famous czechs

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Jan Patočka (1907 - 1977) was a Czech philosopher, dissident and spokesperson of Charter 77. He is considered one of the most famous modern philosophers.

Growing up during the First Republic, Patočka was inspired by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Between 1925 and 1932, Patočka studied philology and philosophy at Charles University in Prague. He later made study trips to Paris, Berlin and Freiburg, where he became familiar with the philosophers Edmund Husserl, Eugen Fink, and Martin Heidegger and their works. As a result, phenomenology became one of the bases of Patočka’s philosophy.

Patočka’s career was interrupted three times during his lifetime: first during the Nazi occupation, then in the 1950s as a result of the Communists purges, and finally again at the beginning of the normalization period that followed the crushing of the “Prague Spring.” It was at this point that the philosopher, who had stayed away from politics until then, became aware of the need for citizens to get involved in political action.

In 1972, Patočka began organizing clandestine seminars in private apartments, in which he and other banned intellectuals tried to offer a free and uncensored education. In 1977, Patočka became on of the first spokespersons for the Charter 77 movement, together with the political leader Jiří Hájek (who had been the minister of foreign affairs during the Prague Spring) and the playwright Václav Havel. Soon afterwards, Patočka became the target of the Czechoslovak State Security (StB).

The philosopher was constantly interrogated by the police regarding his activities with the Charter. On March 3 1977, Patočka was held and interrogated by the police for ten hours. Following this particularly long interrogation, Patočka had to be hospitalized. He died of a brain hemorrhage ten days later.

Patočka’s funeral turned into a silent demonstration against the regime, and this despite the close police control. In fact, the regime went as far as to forbid the selling of flowers at the cemetery during the funeral.

sources: Paul Ricoeur, “Jan Patočka: A Philosopher of Resistance.” The Crane Bag 7, no. 1 (1983): 116-18.
Karel Bosko, L'humanisme Endurant: Tchécoslovaquie, 1968-1989. Geneva: Labor et Fides, 2010.

Franz Kafka’s Residence (1889-1896), Prague.

During Kafka’s early childhood, his family lived in a 17th-century house – called the House of the Minute (Minuta) with beautiful Italian Renaissance-style sgraffito frescos on biblical and classical themes – located to the left of the Old Town Hall. From this house, little Franz, accompanied by the family’s Czech cook, walked to the elementary school that Kafka described years later as “horror.”

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‘Seek the truth, hear the truth, learn the truth, love the truth, speak the truth, hold the truth and defend the truth until death’

Jan Hus (1370-1415) was a medieval religious thinker, Czech university teacher and Roman Catholic priest who found his inspiration in John Wickliffe.
In his religious works Hus criticized moral decline of the church and blamed them for exploitation of subjects and not living according to the God’s commandments. According to him the church didn’t need so much wealth to continue its work.
To make his writings understandable even to the most common people, he introduced improvements into Czech diacritic in order to represent each sound by a single symbol (so we have: š,č,ř,ž,á,í,é…).  His own preachings, which were extremely popular between people at the time, were also carried out in Czech.
During his life he gained many followers but also many enemies. When Jan Hus decided to speak against indulgences, he was forbidden to preach in Prague, so he left and spread his teachings all over Bohemia. Very soon Hus was asked to come and defend his work in front of the council but in the end they didn’t even let him speak properly. After refusing to take his words back, Hus ended up at the stake, burned as a heretic. Jan Hus was a key contributor to Protestantism, whose teachings had a strong influence on the states of Europe and on Martin Luther himself. His death almost immediately started the Hussite revolution.

running man filming in prague

ok dudes buckle up i’m gonna tell u a story of how luhan almost hit me in the face with some floury mess of a ball. so today there was running man filming in prague, the slavia stadium. it was a mess cause my manager forgot to ensure a ticket for me and stuff but we met up w his chinese exchange student friends and one of them didnt have a ticket either and since we both wanted to get in, she talked to some chinese organizator dude and voila they had some free spots so we got in. we spent like half an hour waiting for them to take away our phones, then we had some catering and got shirts and balloon sticks?? at which point they divided us into the “chinese” and “czech” team which is not accurate because they just put all asian ppl in the chinese team and all non-asian ppl in the czech team. the czech team got blue shirts, chinese team got red shirts and they sat us down in the stadium in the middle of the field where the game equipment had been built. it took like an hour before filming started because they kept filming us cheering (with instructions).

