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Jan Fišar - The Glass Sculptor

V I E W I N G  R O O M

Jan Fišar – The Glass Sculptor

Jan Fišar (1933 – 2010) grew up in Prague, where he studied sculpture under Prof. Wágner. In 1966, the prominent glass artists Professor Stanislav Libenský and his wife Jaroslava Brychtová offered Jan Fišar the chance to collaborate on their project for the 1967 World Exposition in Montreal. This is how he first encountered glass art, little suspecting that this material would determine his entire future.

Jan Fišar was born 1933 in ­Hořovice, near Prague (Czech Republic). His father was a tax official. After his father was transferred, the family moved to Prague, where Fišar began school. At the end of the Second World War, their flat in Prague was bombed; the greatest tragedy was the loss of his father who was killed. The tragedy indelibly marked the life of his mother and sister and very soon forced Jan Fišar to take responsibility not only for himself, but also for others. The need to stand on his own two feet and depend on no one became essential to him.

In 1948 he transferred after Secondary School of Decorative Arts to the woodcarving department at the Housing Industry College, graduating in 1952. The following year he found work as a stucco modeller at the Film Studios in Prague-Barrandov. He then studied at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague, in Professor Josef Wágner’s sculpture studio.

After finishing his studies, he received commissions as a free-lance artist. Initially he earned a living helping older artists in the realisation of their sculptures by modelling and casting. At the same time he undertook his first freelance commissions. Following a long friendship, he married in 1962. The marriage ended in divorce two years later, however.

At this time Jan Fišar decided to found his own studio. In the Czech­o­slovakia of that period, where apartments of any kind were in short supply, such a desire involved incredible effort as well as money. To achieve his goal, Jan Fišar worked for two years as a night stoker for buildings in the Vinohrady district of Prague. During the day he was then able to construct his rented studio. He married a second time in 1965 and two years later became father to twins, Marek and Jan.

In 1966, the prominent glass artists Professor Stanislav Libenský and his wife Jaroslava Brychtová offered him the chance to collaborate on their project for the 1967 World Exposition in Montreal. Jan Fišar, as sculptor who could model and cast, was to help realise their monumental sculptures for the Czecho­slovak exhibition. Given his situation, this was a welcome opportunity, which he gladly accepted. This is how he first encountered glass art, little suspecting that this material would determine his entire future.

After then, Jan Fišar and his wife Eliška Rožátová, painter and graduate of Professor Stanislav Libenský’s glass studio, took on regular employment in Železný Brod, 100 km north of Prague. In the glass company Železnobrodské sklo his wife worked in the mosaic department and Jan Fišar in the molten glass department. At this time he began experiment­ing with glass. From 1966 to 1968 he produced smaller works from molten glass. Today the work Inner Space, 1968, is in the collection of the Corning Museum of Glass (USA).

In addition to his work for the company Železno-brodské sklo, Jan Fišar also took on architectural commissions. In 1968 he received an interesting but demanding commission in the world-famous spa Carlsbad. This involved roofing the main building around a thermal spring. Jan Fišar designed a crown of slumped glass, carrying out the work in 1971. In the early 1970’s he felt he had to go his own way. He resigned from his job and embarked on the uncertain path of a freelance artist.

The Inner Space; 1968, 20 x 32 x 14 cm, melted glass, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning / USA

The Inner Space; 1968, 20 x 32 x 14 cm, melted glass, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning / USA

Jan Fišar’s Game in his Work and his Work as Game

PhDr. Sylva Petrová about the artist Jan Fišar

Professor of the University of Sunderland / Great Britain,  Formerly Curator of Twentieth-Century Art, Arts and Crafts Museum, Prague / Czech Republic

Conflict and harmony, emotion and reason, extroversion and introversion, conception and intuition, intention and chance, pedantry and Bohemianism, boyishness and mature wisdom, humour and sadness. All these and many more wonderful contradictions can be found in Jan Fišar’s character and his glass. Jan Fišar is a complicated man, a natural sculptor. A sculptor and a glass artist, who lives more or less in seclusion. He lives in Bohemia, in the region of Polevsko and Nový Bor where for a long time glass has been made in dozens of the typical wooden cottages and carried to market in baskets. An area with extensive forests and renowned basalt quarries, whose vertical rock faces remind of gothic cathedrals. An area known as the cradle of Czech glass, where there are still dozens of glass workshops and large glassworks. In one of the old cottages, Jan Fišar and gallery owner Eliška Stölting have opened an exhibition room where his works can be viewed. He produces his glass in this region and the umbilical cord of his work leads to this rugged landscape full of contrasts and marvels.

