Olbram Zoubek - Sculptor

Olbram Zoubek

Biography

Olbram Zoubek was born in Prague on 21st April 1926. Though he studied at a technical secondary school, his interest in modelling was supported by his parents. Soon after the Second World War, after a brief practical experience in a stone-cutting workshop, he started studying sculpture under Prof. Josef Wagner at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. He completed his studies in 1952. The first years of his studies were encouraging: they took place during the period of freedom. After 1948 the atmosphere of freedom changed into the hegemony of ideological dogmas, purges and fear introduced by the communist regime. Professor Wagner defended himself and his students against these impacts. He acquainted them with the techniques of conservation, so until the 1950’s Zoubek earned his living by restoring sculptures and graffito. This activity strengthened, among other things, his attitude towards the values of tradition. In school he became acquainted with the sculptress Eva Kmentova, who later became his wife. In the 1960’s they left their common studio, Zoubek adapted a former stone-cutting workshop in the old part of Prague New Town, where he has been working up to the present time. He orientated himself, like the other members of his generation, on modern art, which was rejected by communist ideology. He became member of the group “trasa” in the frame of which he began to exhibit and publish his works. Zoubek’s work and organisational activity essentially contributed to the development of art in the Czechoslovakia of the 1960’s. The tragic fall of the Prague Spring in 1968 put a check on the freedom of artists and citizens. Zoubek’s exhibitions, the realisation of his statues in public places, his participation in international sculptor’s symposiums, and no less his democratic position caused his persecution by the totalitarian power. The authorities began to eliminate him from public competitions; he couldn’t even participate in exhibitions for a long time. He took refuge in the activity of conservator (for 20 years he restored graffito in the Litomyšl Castle). Together with his friends he participated in the activities of the alternative culture opposing the governing regime under difficult conditions. 1989 Czechoslovakia returned to democracy; his struggle for freedom ended.
Olbram Zoubek’s work, predominantly reflecting the artist’s belief in immortality of spiritual values, belongs to the humanistic messages of the present time.