Please join the Harriman Institute and the East Central European Center for an exhibit opening reception with brief Introductory Remarks by Steven Mansbach, Professor of Twentieth Century Art, University of Maryland.
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Slavic and Eastern Europe print culture, the Czech National Library and its Slavonic Library contain many unique and unpublished collections.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 (l887-l961), 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 Kasinec and Filip Tuček.