Josef Wagner was born in Holešovice, Prague. From a young age, he was surrounded by the work of his father, sculptor Josef Wagner (1901-1957), one of the representatives of the Czech sculptural avant-garde, and the mother of sculptor Marie Kulhánková-Wagnerová (1917-1986). The sculptor was also his five-year-younger brother Jan Wagner (1942-2005).
He himself began as a sculptor, participated in the Biennial of Spatial Forms in Elblag, Poland. Subsequently, he studied architecture at the Prague Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, but later clearly decided on painting, drawing and graphics. His friends of his prematurely deceased father included, for example, František Tichý, František Muzika, Emil Filla, Josef Sudek, František Šmejkal, Jan Maria Tomeš, Jaroslav Seifert and others. This circle of friends, as well as the later friendship with the painter Mikuláš Medek, had a great influence on Josef Wagner.
His work includes 1,023 paintings, several objects, sculptures, collages, a set of graphics and drawings. He destroyed a large part of his early work from the period. Some works have been preserved in photographs.
He did not exhibit from the late 1960s until 1989. As an architect, he devoted himself to theatrical scenography and, above all, to the installation of exhibitions, preparing over 200 exhibitions, mainly in the 1960s, when he collaborated, for example, with Jindřich Chalupecký and other art historians.
Josef Wagner is represented in state and private collections in the Czech Republic and in the world. 2004 winner of the Grand Diploma at the World Biennial of Graphic Arts in Tuzla. The largest private collection of over 120 paintings is owned by the French art historian and curator of his work Louis Mossot. In 2016, the city of Prague awarded him the In memoriam award for his contribution to culture.
List of exhibitions
1964 — Sculptures /Laterna Magica Praha Together with his brother Jan.
1969 — Josef Wagner drawings-Jan Wagner Sculptures
1989 — 172 Pictures of Josef Wagner, ARTS centr of Athens, Greece, under the patronage of the Minister of Culture Melini Mercuri, extensive catalog, Greek television lm. Galerie Navy Pier Chicago, USA. Selection of works – Aleš’s South Bohemian Gallery.
1990 — Sytsema Gallery der Haag-Holland Committee of 52 paintings by Cobra Gallery Paris, France
1991, 1992, 1994, 1996 – Ambience Gallery Luzern, Switzerland-Paintings, Drawings
1993 – Saint Suzane Castle, France Retrospective, curator Louis Mossot. Paintings by the State Gallery of Fine Arts in Cheb, Aleš’s South Bohemian Gallery, Vysočina Jihlava Gallery
1999 – Fécamp. Palais Benedictine, France Large retrospective exhibition, catalog, curator Louis Mossot
2005 – Committee of works, Boskovice Chateau, Trutnov Regional Gallery, Náchod Regional Gallery, catalog
2016 – In memoriam award of the capital city of Prague for cultural contribution.
„I would call my view of the world in the form of images an attempt to capture human feelings, over time to situations in the concrete reality of nature, civilization, psyche, memories of historical, geographical, physical chemical and biological contexts in the social order in which I now consciously exist The new psychology of form would perhaps be the right name for my painting efforts.
However, the original meaning of all my efforts is directed towards other goals. These are therefore images with certain loosely connected and pervasive areas of interest, which make sense in the form of warnings, signals of what is happening in this world.
The image is a thought bank and can be deciphered without any knowledge.
That is, in fact, all that a painter can tell the common and the educated perceiver. „
Josef Wagner from Confiteor, November 1985
History of the artistic family of Josef Wagner
Today, the artist remembers his father’s attic studio in Prague’s Holešovice with a large American stove, behind which a mica door lit a live fire, a large living room designed including furniture in a new spirit, a red uniform floor, a large red carpet, lamps and modern paintings on the walls. father’s artistic friends, members of the avant-garde association SVU Mánes. The images looked early and deep. He had known their authors intimately since he was a boy.
The Wagners were artists for several generations, stonemasons and sculptors. Antonín Pavel Wagner (1834-1895) living and working in Vienna. Josef Wagner (1901-1957) a disciple of Jan Štursa, a stone poet co-creator of modern Czech sculpture.