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so because ice hockey is quite big deal here in czech republic, i got an idea of emil being a hockey fan!
and hockey championship is here again so i decided to draw it~

i love this idea so much

he’s wearing czech ice hockey dress,  obviously
he’s drinking pilsner urquell - most famous and favourite czech beer
“Kde domov můj” is czech national anthem (meaning: Where is my home)
i didn’t know what number i should use for his dress so i put there his age lol

do not repost, reblogs appreciated~


bonus:

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Eliška Junková (16 November 1900 – 5 January 1994), born as Alžběta Pospíšilová and also known as Elizabeth Junek and “Queen of the Steering Wheel”, was a Czech automobile racer.
She raced in Bugatti cars, first as a co-driver with her husband Čeněk and later by herself. In the twenties she was the fastest woman on Earth and was also
the only one woman in the history of Grand Prix that was on the same level as its best male riders.
Her greatest success was the fifth place in the race Targa Florio (1928, at the time considered the hardest in the world) but she won in many other races. Eliška Junková was also the first woman to win in the international race Zbraslav-Jílovště.
She ended her racing career in reaction to the tragic death of her husband (1928) but continued to participate in organization of races, such as Masaryk Circuit in Brno. In the sixties she contributed to motorist magazines. In 1989, after the Communist block thanks to which she couldn’t travel abroad fell, she attended a Bugatti reunion in the United States as the guest of honor. Eliška Junková died peacefully in Prague, Czech Republic in 1994, aged 93.

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Karlštejn Castle, Czech Republic

Influence list (updated 2014-2015)

1. Akihiko Yoshida – contemporary Japanese illustrator, Final Fantasy’s Ivalice titles
2. Alfons Mucha – early 20th Century Czech painter, famous for art nouveau posters
3. Arthur Rackham – early 20th Century English book illustrator
4. Babs Tarr – contemporary comic book artist and illustrator, Batgirl
5. Brandon Graham – contemporary comic book artist, Island, Muliple Warheads
6. Chéri Hérouard – early 20th Century French poster artist
7. Chihiro Iwasaki – mid-20th Century Japanese children’s book illustrator
8. Claire Wendling – contemporary French illustrator
9. Colleen Doran – contemporary comic book author and artist, A Distant Soil
10. Edmund Dulac – early 20th Century French book illustrator
11. Egon Schiele – early 20th Century Austrian painter, Klimt’s protégé
12. Elenore Abbott - early 20th Century American book illustrator
13. Elizabeth Shippen Green – early 20th-century illustrator
14. Gennady Novozhilov – late 20th century illustrator and concept artist
15. George Kamitani – contemporary Japanese digital artist, Vanillaware
16. Gustaf Tenggren – early 20th Century Swedish-American book illustrator
17. Gustav Klimt – early 20th century Austrian symbolist painter
18. Harry Clarke – early 20th Century book Irish illustrator
19. Greg Tocchini – contemporary illustrator and comic book artist
20. Heinrich Lefler – early 20th Century German book illustrator, art nouveau
21. Ivan Bilibin – early 20th Century book Russian illustrator
22. J.C. Leyendecker – early 20th Century American illustrator
23. Jacob Wyatt – contemporary comic book artist and illustrator, Necropolis
24. James Jean – contemporary Taiwanese-American painter and illustrator
25. Jen Wang – contemporary comic book author and artist, Coco Be Good
26. John Singer Sargent – early 20th Century American draughtsman and painter
27. Kathe Kollwitz – early to mid-20th Century German illustrator
28. Kay Nielsen – early to mid-20th Century Danish illustrator notable for working for Disney
29. Kevin Wada – contemporary illustrator, comics cover artist
30. Kinu Nishimura – contemporary Japanese illustrator employed by Capcom
31. Kosuke Fujishima – contemporary Japanese illustrator and comic book artist, penning Ah! My Goddess and designing for Namco’s Tales series
32. Kris Anka – contemporary comic book artist employed by Marvel
33. Leo and Diane Dillon – contemporary American illustrators (a married couple and illustration team)
34. Lily Hoshino – contemporary illustrator and comic book artist
35. Lois Van Baarle – contemporary illustrator
36. Marguerite Sauvage – contemporary illustrator and comic book artist
37. Masaki Hirooka – contemporary Japanese illustrator, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
38. Matayoshi – contemporary Japanese illustrator.
39. Maxfield Parrish – early 20th century illustrator
40. Mildred Louis – contemporary comic book artist and author, Agents of the Realm
41. Natalie Hall – contemporary illustrator
42. N.C. Wyeth – early 20th century American illustrator, Brandywine school
43. Pasqual Ferry – contemporary Spanish illustrator and comic book arist
44. Pavel Tatarnikov – contemporary illustrator
45. Pete Hawley – late 20th century illustrator, Jantzen ads
46. Ron Wimberly – contemporary comic book artist, Prince of Cats
47. Rose O’Neill – early 20th Century American illustrator, creator of the Kewpies
48. Rumiko Takahashi – contemporary comic book artist, Inuyasha, Lum Invader
49. Ryan Sook – contemporary American illustrator and comic book artist
50. Sachin Teng – contemporary illustrator
51. Sara Pichelli – contemporary Italian illustrator and comic book artist
52. Saskia Gutekunst – contemporary illustrator and concept artist
53. Sergio Toppi – recently deceased late 20th century Italian illustrator
54. Severino Baraldi, contemporary Italian illustrator
55. Sophie Campbell – contemporary comic book artist, Jem, TMNT
56. Stuart Immonen – contemporary Canadian illustrator and comic book artist
57. Svetlin Vassilev – contemporary illustrator living in Greece
58. Travel Foreman – contemporary American illustrator and comic book artist
59. Trina Schart Hyman – recently deceased American children’s book illustrator
60. Tomer Hanuka – contemporary illustrator
61. Vicki Tsai (vickisigh) – contemporary illustrator
62. Warwick Goble – early 20th century English illustrator
63. Winsor McCay – early 20th century American illustrator and cartoonist, Little Nemo
64. Yamada Uduki – contemporary Japanese illustrator
65. Yoshitaka Amano – contemporary Japanese painter and illustrator, Final Fantasy games

