Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hanus Schwaiger

Water Gnome
tempera on wood
57 x 28 cm
National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic

Hanus Schwaiger (1854-1912) was a Czech painter, designer, graphic artist and professor, best known for his fairy-tale illustrations. His home in Prague, the "Villa Tara", was declared a national landmark in 1921 and currently serves as a hotel.

He was born to a Jewish ironmonger, but was baptized as a Catholic. In 1874, he audited classes at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Some of his first works were purchased, but later attempts to be financially independent failed and he returned, penniless, to his hometown in 1881. Eventually, he found work as an illustrator and was able to visit the Netherlands in 1888, where he became interested in Dutch architecture and softened his painting style. The following year, he was invited him to visit Moravian Slovakia. But in 1891, he had to leave, apparently because he was being pursued by creditors, and moved to a town of Zlin Region where he lived in a forester's house, courtesy of a Baron.

In 1896, he was able to travel to Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, where he received a commission to copy the frescoes at the Monastery of the Madonna of Lourdes in Verona. In 1899, he accepted a teaching position at a newly opened university of technology, but was not pleased, as the work involved simple technical drawing, rather than art. To make matters worse, his creditors tracked him down again and he was able to avert legal action only by receiving financial assistance from a poet.
Shortly after, he was awarded a commission by the Thonet brothers. He painted six watercolors, depicting life in their factory, which were exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in 1900. He also created some popular tapestry designs for the Moravska gobelinova manufaktura. Two years later, he returned to Prague and was named a Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1906, he developed a tumor on his tongue. He underwent a successful surgery in the Netherlands but, after a few years, the tumor returned. After several more surgeries, it was decided to remove his tongue entirely, and he died of complications not long after.