Vincent Hložník was involved in book illustration for over half a century and his relationship to literature left an indelible mark on his personality and the entire body of his work. His illustrations are unmistakable due to their style, expressive and firm drawing as well as their occasionally nervous and interrupted and frequently enriched dynamic hatching. His illustrations of Slovak and foreign poetry feature unusual compositions, full of elements of fantasy and poetic metaphor, allusion and an alternation of poetics, drama, tragedy and irony. His illustrations possess a unique power of expression and a convincing reflection of the atmosphere and essence of a story. Hložník relies on impressive line drawing and graphic techniques whose black-and-white magic is emphasized by decent color accents. In the 1950s and 1960s he created his best artwork while also working on large graphic cycles for works by Dante, Goethe and Homer, which stood up to the strictest criteria. With the same passion he also created demanding illustrations for books for children and youth, through which he influenced the artistic sensitivity and relationship to literature of several generations of readers. His illustrations for Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1955), Andersen’s fairy tales (1956) and Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1959) are among the most outstanding. These and many others, with their large format, dynamic composition and radiant narrative scenes with many figures in the background, surprise by their tantalizing poetics and unexpected views from above and below, perspective abbreviations, deformations and shape exaggerations, as well as city hideaways in which we can recognize the architectural accents of old Bratislava. His dynamic drawing and expressiveness and impressive range of colors open the door to a world of fantasy for readers and transform the pages of a book into a kingdom full of fascinating experiences and feelings.
Vincent Hložník (October 22, 1919 Svederník – December 10, 1997 Bratislava)
From 1937 to 1942 Hložník studied at the Department of Monumental and Decorative Painting of the School of Applied Arts in Prague under professors František Kysela and Josef Novák. From 1952 to 1972 he worked at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava, and as a professor and head of the department of free printmaking and book illustration, he laid the foundations of the “Slovak graphic school” and trained dozens of graphic artists and illustrators. He is one of the key figures of Slovak painting and printmaking of the second half of the 20th century, but his contribution to illustration, in which he introduced fresh invention, distinctive elements of expression and imagination and visionary and surrealistic principles, is also immensely significant. Hložník illustrated over 350 books and won numerous prizes and awards. In 1958 he won the David Bright Foundation Award at the 29th Biennial in Venice; in 1959 and 1965 he won the Silver Medal at the IBA International Book Art Exhibition in Leipzig, and in 1961 and 1967 the Fraňo Kráľ Award. He was instrumental in founding BIB (Biennial of Illustration Bratislava), for which he was presented with the BIB’s Honorary Plaque.