EXHIBIT: The Lost World of Subcarpathian Rus’: The Lens of Rudolf Hůlka (1887-1961)

Event Location: 
Harriman Institute Atrium (12th Floor, 420 West 118th Street)
Date from: 
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Date to: 
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Long regarded as one of the premier repositories of the Russian, Slavic and Eastern Europe print culture, the Czech National Library and its Slavonic Library contain many unique and unpublished collections.  Numbered among these treasures are the recently discovered color slides, photographic prints and glass plate negatives by Rudolf Hůlka (1887-1961), a Czech economic offical by profession, as well as an artist, humanitarian, and eminent man of culture.  Hůlka’s combination of personal qualities and professional concerns are reflected in this significant contribution to the small number of known documentary and visual sources on the very early years of  post WW I Subcarpathian Rusyn  life and culture during the First Czechoslovakia (1918 – 1939).  As was the case with the work of his contemporary photographers and artists, such as Edward Steichen, Roman Vishniac, Florian Zapletal,  and the UPI’s Margaret Bourke-White, some of the photographs were posed, with an interest in creating  an aesthetically pleasing or politically persuasive  image.  In fact, so prominent are the aestheticizing  elements in some of the images that they appear to be calques of the oils and gouaches of the artists of the “Carpathian Barbizon”: Adalbert Erdelyi, Iosif Bokshai,  and  Zoltan Sholtes, among others.   It is, however, the documentary value of these images of ‘the peoples, the lands, and the sacred,” that provides a healthy corrective to the nostalgia and idealization of the homelands on the part of the thousands of immigrants and their descendants that left these lands after 1918.  For while Hůlka’s images certainly celebrate and romanticize the almost Arcadian landschaft of  Subcarpathian Rus’, they also document the abject poverty, environmental degradation, and potentially volatile matrix of ethnic identities―Rusyns, Jews, Roma,  Hungarians, Slovaks, Germans, Russians―languages, and religions (Orthodoxy, Eastern and Roman Rite Catholics, Protestants, and Jews) that characterized interwar Subcarpathian Rus’.  Indeed, this extraordinary mixture of peoples, languages, and cultures would soon experience changes associated with World War II, the onset of Soviet power, and the consequent integration of this region with Ukraine.

Robert Scott, Digital Humanities Librarian, Curator, with the assistance of Edward Kasinecand Filip Tuček.

Opening Reception Wednesday, 6 PM Wednesday, September 16. With brief Introductory Remarks at 6pm by Steven Mansbach, Professor of Twentieth Century Art, University of Maryland.

Robert Scott, Digital Humanities Librarian, Curator, with the assistance of Edward Kasinecand Filip Tuček.

Co-sponsored by the Harriman Institute and the East Central European Center.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, September 16, 2015 (All day) to Thursday, October 15, 2015 (All day)