Fine Art Glass Sculpture - Jan Fišar

Jan Fišar, Contraversion, 1991, 48 x 57 x 48 cm, slumped hollow glass, cut and polished

The landscape, the artist and his glass are in harmony with one another. Fišar’s works are also full of contradictions, however. They are difficult to describe; on the one hand they change their form experimentally, and on the other hand they have an internal order, following certain principles. The artist respects the natural properties of glass and produces sculptures of absolute brilliance.

Compared with other Czech glass artists, Fišar came to glass relatively late, at the age of thirty-three. Decisive for his future career is that he became – as an academically-trained sculptor – part of the team collaborating in the glassworks in Železný Brod on large glass sculptures for EXPO ’67 in Montreal. Jan Fišar was so taken with glass that he remained in the glassworks in Železný Brod as designer for several years. Later, when he returned to his own work, glass replaced traditional sculptural materials. He still uses metal and stone, but primarily for constructions that serve to present his glass.

Although in the sixties Jan Fišar was something of an autodidact as a glass artist, he quickly became familiar with all aspects of the medium. What his fellow-artists considered difficult technological problems, Fišar has mastered with ease and regards as a game. And as he says, he likes to play. He plays, for example, with large glass blocks, into which he cuts prepared glass pieces. He also plays with the slumped-glass technique. He cuts hollow blown cylinders and forms them in the heat of the furnace into flamboyant futuristic compositions, which he then grinds and polishes. With their drama, they dominate space, but also seem suspended in it, floating like large coloured glass Medusas, perfectly symbolising the ambivalence of contemporary circumstances. They are very typical of Fišar’s work and are instantly recognisable in any exhibition. It is the same for his objects made of glass blocks, which he partly works in a very unusual manner. He does not cut the object forms directly from the blocks. Instead, he cuts the glass and shapes it into brilliant forms.

He considers his work a game, although his objects influence their successors and his works with light and space flow into new compositions. While Jan Fišar works with glass, he still thinks primarily as a sculptor. In the language of contemporary art theory, he resolves the relationship between space and glass. This does not only in-volve the space outside a sculpture. As glass is transparent and we can see inside a work, it also involves the space inside a work. It is irrelevant whether this space is physically real or unreal, i.e. virtual. The perceptions frequently coalesce, one merging into the other. For the viewer, they seem to come and go.

Jan Fišar’s sculptures have a certain mystery, coming from the dynamism anchored in their compositions on the one hand and from the reflections and changing light on the other. It is better to look at and experience the objects than to try to describe them. They evoke in us many, very different, feelings and associations. Beyond the not unusual uplifting effect of works of art, they also force us to reflect on how Fišar, and to some extent all of us, see the world.

Fišar’s glass stands alone, entirely autonomous, and impossible to categorise under any of the contemporary trends and movements in glass art in either the Czech Republic or any other country in the world.

The artist’s focused and sustained work in seclusion has led to an immense appreciation and respect, especially abroad, in recent years. And that is just as well, for he deserves it!
PhDr. Sylva Petrová – Sunderland and Prague 2000

Jan Fišar, Pietà, 1991, Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf (Germany) / Glasmuseum Hentrich / Collection Frauke Thole. All 30 works in the museum collection can be viewed here : Jan Fišar collection

What do I want to tell people?

My views, my view of life. That also means my memories and my experiences, which were not always good. I want to bring my personality closer to people so that they understand me. And that can be done with any material. I use glass – Jan Fišar 1996

AWARDS

1990 The International Exhibition of Glass, Kanazawa (JP), silver award
1992 Kristallnacht Competition, Philadelphia (USA), silver award
1995 The International Exhibition of Glass, Kanazawa (JP), honorary award


EDUCATION

1948-52 Housing Industry College (woodcarving)
after Secondary School of Decorative Arts, Prague
1952-52 Film Studios Barrandov, Prague (stucco modeller)
1953-59 Academy of Applied Arts, Prague
(Studio for sculpture, Prof. Wágner and Prof. J. Kavan)
1960-66 Freelance sculptor (stone and wood)
1966-71 Glass creator at the Glassworks, Železný Brod
71-2010 Freelance glass artist