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Prague, Czech Republic

Oh yeah, I saw this was a thing so like. Instead of fancasting Emil Nekola as Pewdiepie (why), consider Jakub Vagner, a famous czech fisher! I mean look at him

10/10 A++++

plus Jakub is a really great dude look at him go

So in conclusion, here’s a czech dude who looks like Emil and is pretty great, you’re welcome :D

Bugatti Step
Jaroslav Ježek
Bugatti Step

Jaroslav Ježek (September 25, 1906 – January 1, 1942) was a Czech composer, pianist and conductor, author of jazz, classical, incidental and film music. 
The first part of his work consists of chamber, piano and concertant compositions, later he also became a popular jazz composer in pre-war Czechoslovakia. He composed songs and dances for the revue plays of the Prague Free Theatre and also for the films of Voskovec and Werich. 
Between 1929 and 1936, possibly earlier, he organized and conducted an orchestra featuring his original jazz compositions and arrangements. Billed variously as “Ježek’s Jazz” and “Ježkův swingband” they recorded for the Czech Ultraphon label, making some of the most original music in Europe.His innovative melodies are well known in the Czech Republic to this day. 

Five Composers that You Need to Play

Originally posted by nerdragefilms

So for this week, I decided to go into detail about some of the great composers that are not so greatly known, at least known to the general public. Myself, I would go through phases where I would hear about the very existence of them. Then I would doubt that they were actually any good, compared to the like of Mozart or Beethoven. Then I would fall in love with their music slowly.  I have periods of obsession for sometimes weeks at a time where all I want to do is listen to that specific composers. I have gone through that with some of the composers on this list. 

I chose these composers because of their greatness, yet the mystery that their music is not so widely known. We will be going into why these composers are great and perhaps why there fell out of the league of Mozart and Beethoven. 

