The Art of Czechoslovakia Amid a Fight Over De-Accessioning

“Czech Routes”—the fourth in a series, following shows of émigré artists from Germany, Poland, and Austria—contains works by twenty-one painters, printmakers, and sculptors who left Czechoslovakia at different times in the past century. The earliest of these, the lithographer and portraitist Emil Orlík, came to London in 1898. Orlík’s family belonged to the Prague circle that included Kafka and Rilke, and that intense, questioning culture is part of the identity that later artists cherish. One fine bronze by Irena Sedlecká, who stayed in Britain after the USSR crushed the Prague Spring in 1968, is a sculpture of Kafka she made in 1967. “Reading The Trial,” Sedlecká said, “I understood for the first time what it means to be Czech. He made sense of those terrible times when the authorities would simply pull you in for questioning, without your ever knowing the reason. That experience has shaped our national psyche.”

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