PUBLIC COLLECTIONS

Museum for Design and Applied Contemporary Art, Lausanne (CH), Art Museum, Düsseldorf (G), National Museum, Wroclav (PL), Ulster Museum, Belfast (IR), Arts and Crafts Museum, Prague (CZ), Glass and Bijouterie Museum, Jablonec n. N. (CZ), Northern Bohemian Museum, Liberec (CZ), Moravian Gallery, Brno (CZ), Museum Zrár nad Sázavou (CZ), Eastern Bohemian Museum, Hradec Králové (CZ), Museum Bellerive, Zurich (CH), Czech Embassy, Stockholm (S), Castle Lemberk, Lemberk (CZ), Glass Museum, Immenhausen (G), Arts and Crafts Museum, Hamburg (G), Achilles-Foundation, Hamburg (G), Glass Museum, Ebeltoft (DK), Art Collection of Veste Coburg, Coburg (G), Glass Museum, Rheinbach (G), College of Art, Kanazawa (JP), Notojima Glass Art Museum, Notojima (JP), Koganezaki Glass Museum, Kamo-mura, Shizuoka (JP), Glass Museum, Novy Bor (CZ), Corning Museum of Glass, Corning (USA), Ernsting Foundation, Glass Museum, Coesfeld (G), Museum of Modern Art, Mittelhof (G), Glass Museum, Frauenau (G), Kunstpalast Düsseldorf (G), National Gallery, Prague (CZ), Eastern Bohemian Museum, Pardubice (CZ), Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (JP), Toyama Museum, Toyama (JP)


EXHIBITIONS

Prag, Nový Bor, Brno, Jablonec n. Nisou, Liberec, Slaný, Telc, Vsemina, Zdar nad Sasavou (CZ), Stockholm (S), Wien (A), Den Haag, Amsterdam, Naarden (NL), Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo (E), Paris, Biot, Rouen, Straßburg (F), Bern, Luzern (CH), Luxembourg (L), London (UK), Helsinki, Riihimäki (SF), Brüssel, Lüttich (B), Kopenhagen (DK), Mailand, Capua, Rom, Venedig (I), Posen (PL), Kanazawa, Osaka, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Takasaki (JP), Taipei, Hsinschu (Taiwan), Palm Beach, New York, Millville, New York, Chicago (USA), Toronto (CN), Hamburg, Hannover, Berlin, München, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Nuremberg, Göttingen, Freiburg, Coburg, Erfurt, Essen, Flensburg, Bremen, Karlsruhe, Rastede, Bamberg, Moisburg, Immen- hausen, Drachelsried, Frauenau, Münster, Saarbrücken, Neumünster, Langen, Lübeck, Rheinbach, Bonn, Zwiesel, Kassel, Seevetal-Hittfeld (D)

Examples of sculptural glass work by Jan Fišar since 1966
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Magnetic Anomaly / 1981
The Inner Space / 1968
The Return / 1987
Stone with Red  / 1985
Fighting / 1986
Shifting / 1988
Rotary Shell / 1989
Digger / 1989
Graphic Prism / 1990
The Nameless / 1991
Crystallization / 1992
The Tides / 1992
Elevation /  1993
Intimate / 1995
Hooray to Life / 1995
Female / 1995
Jumps / 1995
Me and My people / 1995
Moon Dew / 1996
Stone from Fire /  1996
The Naked /  1996
Night Butterfly / 1997
From the Gut / 1998
She / 1999
The Other Way / 1999
Imprint T / 1999
Fresh Wind / 2000

Available works

My views, my view of life. That also means my memories and my experiences, which were not always good. I want to bring my personality closer to people so that they understand me. And that can be done with any material. I use glass – Jan Fišar 1996

Documentary Film

Another Bohemian Glass – 1995
Documentary Film by the Czech film director Jiří Havrda about the artist Jan Fišar, Ilja Bílek and Milan Handl.
translated from Czech into German

– Part about the artist Jan Fišar start at timeframe 10:00 –

Jan Fišar – The Book

The book was published 2004 by Eliška Stölting, the founder of Glasgalerie Hittfeld. On more than 200 pages it offers exhaustive information about the artist Czech Glass artist Jan Fišar (1933 – 2010). Besides extensive illustration, the book offers articles by PhDr. Sylva Petrova, PhDr. Jan Kriz and Mgr. Milan Hlaves.

Jan Fišar – The Book

Click the cover to open the lightbox and browse through the book.

Prof. S. Libenský & J. Brychtová
Prof. S. Libenský & J. Brychtová

In 1966, the prominent glass artists Prof. Stanislav Libenský and his wife Jaroslava Brychtová offered Jan Fišar the chance to collaborate on their project for the 1967 World Exposition in Montreal. Jan Fišar, as sculptor, was to help realise their monumental sculptures for the Czecho­slovak exhibition. (From right to left – Prof. S. Libensky, E. Stölting, J. Brychtová, J. Fišar, and I. Bílek in Jan’s studio)

Jan Fišar’s sketches

Jan Fišar’s sketches are rarely preserved. They served only to capture his ideas. He does not regard them as drawings in the true sense of the word and deliberately destroys them. He is convinced that it ist the result that is important, not the way to it. (Sketch, 1995, 25 x 36 cm, Pencil on brown paper)

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