An exhibition of caricatures of Václav Havel opened at Prague’s Malostranská Beseda on Tuesday evening to mark the 80th anniversary of the late Czech president’s birth. The exhibition, called “World Draws Havel”, includes some eighty portraits by caricaturists from 30 countries. It will be on display throughout September.
It all started three years ago, when the Czech Union of Cartoonists made a call on caricaturists from around the world to send their drawings of the late president, dissident and playwright Václav Havel. In the end, they had to select the best eighty from more than 1300 drawings from 30 countries in the world.
Beside hundreds of submissions from Europe, especially neighbouring Poland, Slovakia and Germany, they also received drawings from much remote countries such as Colombia, Mexico, India, Costa Rica.
I asked the deputy head of the union, Jaroslav Dostál, what was the initial idea behind the exhibition “World Draws Havel”:
“First of all, we are marking 80 years since Václav Havel’ birth this year and we wanted to make our own contribution to his memory. He is one of the people who really made history in the 1990s and was a sort of symbol of Eastern Europe. We wanted to make sure his memory stays alive. To, put it mildly, Václav Havel, along with Charles IV and Jára Cimrman, is the most prominent figure in Czech history.”
Jaroslav Dostál says that despite the various approaches in depicting Václav Havel, the drawings had one thing in common: they all approached the late Czech president with a great deal of respect.
As a caricaturist, Jaroslav Dostál says Václav Havel is a relatively easy subject to draw due to his distinctive features:
“Generally I would say it is easier to draw people who are older and more experienced, because it is reflected in their faces. In the case of Václav Havel, the most characteristic trait was his smile, which showed that he was a very kind person.
“Caricaturists always look for some trademark in people’s faces, which in his case was the moustache. But the most important thing in any caricature are definitely the eyes, because they really reveal a person’s character.”
The exhibition at Malostranská beseda will run until the end of September. The Czech Union of Cartoonists is hoping that it will afterwards travel all around the Czech Republic as well as beyond its borders.
All of the 1300 caricatures can also be seen on the Union’s official website www.ceska-karikatura.cz/en/svet-kresli-havla.
The exhibition “World Draws Havel” is just one of many events marking what would have been the ex-president’s 80th birthday. The project Havel 80 will culminate on October 15 in Prague’s Lucerna with a series of concerts and screenings.