The more than 400 exhibits of artistic glass document the development of the glass industry from roughly 1920 to 1990. A separate department is devoted to the other symbol of Zelezny Brod, glass figurines. Visitors can view almost 300 of them here. Wired, modelled, blown and metallurgical.
- Jaroslav Brychta
- Železný Brod glass figures
- The development of Zelezny Brod figurines
Father of Železný Brod glass figures
Jaroslav Brychta was born on 9 March 1895 in Pohodlí by Litomyšl into the family of teachers. After graduation of the lower secondary school (the so called “town school”) Brychta attended the Provincial School of Crafts in Litomyšl for three years. After one year spent in the stucco workshop Brychta began to study sculpture in the School of Applied Arts in Prague.
In 1919 Brychta applied for the post of the teacher of the vocational school and from January 1920 he became the scholarship holder of the Ministry of National Education in Kamenický Šenov and Nový Bor regions.
In 1920 Jaroslav Brychta married and on 1 August came to Železný Brod where on 1 October the State Vocational Glassmaking and Business School was opened.
In 1922 Brychta designed the first drawn figures which were exhibited regularly at home as well as abroad.
In 1923 the first wire figures were made, based on his design.
In 1924 the daughter Jaroslava and in 1928 the son Radovan were born.
From 1943 Brychta was concerned with experiments focused on milled glass re-melting in plaster moulds, thus initiating origin of the molten glass sculpture.
In 1950 Brychta was appointed director of the High School of Applied Arts for Glassmaking in Železný Brod,
in 1952 Brychta resigned from the post of the director at his own request.
In 1960 Brychta was awarded the Order of the Labour and in 1965 he was conferred the title of the Merited Artist.
Jaroslav Brychta died on 5 October 1971 in Železný Brod.
Jaroslav Brychta is the author of several sculptures installed in Železný Brod. The Sokol Club in Železný Brod is decorated by his gymnasts, in 1930 statue of T. G. Masaryk was unveiled in front of the Sokol Club and statue of a glassblower in front of the High School of Applied Arts for Glassmaking. In the nearby town Zásada the Brychta’s Memorial to the Fallen was unveiled in 1934 and in 1936 Brychta created the statue “Labour” for the building of the savings company in Železný Brod.
Work of Jaroslav Brychta, mainly his glass figures were exhibited in untold exhibitions globally. Several films were shot and several publications issued about Jaroslav Brychta and his figures.
(The data were taken from A. Langhamer and M. Hlubuček publication: Jaroslav Brychta, co-founder and creator of the Železný Brod glass).
Železný Brod glass figures
Glass figures have an important share in the glory of Železný Brod glass. History of their origin is connected forever with Mr. Jaroslav Brychta, professor of the High School of Applied Arts for Glassmaking in Železný Brod, who has introduced and developed successfully production of glass figures in the Železný Brod region in cooperation with glassblowers – figure makers from the beginning of the 20’s of the last century.
The first experiments represented by pins with a metal needle and a glass top part, mostly of miniature animal shape, were thus followed by the stitched, drawn, wired, blown and modelled figures.
The metallurgical figures began to be produced in the Železný Brod region after the year 1927; professor Brychta found his inspiration mainly in the Italian Murano glassblowers. Classic metallurgical procedures enabled to produce figures of greater dimensions and their production was no more individual fully. It requested absolute harmony of the glassblower working with the glass-melting pot and the figure maker preparing finer parts of the whole work on the burner.
Around 1930 the first graduates of the local High School of Applied Arts for Glassmaking established several companies focused on successful production of glass figures as well as on other sectors of art glass production in the Železný Brod Region. Jaroslav Brychta has found excellent successors among glass designers. Miloslav Klinger, Miloslav Janků and Vilém Dostrašil (after the year 1960) were able to continue and to shape this specific art industry.
Vienna, Venice or Thuringian Lauscha, Saská Kamenice or Berlin – these are examples of the glass centres where the glass figures were made at the same time or even earlier than in Železný Brod.
But Brychta’s Zelezny Brod glass figures have won!
Antonín Langhamer writes: “Brychta’s figures were mentioned abroad in connection with other glass figures, but Brychta’s figures could not bear comparison. Czechness, folksiness, merriness as well as artistic persuasiveness and lucidity of the figures was appreciated. They coped with the life and specific events, with the world of children and adults; they were also of critical social character, if necessary”.