No.5 Domenico Scarlatti

Domenico Scarlatti(1685-1757) was one of the greatest keyboard virtuosi to ever live. Born in the same year as both George Frederic Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach, Scarlatti was born into a very musical family. His father, Alessandro Scarlatti was a very strict father and teacher. Scarlatti worked initially in Naples. However after working throughout Italy as a performer, conductor, and composer, Scarlatti traveled to work in the court of the Portuguese Royal Court in 1719. He later also worked in the Spanish court where he remained for the rest of his life, before dying in his 70s in 1757. For nearly two centuries, Scarlatti was nearly completely forgotten, along with his 555 keyboard sonatas. Only 30 had been published in his lifetime. 

However, in the 20th century, his music was rediscovered. Scholars quickly began to look at the complexity and brilliance of his sonatas. Following a binary form, Scarlatti stuck to the Baroque style for much of his early career. However, later in his career, Scarlatti began to deviate more and more away from the strict rules. His sonatas, which have the influence of Iberian folk songs show strong passions that exceeded everything else. Pianists like Vladimir Horowitz adored playing Scarlatti. Since Horowitz, Scarlatti has been brought back from the dead almost into the classical repertoire. However he is still widely unknown outside of the small circle of classical music lovers. 

I discovered Scarlatti as a great alternative to Handel and Bach. Though I play only a small fraction of his works, my favorite Scarlatti sonatas are his K.380, K.466, K.27, K.31, K.100, K.101, K.3, K.8, and K.9. Scarlatti is great to perform because his sonatas are under five minutes and they are all so brilliant. 

No.4 Antonin Dvorak

Antonin Dvorak(1841-1904) was one of the great nationalist composers of the 19th century, a kind of movement where composers from autonomous regions of large empires or kingdoms composed music based on traditional melodies. Bohemia, now modern day Czech Republic was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for centuries. Other composers like Edvard Grieg from modern day Norway and Jean Sibelius from modern day Finland were also nationalist composers. Dvorak succeeded Bedrich Smetana as the greatest composer in Bohemia and to this day remains the more famous Czech musician internationally. 

Dvorak gained great momentum in his career in the mid-1870s from the great Johannes Brahms, who commended him as a great composer. Dvorak saw great success in both Prague, Vienna, and outside the empire as one of the leading composers of the day. His “Slavonic Dances” were extremely popular. In 1893, Dvorak travelled to the United States on commission by wealthy patrons to write “American” masterpieces. He composed three great works while in America, the first his “American” String Quartet No.12 Op.96 which had influence from American folk songs. His next great work were his “Eight Humoresques” Op.101. These small piano pieces in this piano cycle contained both classical and jazz melodies, which were growing popular in America. This makes Dvorak really the first great European classical composer to mix both Jazz and Classical music, a feat which composers like Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev would later imitate. His seventh piece in the set in G-flat remains one of the best known piano works of all time. Lastly, Dvorak wrote his greatest masterpiece, his “New World” Symphony No.9 in E minor Op.98. This work remains one of the most important symphonies of all time. It seems that the ninth symphony always seems to be the greatest one, right Beethoven and Schubert? After returning home in 1895, Dvorak continued to be a leading composer in Bohemia, conducting and composing his works among others. He died a national hero in 1904. 

So why is Dvorak not so well known? I bet everyone knows a certain movement from his ninth symphony. Look up the Second Movement-Largo. I guarantee all of you that you will know it. It is always a tragedy when there is a melody that everyone knows, yet no one knows or really cares who actually wrote it. Influenced by Brahms, Dvorak was a true master of his art. If you love Brahms, then you will love Dvorak. Please give his Humoresques a try as well as they are short yet brilliant piano pieces. My personal favorites are the 1st, 2nd, 7th, and 8th one being my favorite. 

No.3 Franz Joseph Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn(1732-1809), what is there to say about him? How about the fact that he was the most famous and sought after composer of all Europe. How how he innovated the symphony, sonata-allegro form, piano sonata and concerto and how he invented the string quartet singlehandedly. Or how about how Mozart worshipped him and Beethoven sought Haydn out as a teacher. For a man with such a huge legacy, why has Haydn been ignored upon most people. Living to the age of 77, Haydn lived through the end of the Baroque Era, innovated the Classical Era, and lived into the early Romantic Era. 