Marie Wagnerová-Kulhánková (1906-1984), an excellent sculptor, especially in the difficult area of children’s portraits. The name of her father is connected with the environment of a large garden with studios and a family villa, which was built by the teacher, restorer and sculptor Josef Kulhánek (1876-1945) in 1905.
Jan Mária Tomeš 1986
Antonín Pavel Wagner (1834–1895)
He escaped from a Prague canvas merchant to the stonemasonry-sculpture workshop of Josef and Emanuel Maxů, where his older brother František learned to carve a stone. He probably fell in 1851 in Italy. At the age of twenty-three, Antonín Pavel went to Vienna to experience. He studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts and won several awards during his studies. One of the realizations was a fountain in front of the Mariahilfer Kirche church. His work was strongly influenced by Michelangelo Buonarroti. He admired the works of this master sculptural chisel in Italy, where he often stayed. However, he also created a monumental Michelangelo statue for Vienna. Extraordinary talent and fame brought Antonín immense envy to Viennese sculptors. „He won numerous commissions, but often they were eventually portrayed by another, albeit less good, Viennese sculptor. An example is the statue on the monument to Friedrich Schiller, „explains the painter Josef Wagner. Antonín Pavel became known in the Czech lands at the age of almost fifty. At that time, he was included among the important artists who won the competition for the decoration of the National Theater. Prague sculptors and painters, also involved in the decoration, did not like it very much. Despite all the pressures, the architect Josef Schulz commissioned him to decorate the National Museum and create a fountain of CZECH REPUBLIC in front of the building. Constant intrigues had a sign on the sculptor’s health. Antonín Pavel Wagner died of a heart attack at the age of 61 on the street. He is buried in Vienna.
Antonín Pavel Wagner’s younger brother, Josef, founded a carving and sculpting-stonemason’s workshop in Dvůr Králové in 1848. He became famous mainly for his carved nativity scenes. However, his grandson, also Josef Wagner, made the most significant contribution to the history of sculpture.
Josef Wagner (1901–1957), sculptor
His marl statue of Charles IV, for which he received the Aleš Prize of the Capital City of Prague, reigns in the vestibule of the Rectorate of Charles University, and the monuments of Jaroslav Vrchlický on Petřín and Bedřich Smetana in Karlovy Vary are also well known. The sculptor’s restoration work on the sculptures of Matyáš Bernard Braun in Lysá nad Labem, Betlé, Kuks and Břevnov are also significant. He won a state award for a new restoration method in the restoration of sgraffito at the Prague Castle Ballroom. The stone did not tame gently and slowly, but by the force of a direct blow, the so-called „taille directe“. He was able to revive the forgotten traditional work of Baroque sculptural masters. „My breath held as his powerful hand struck a precision blow into the stone block. I waited anxiously for the stone to shatter. It did not happen. Each stroke was one tone. My master gave the cold stone shape, soul, and eternal life with masterful skill. It was a rare moment of settling fleeting moments, „recalls the sculptor’s older son, the painter Josef Wagner. The sculptor Josef Wagner trained in the sculpture-stonemason’s workshop in Jaroměř with his stepfather Josef Bárta, who took it over after the death of Josef’s father. From there he transferred to the Hořice School of Sculpture and Stonemasonry, where he was greatly influenced by Professor Quido Kocián.
He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague under Jan Štursa and Otakar Španiel, and also attended the Otta Gutfreund School of Building Sculpture. He later took over his Prague studio. He went on a study visit to Italy twice; in Rome he had a studio right on the artistic artery of Via del Babuino. He studied European art and new directions in Paris, where he rented a studio in Montparnasse. In 1932 he married the sculptor Maria Kulhánková. They settled in Bethlehem, near Kuks, in a log cabin furnished in a simple „return to nature“ style, designed by Josef’s brother, architect Antonín Wagner. „It was the most beautiful years of our lives. We lived without any modern technology. He educated as a teacher and professor at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, a number of sculptors.
