Oldrich Kulhanek Biography

Oldrich Kulhanek




Oldrich Kulhánek, painter, printmaker, illustrator, stage designer, and teacher, was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia on 26 February 1940. He began his studies in 1958 at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague under Karel Svolinský, and graduated in 1964.

Kulhánek created a number of politically charged prints between 1968 and 1971, which resulted in his arrest in 1971 by the Czechoslovak Secret Police and imprisonment on charges of “defamation of the allied socialist states.” Because Kulhánek defiled the face of Stalin, several prints from this series were condemned as “ideologically dangerous” and were tried by the court. They were slated to be burned but instead they were saved by government workers. Kulhánek wrote about his imagery: “My opinion, my conviction, is that in his work an artist should give an account of himself, of the time and place he inhabits. The artist should reveal the pretense (or lies) of the establishment, unmasking what is happening to man and showing how man is manipulated and dehumanized. The artist should present an account of the soul of his contemporary.”

After the collapse of the Communist government following the Velvet Revolution of 1989, Kulhánek was free to travel and publish his work. His interest turned to lithography – a medium he explored to render the human figure. Kulhánek’s designs are found on the Czech currency and he became an important designer of postage stamps.

His work was featured in Recent Graphics from Prague at the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C. in 1968, and Suppression, Subversion, and the Surreal: The Art of Czechoslovakian Resistance in Spring 2019 at the University of Southern California Fisher Museum of Art.

Kulhánek was a member of the HOLLAR Association of Czech Graphic Artists and his work is represented in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland; Bibliothèque Royale, Brussels, Belgium; the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, U.S.A.; the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, U.S.A.; the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, U.S.A.; Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, Germany; the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Copenhagen, Denmark; Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden, Germany; Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany; Musee d‘Art et d´Histoire, Geneva, Switzerland; the University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston, U.S.A.; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic; the Albertina, Vienna, Austria; and the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Oldrich Kulhánek died on 28 January 2013 in Prague.