Haydn also had one of the most fortunate careers, arguably more successful than Mozart and even Beethoven. Working in the courts of the Esterhazy family, the richest in Austria composed a huge volume of music, each in a short period for the family. He would write a symphony and dance for one party one Thursday and then a trio and quartet for another party the following Monday. This quickly gave Haydn a big reputation as a great composer. In the 1780s and 1790s, Haydn became more and more independent from the Esterhazy family, working right in Vienna and evening traveling all the way to London to write some of his great late symphonies. In 1792, Beethoven sought him out as a teacher, being told that Beethoven would “receive the spirit of Mozart through the hands of Haydn”. Though they often clashed, the both were influenced each other, with Haydn leaving a large impact on Beethoven. Haydn continued to compose well into his seventies, writing great works such as “The Creation” and “The Seasons”. By the time he died during Napoleon’s siege of Vienna in 1809, he was worshipped by all as the most famous musician of his time. 

So why was such a man with such a huge legacy who was treated as almost God-like so forgotten? Maybe it was the fact that he was followed by Beethoven, who, after his death rose to become the most famous composer of all time. Maybe it was also his comparison to Mozart, being judged inferior to Mozart’s sheer genius. Great pianists such as Vladimir Horowitz, Artur Rubinstein, and Claudio Arrau never performed Haydn. By the 20th century, Haydn was deemed as a secondary composer, though both Glenn Gould and Sviatoslav Richter treasured Haydn’s music. I personally Haydn’s first ten piano sonatas out of his 62. All of his sonatas are charming and not too difficult compared to Mozart and Beethoven. Again, their charm is absolute. So if you are looking to expand your repertoire more into the Classical Era, Haydn is a no brainer. I love Haydn because of the delight, charm, and wit in his music. While Mozart and Beethoven are too high to be understood, Haydn is almost understandable. So please, give Haydn a listen.   

No.2 Alexander Scriabin

Alexander Scriabin(1872-1915) was one of the greatest geniuses to every walk the Earth. His character his as mysterious as his music. Starting as a Romantic composer, Scriabin pushed the very borders of music itself to have a whole new sound that was totally his own. Both in Imperial Russia, Scriabin’s piano talents were discovered early. He also had a hobby of taking pianos apart, repairing them, evening building entire pianos from scratch. Attending conservatory with Sergei Rachmaninoff, Scriabin was always near the top of the class. Scriabin is believed to have three musical periods, one like Beethoven. Scriabin had an early Romantic period, a middle more adventurous period, and a crazy atonal period. Scriabin began to experiment more and more with atonality, entering into a whole new world of sounds, without any trace of conventional rules. Scriabin also toured all over Europe and the United States to much appraisal. However, Scriabin also had the belief that he was God, a reincarnation of the Messiah. Towards the end, Scriabin became more and more obsessed with a groundbreaking work he intended to write called “Mysterium”. He intended to have it performed at the top of the Himalayas, which would then bring on the apocalypse and the world would “dissolve into bliss”. Scriabin only wrote a few small sketches of the work before dying of a lip infection at the age of 43 in 1915. It is commonly believed that Scriabin would have achieved total atonality had he lived longer. Complete atonality would be achieved by the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg. 

Scriabin wrote many great works, particular for solo piano, much like Chopin, a composer he adored. Scriabin even wrote 24 preludes in all 12 keys Op.11 based on Chopin’s own Op.28 Preludes. Scriabin wrote Poems, similar to Chopin’s nocturnes. However, Scriabin’s most groundbreaking piano works are his piano sonatas. Publishing 10 sonatas, they each become more and more progressively atonal and unstable. His “White Mass” Sonata No.7 Op.64 and “Black Mass” No.9 Op.68 are his most famous. Scriabin also left behind five large scale symphonies, his “Poem of Ecstasy”, among other works, even a piano concerto. However it is surely is style of composition that has the habit of taking the listener and performer. There is so much genius into his music that makes it have a sound like no other. For me, playing his Poem Op.32 No.1 is like a dream, not conservative and boring, yet not too radical and unstable either. It is like a perfect blend that sounds like pure heaven. So why would such a brilliant mind be so forgotten? 