They will remain connected with the Železný Brod region forever.
The development of Zelezny Brod figurines
The rise of figurine production in Zelezny Brod was preceded by the production of glass pins. The upper part of the metal point was melted into a tiny glass form, a simple animal, fruit, etc. Their production originated from local traditional procedures used mostly for the production of so-called wound pearls.
Multi-coloured pins were used by dressmakers, but also as a decoration for pinning tickets on coat lapels, and such were undoubtedly the first miniature figurines produced in Zelezny Brod.
Tailored figurines (1920 – 1921)
Figurines also produced by this technique used threading work (spoolers). Molten glass was reeled onto a wire. The wire was made into a loop and these little parts were used as individual parts of the future figurines. The primitively modelled head had the wire sealed firmly in it, and the body, for example was threaded onto it. Such individually prepared parts were then sewed together using thread.
Drawn figurines (1921 – 1923)
The gaining of new experience in this field progressively enabled the development of drawn figurines. The natural characteristics of molten glass were used to shape them. Molten glass can be bent, pulled, etc. Connecting these characteristics with purpose and intention, simpler figurines from drawn glass sticks simply decorated with drops of different molten glass were made. Gradually, with the help of tools. little wings, ears, etc., were formed. Despite their primitive form, it was possible to imprint in them a sense of humour that was later widely used. Fantasy concept figurines gradually tended towards actual real-life forms. More complex swans, fishes, individual animals, as well as sportspersons, etc., were made.
In the summer of 1923, Prof. Brychta and his student, Stanislav Halama, carried out several initial experiments in producing wire figurines. They were based mostly on the middle part, the body, with melted wires protruding from the necessary places. Other components were then threaded onto the wires, wound or simply modelled prepared limbs featuring threaded coral beads, etc., including the head.
Wire figurines were unusually tough and break resistant. They enabled a change in the form of movement without the use of a burner by simple forming the wires. Wire figurine development covered a long period, from 1923-1935, and enabled more complex designs in both form and content to be realized.
The blowing of glass on a burner was a technology practically unknown domestically. Jaroslav Brychta learnt about it in Durynsko, Germany, in the vicinity of the town of Lauscha, where it had been used for centuries. The principle is not difficult, but among others requires the use of material unknown at the time instead of glass sticks or glass pipes.
In Zelezny Brod, blown figurine production was based on the knowledge gained in Durynsko, but further developments already bore all the signs of Brichta’s art. Some examples, made in 1920 -1930 at the glass school, are still part of the range of blown figurines produced today. The technology of blown figurines provided a solid foundation for the launch of the exceptionally successful production of Czech Christmas decorations. Before then, this was mostly a German domain.
Modelled figurines follow the drawing technique, but improve it. They got their name in about 1930. They are sculptures with greater demands as regards modelling, movement interpretation and surface solutions. The work procedures do not require special modifications to traditional production machinery, but more experience, care, time and a great extent of visual sense is needed. Mastering the more demanding techniques for modelled as well as blown figurines has pervaded the whole further development of the glass industry up to present time.
The formation of metallurgical figurines in Zelezny Brod was preceded by study visits by Prof. Brychta to Italy in 1923 and 1928. He became interested mostly in Venice in the products of small glass workshops, where objects were made in small ovens with one pan.
The first attempts at solid glass figurines, which were called metallurgical, were made in Zelezny Brod in 1928. But it was only in 1934 when a sample oven was set up at the glass school, after which there came a big change in the development of metallurgical figurines, once the technical problems accompanying the production had been resolved successfully.
The first metallurgical figurines drew inspiration from fairy-tales, and folk and animal motifs were used. Popular also were characters from The Bartered Bride. Metallurgical figurine production brought a new element to the world of figurines, collective work. The cooperation of several glassmakers is necessary, each of whom handles a specific task. The development in the metallurgical figurine field represents a long journey from simple, smaller works up to big, almost monumental sculptures made e.g., by the significant glass artist Miloslav Klinger.
Figurines from Zelezny Brod have been described in several more or less detailed technical books. To define the categories of figurines according to their construction and the technology used in production is quite accepted and used also here. It is necessary to note that the individual production methods may overlap and it is not possible to define each figurine unambiguously. It is also not possible to say, for example, that only more primitive figurines were the result of drawing at the beginning of their development, while modelling is a guarantee of perfection and maturity.
Brychta J. ,Volf M.B. : Živé sklo