finished her studies with a concentration in sculpture. Her teachers were Karel Stipl (from 1945 to 1951) and Jan Lauda (from 1947 to 1950). Jaroslava Brychtova's career at the Specialized School of Glassmaking in Zelezny Brod spanned 1950 to 1984. The couple began their long collaboration in 1954 when Brychtova created a sculptural glass bowl modeled after a sketch of a bowl-shaped head that Libensky had made. According to Libensky, the two worked well together because he was trained as a painter, and she as a sculptor. Libensky and Brychtová married in 1963.

The Czechoslovakian Pavilion at the EXPO '58 in Brussels garnered attention for its modern architectural design, its film, acting and ballet presentations, it was Czech glass that attracted the attention of the judges.  The entry designed by Libensky and Brychtova, Animal Reliefs, (later known as "Zoomorphic Stones") were cast glass "stones." These were smooth on the obverse; on the reverse, animals inspired by the cave paintings of Altamira and Lascaux were cast in negative low relief. The effect presented by this, when viewed through the smooth surface of the glass, is of a three-dimensional form captured within its depths. Incorporated into a concrete wall in the pavilion's "Glass" gallery, Animal Reliefs was awarded a Grand Prix. While the original work did not survive, a recreation of it was installed in the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. In developing the negative modeling technique employed in Animal Reliefs, Brychtova and Libensky created the foundation on which the majority of their later sculptural work was based.

Josef Kaplicky’s death in 1962 left a void at VSUP that was filled by Libensky, who was appointed a professor in the glass department in 1963. Libensky was an excellent teacher who respected the tradition of glass in Czechoslovakia while furthering his own ideas about the modern direction of glass art. His career at the academy lasted nearly one-quarter of a century. During that time, despite the opposition of the Communist government that had taken hold of the country in the late 1940s, Libensky was able not only to influence two generations of glass artists through his teaching but also, through international lecturing and exhibition of his and Jaroslava Brychtova’s works, build international interest in modern Czech glass art.

Much of Libensky and Brychtova's architectural work was done for buildings in Czechoslovakia, including two windows, created for the St. Wenceslas Chapel in Prague's St. Vitus Cathedral. Built in the fourteenth century, the historic chapel was reconstructed by the Czech government between 1961 and 1964. Libensky and Brychtova were selected by competition to replace the chapel's original stained glass windows, which dated from 1912-13. The artists created an abstract design for the windows that, in its modern simplicity, departed from the ornate, early sixteenth-century decoration of the chapel. To relate the new to the old, Libensky and Brychtova used the muted grey-brown, grey-green and pink hues in the chapel's frescoes as the predominate colors in their windows.

Outside of Czechoslovakia their architectural glass work was seen in World's Fair exhibitions and Czech Embassies. At Expo '67 in Montreal they created three large sculptures for the Czechoslovakian Pavilion's "Hall of Century and Traditions". These were Blue Concretion, Sun of the Century and Large Conus.  According to Corning Museum of Art curator Tina Oldknow, these large-scale sculptures in glass were "a revelation" to the American Studio Glass artists who saw them, including Harvey Littleton, Dale Chihuly and Marvin Lipofsky.

Libensky was awarded an honorary doctorates in Great Britain by the University of Sunderland in 1999 and by the Royal College of Art in London in 1994. In 1985 he was named a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the Ministry of Culture and Communication in Paris, France. He won the Herder Prize from the University of Vienna, Austria in 1975. With his wife and collaborative partner, Jaroslava Brychtov, Libensky was accorded a number of honors. The pair was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Urbanglass in Brooklyn, New York and the Glass Art Society in 1997 and 1996, respectively. They won the Bavarian State Prize and Gold Medal at the Internationale Handwerksmesse in Munich, Germany in 1995 and 1967, and received Gold Medal awards from Internationales Kunsthandwerk in Stuttgart, Germany in 1969 and at the VIII Bienal de São Paulo in 1965. Libenský and Brychtová were presented with the Rakow Award for Excellence in Glass from the Corning Museum of Glass in 1984.

The work of Libensky and Brychtova has been collected by public institutions world-wide, including the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth; Prague National Museum, Prague, Czecholslovakia; Museum Bellrive, Zurich, Switzerland; Finnish Glass Museum, Riihimäki; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Sapporo, Japan; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan; Rijksmuseum Amsterdam; Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California; and Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio.


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