Shortly after Scriabin’s death came the Russian revolution in 1917. The Russian Civil War that followed left millions dead and with the birth of Stalin’s regime. All traditional music was banned for a short time. Rachmaninoff himself fled the country, never to return. However, composers like Prokofiev and Shostakovich, the next generation of Russian composers studied and was influenced by Scriabin’s music. Prokofiev was said to have written his famous “Visions Fugitives” Op.22 directly from Scriabin. However, by the mid-20th century, Scriabin’s music did make a comeback with such great pianists like Vladimir Horowitz, Sviatoslav Richter, Glenn Gould, and Vladimir Ashkenazy among others. With Scriabin making an appearance in the concert hall slowly, perhaps he will be well known. 

No.1 Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann(1810-1856) was surely one of the greatest Romantic composers to ever live. If not THE greatest. He wrote many masterpieces in his life, like none other. He was also a lover of literature and poetry, who often combined his passions of literature and music to write some of the most breathtaking music. However, his life was a series of tragedies, reflected in his music. Born to a cultural family in 1810 in the Kingdom of Saxony(now Germany), Schumann discovered music and the piano at the age of 7. He was encouraged by his father to both pursue music and composition. The death of his father when he was 15 and the suicide of his sister shortly after devastated Schumann and nearly destroyed his future. His mother demanded that he put music aside and study Law. However, his pursuit of music continued in his 20s. He was told by piano teacher Friederich Wieck that with practice he would become the greatest pianist in the world. However a second tragedy destroyed his career with an injury to his hand that stole his career as a concert pianist. Schumann instead dedicated his time to composition. His early works “Abegg Variations” Op.1, “Papillons” Op.2, “Carnival” Op.9 and “Kinderszenen” Op.15 were all in his early period. Schumann also fell in love with Wieck’s daughter, Clara and married her despite her father’s protest and Schumann being 9 years Clara’s senior. Clara and Robert enjoyed a life together. Schumann worked as a composer, critic, teacher, and music writer. Clara worked as a mother and also a pianist. She played Robert’s music.  Schumann also guided the young Johannes Brahms onto a path of a career. In 1854, after years of mental instability, he suffered from multiple personality disorder, possibly bi-polar, and schizophrenia, he attempted suicide and was institutionalized. He died in an asylum in 1856. 

So why was Schumann so great? Because of the huge amount of Romantic works he composed. He was a master of piano composition, similar to Chopin in quality, yet he had a more artistic, raw sound as opposed to Chopin’s near perfect sound. However he left behind a huge amount of music outside of the solo piano. He composed many of the popular German “Lieder”, often writing dozens at a time. He left behind string quartets and even a master piano quartet. He also composed four symphonies. The third “Rhine” Symphony No.3 Op.97 is his most favorite. He also wrote a brilliant piano concert in A minor Op.54, some believing it to be the greatest piano concerto of all time. Schumann is a model of the perfect Romantic, so why is he not nearly so well known as Chopin or even Brahms for that matter? 

The honest question is, I have no idea. Myself, I did not regard Schumann as a great composer, surely nothing compared to Schubert, until I listened to him. His sound was spectacular to listen to. Maybe this reason is simply because people cannot look further past the established music Gods to see these unknown Gods. The point of this whole post is to tell you to keep exploring. Keep finding composers that you love to listen to. While Mozart and Beethoven are established Gods, always look to listen to different composers and new sounds. Who knows? Maybe you might be behind the resurrection of a forgotten genius? So remember, always listen and always love!

Zodiac by Alphonse Mucha, 1896

Alphonse Mucha is definitly one of my favorite painters. I’m in love with his style Art Nouveau (artistic movement from the end of the 19th century). He made a lot of posters (for Sarah Bernhartd’s parts in various plays), also advertising posters, decorative panels…these being his most famous artworks. Mucha is Czech, and made posters about his homeland.

