Bust of Josef Lada in his home town of Hrusice
Today is Josef Lada’s birthday. He was a Czech painter and author born on December 17, 1887 in in the small village of Hrusice, Czechoslovakia, into a cobbler’s family, Lada moved to Prague at the age of 14 to become an apprentice binder. Entirely self-taught, he created his own style as a caracaturist for newspapers, and later as an illustrator. He produced landscapes, created frescoes and designed costumes for plays and films. Over the years he created a series of paintings and drawings depicting traditional Czech occupations, and wrote and illustrated the adventures of Mikeš, a little black cat who could talk.
He is best known as the illustrator of Jaroslav Hašek’s World War One novel The Good Soldier Švejk, a classic book I urge everyone to read. It is a humorous political commentary on the Czech world view. He produced nearly 600 cartoons of the Švejk characters, depicting Austria-Hungary officers and civil servants as incompetent, abusive and often drunk.
- Some interesting facts about Lada
- At the age of one, little Josef fell over in his workroom and managed to injure himself so badly that he permanently lost sight in his right eye.
- He has had gallery exhibits in Paris, Vienna, Geneva, Riga, Venice, Rome, Edinburgh, Budapest, Moscow and Sofia
- He designed costumes and theater sets for the National Theatre and other Czech theaters.
- There is an asteroid named for Josef Lada (17625, 1996 AY1).
- To complement Jaroslav Hašek’s Good Soldier Svejk, Lada’s drew over both 1300 illustrations (both color and black and white). New editions of this book are still published in many countries all over the world. The 1956 animated version of the movie “Svejk” by Jiří Trnka is considered a treasure of the Czech cinematography.
- While Lada’s Christmas scenes remained popular under communism, the regime took exception to religious figures in a 1970s calendar which were replaced by a bowl of fruit.
- His children’s book Mikeš about a talking black cat recently sparked a debate about racist undertones in Czech literary works for its depiction of a Roma character.
- His youngest daughter Eva tragically died during an aerial bombardment on February 14, 1945. She was only seventeen years old.
I find his love his illustrations, particularly these two.