Marie Wagnerová-Kulhánková (1906-1983), scupltress
Her mother was a theater actress, her father was a sculptor Josef Kulhánek who ran a decorative studio. She graduated from the School of Sculpture at Quido Kocián. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague under Jan Štursa and Bohumil Kafka. In 1926 and 1928 she lived in Paris and studied privately at the École des Beaux-Arts. Since 1930, she has been a member of the Mánes Association of Guitar Artists. Her older loan at the Academy of Fine Arts was Josef Wagner, whom she married in 1932.
Marie became famous especially for her portraits of children (bust of František Tichý, Jiří Čerych, Iva Černá).
At the exhibition of contemporary Czechoslovak culture in Brno, she presented three-meter sculptures of Muses (Painting, Sculpture, Architecture) located in front of the Pavilion of Architecture by Josef Gočár. It also produced utility ceramics. „When I told her that she had discovered the simplicity of forms that the famous French sculptor Charles Despiau had been looking for all his life, she did not believe me. She considered it a flattery „, said her professor and great admirer František Kupka once. After the untimely death of her husband, she and her sons transformed a family house in Hořice into a gallery of ancestral works, devoted themselves to restoration work and took care of the legacy of the Kulhánek-Wagner art family.
Jan Wagner (1941-2005 )
From childhood he moved in the sculptural environment of both parents. In 1960 he was accepted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and until 1966 he studied sculpture with Professor Vincenc Makovský and Professor Karel Hladík.
In the second half of the 1960s, he accepted a scholarship offer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, where he studied medal work with Professor Ferdinand Welz.
He was awarded the Academy Prize (as the only foreign student in the then history of the Vienna Academy) for the achieved study results. He remained at school for another two years as Professor Welz’s personal assistant.
He used a number of unusual materials in the creation of sculptures at the time: plexiglass, glass, metal and chrome. He also devoted himself to kynetic sculpture. For a long time he worked as a teacher and became again a professor and later head of the art department at the Secondary Industrial School of Stonemasonry and Sculpture in Hořice. He successfully prepared a number of students for admission to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and other art colleges.
Denisa Wagnerová (1945)
Denisa is a graphic artist, painter and illustrator. She studied with Professor Karel Svolinský in the studio of illustration and book graphics at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. She illustrated over 50 children’s books for Czech and foreign publishers, for which she has many awards. She has exhibited in France, Switzerland, where she is represented by the Ambiance Gallery, Japan and the Czech Republic. Her paintings are represented in private collections in the Czech Republic, France, Norway, USA, Japan.
„Our destiny has forever marked his departure for eternity.“
Father’s death, collapse, absorption … the soul falls into a state of melancholy. It is worth quoting Freud and his successor: „the shadow will fall on my consciousness, which will be judged by the higher power as a discarded thing.“ nothing. He could no longer look at the world with the same eyes as when he first looked, with the eyes of a child who had disappeared unharmed into space. This state of the artist led to a deadly attachment to the empty frame, the only essence of which was the unattainable interior. Only the image of the deceased father was the only embodiment of the reflection in the mirror. The father was everything to him, and by leaving for eternity, he gave his son the original experience, thus evoking in him a desire for him.
I am just a layman and I will leave to the insiders the analysis of the division of the ego and the lapse. The nothingness that swallowed Josef Wagner is reflected in the work Window from Hořice Sandstone, from 1957; the dominant nature makes the space infinite. No interior; in the exterior without borders, a part of the pillar set on the door leaf rises. Apparently the nothingness in the soul of the deceased father and the throne of the king by a yawning emptiness testify to the ecstasy. Depression, absorption, cruel experience, confirm the impression of a smooth transition from sculpture to painting.
The Great Cross (self-portrait) from 1965 is the son’s pleading question: „Father, why have you forsaken me?“ On closer examination, the gloom of the work is unanswered. The painting confirms the hypothesis of a state of melancholy, but not relevant to the pampered and later thrown-out sons who identify with the Crucifixion.
– An example from the text of the collector and curator Louis Mossot