He offers a new look on advertisement as he can link real art and commercials. Therefore it is representativ of his time. Great colors, details, recognizable style, I advise you to take a look at his whole work if you don’t know him and if you all ready do, well look for new artworks to surprise you ;)

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The Basilica of St Peter and St Paul is a neo-Gothic church in Vyšehrad fortress in Prague, Czech Republic. Originally founded in 1070-1080 by the Czech King Vratislav II, the Romanesque basilica suffered a fire in the year 1249 and has been rebuilt in Gothic and later in neo-Gothic style. The basilica features an impressive stone mosaic above its entry, and its twin 58 m towers can be seen atop a hill to the south from along the Vltava River in central Prague.
Behind the church is located large park and Vyšehrad cemetery, the final resting place of many famous Czechs, including author Karel Čapek. In 2003 the church was elevated to basilica by Pope John Paul II. (x)

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Karel Kryl  (April 12, 1944 Kroměříž – March 3, 1994 Munich) was an iconic Czech singer-songwriter and performer of many protest songs in which he strongly criticized and identified the shortcomings and inhumanity of the Communist and later also post-communist regime in his home country. The repertoire of his songs ranged from short, percussive, pamphlet songs to longer melancholic pieces. 

His most famous song Bratříčku zavírej vrátka (Close the Gate, Little Brother) was composed spontaneously on 22.8. 1968 as an immediate reaction to the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. 

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Small Wonder: Alfons Mucha

Okay, this is more of a big wonder, but Alfons Mucha’s paintings are definitely wonderful. We visited his exhibit in the National Gallery in Prague right across the street from our apartment, which maybe had close to twenty of his paintings that hung in a room bigger than my house. It had to be huge, because just one painting is probably three times height.

Mucha was an extremely famous Czech artist in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His paintings were very cinematic and usually related to Czech history in some way. I’m not completely familiar with that, so I didn’t understand all of his paintings. But I didn’t have to. Their beauty was enough. It took so long to look at one painting because it was so massive, and I had to take small side steps to appreciate all of the detail in them.

Most of the paintings were so full with detail and almost completely covered in a scene. The particular painting in the picture, “The Slavs in Their Original Homeland,” was a little different. All of Mucha’s paintings had at least one person looking out at you, and this one had less going on, so that person was more piercing. I walked up to it as close as you could without getting in trouble, much like the girl in the photo. Not just that one, but also all the paintings felt like they just attracted you to them. I was so amazed at the detail and it was extremely impressive how many of these enormous, beautiful paintings that Mucha finished in his lifetime.

ZAPPA & VACLAV HAVEL

When Zappa was invited to Prague by Vaclav Havel in January 1990, he was reportedly shocked at his instant popularity, as well as by how well people knew his music—in the 1970s and 1980s Czechs listened to Zappa thanks to albums that were smuggled into communist Czechoslovakia via secret networks that transported literature, music, and even musical instruments.

The connection may not seem immediately obvious, but Frank Zappa’s popularity in Prague is closely connected to the dark days of the dissident era, when his music and that of the Velvet Underground were blacklisted by the censors. For example, Frank Zappa’s second album, Absolutely Free was smuggled into Czechoslovakia within a year of its 1967 release, and critics claim that the music influenced the famous Czech underground rock band, The Plastic People of the Universe. Zappa’s tunes thus came to represent freedom and independent thought to dissidents in Czechoslovakia. Reports have it that when young kids in communist Czechoslovakia played heavy rock music, the police would tell them to “turn off that Frank Zappa music.”

Then, in January 1990, Vaclav Havel appointed Frank Zappa as “Special Ambassador to the West on Trade, Culture and Tourism,” much to the disgruntlement of U.S. Secretary of State, James Baker, who is famous for declaring: “You can do business with the United States or you can do business with Frank Zappa.” Still, Vaclav Havel’s friendship with Frank Zappa grew, and Zappa shared his ideas about increasing tourism to Czechoslovakia, and explained the concept of credit cards which were then an unknown quantity in this part of the world. It was Frank Zappa’s brief interlude in the world of international trade and diplomatic relations—and the vantage-point was Prague.

Vaclav Havel still counts himself amongst Zappa’s big fans, and says that “Frank Zappa was one of the gods of the Czech underground.” There he’ll surely stay in the memories of his Czech friends