Josef Čapek

1887 - 1945

Josef Čapek was as a painter inspired by the Cubism period, which he recast in a distinctive way in his artwork. Even his specific handwriting is included on numerous illustrations, book covers and scenic designs. He virtuously narrated the story about a dog and a cat to children. The breadth of his engagement was remarkable. At the beginning, he created part of his literary artwork together with his brother Karel. Josef was an introvert, at the time of his masterwork focused on the depth of the human core. His poems from a concentration camp, the last part of his work, was fortunately preserved thanks to a few fellow cellmates. Josef’s tragic destiny is far beyond comprehension. (Aleš Fetters)

Josef Čapek
Josef Čapek By date
  • 1887 1887 - 23.3. born in Hronov
  • 1890 1890 - family moves to their own house in Úpice
  • 1892 - 1897 1892 - 1897 - attends a local common school in Úpice
  • 1897 - 1900 1897 - 1900 - attends a local burgeois school in Úpice
  • 1900 1900 - lives in Žacléř to become familiar with the German language
  • 1901 - 1903 1901 - 1903 - studies at a German professional weaving school in Vrchlabí
  • 1903 1903 - works in Úpice as a laborer in Mr. F. M. Oberlander’s weaving mill
  • 1903 - 1910 1903 - 1910 - studies at the School of Applied Arts in Prague with Professor E. Dítě and Professor K. Mašek
  • 1907 1907 - family moves to Prague
  • 1910 1910 - meets Jarmila Pospíšilová, his future wife, goes across Germany to Paris
  • 1911 1911 - travels alone around Spain
  • 1918 1918 - becomes the editor of the Prague satirical magazine called Nebojsa, enters the editorial board of the National Journal (Národní listy)
  • 1919 1919 - 3.5. married Jarmila Pospíšilová
  • 1921 - 1939 1921 - 1939 - is the editor at the Prague editorial office of People’s News (Lidové noviny)
  • 1923 1923 - 30.4. birth of daughter Alena (died in 1971)
  • 1938 1938 - April to May – trip to U.S.S.R. with the writers J. Kopta and M. Majerová
  • 1939 1939 - 1.9. is arrested in Želiva and transferred to prison in Pankrác, Prague; 9th of September is transferred to the Dachau Concentration Camp; 26th of September is transferred to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp
  • 1942 1942 - 26th of June is transferred to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
  • 1945 1945 - 25th of February is transferred to the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in Lower Saxony. The last report on his life is from the 4th of April. He died apparently as a consequence of typhus. The date of his death and location of his grave are unknown.
1887 1945
Selected artwork stories theatrical plays novels fairytales
Full list of works
Josef Čapek Artwork
  • 1907 1907 - first preserved drawings and the oil painting In the Garden (V zahradě)
  • 1908 1908 - first graphic attempts
  • 1910 1910 - paints the oil painting Kinský’s Garden (Kinského zahrada)
  • 1911 1911 - paints Mother Brushing a Child (Matka česající dítě)
  • 1912 1912 - paints the first Cubist paintings
  • 1913 1913 paints Cubist Heads (Hlavy), Figures (Postavy}, The First Drunkard (Piják), Harmonicist (Harmonikář) and Sailor (Námořník)
  • 1914 1914 - paints Head of a Man (Hlava muže)
  • 1915 1915 - the painting Head of a Man in a Hat (Hlava muže v klobouku)
  • 1916 1916 - paintings of girls
  • 1917 1917 - the paintings Sailors (Námořníci) and Harlots (Nevěstky). Begins correspondence with Bohuslav Reynek.
  • 1918 1918 - finishes the painting Beggar Woman with a Child (Žebračka s dítětem), ”The Album of Ten Graphic Sheets“ (Album deseti grafických listů) is published
  • 1919 1919 - paints Drunkards (Pijáci), publishes the second album ”Linoleum Set of Eight“ (Osmero linoleí). Between 1919 – 1938, he illustrated 35 books and created more than 500 book covers.
  • 1920 1920 - the paintings Mr. Mysrelf and Black King (Černošský král)
  • 1921 1921 - the paintings Man with a Chest (Muž s bednou) and Still Life (Zátiší). Between 1921 – 1932, he created scenic and costume designs for 60 theatrical plays.
  • 1922 1922 - paints landscapes and children’s motifs
  • 1923 1923 - beginning of the so-called period of ”men“
  • 1927 1927 - paints the picture Wooden Man (Dřevěný muž)
  • 1930 1930 - paints Flower Girl (Květinářka) and Children with Violets (Děti s fialkami)
  • 1933 1933 - paints the pictures Cloud (Mrak) and Oravanians (Oravanky)
  • 1934 1934 - the paintings Daisies (Kopretiny) and Flowers (Květiny)
  • 1936 1936 - the paintings Violets (Fialky) and Flower Saleswoman (Prodavačka květin)
  • 1937 1937 - finishes paintings from the series Nights (Noci) and the paintings Fishermen (Rybáři), Little Fire (Ohníček) and Heaviness (Těžko). Draws the series Dictator’s Shoes (Diktátorské boty)
  • 1938 1938 - draws the political drawing Deserted, Robbed, but Unbroken (Opuštěna, oloupena, ale nezlomena). Begins drawing and painting the series Fire (Oheň) (a few hundred drawings, 50 paintings)
  • 1939 1939 - draws and paints the series Desire (Touha)
  • 1942 1942 - small drawings and oil paintings
1907 1942

It is a wonderful region, that region of Svatoňovice, Odolov, Markoušovice and everything else that is around the Hawk Mountains (Jestřebí hory) and Žaltman, and those fossils, the petrified leftovers of ancient nature, are offering even more curiosity to it … If we say ”ours“ and ”at

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Film Adaptations (0)

From his literary work, we firstly have to mention the one that is surely the most popular – ”Tales about A Dog and A Cat.“ Generations of children have seen this series as their bedtime fairytale. The bedtime fairytale series from 1950 had six episodes and was directed by Eduard Hofman.

Tales about A Dog and A Cat:https://www.csfd.cz/film/177376-povidani-o-pejskovi-a-kocicce/komentare/

The director Jan Matějovský undertook a television adaptation of the play ”From the Life of Insects“ (Ze života hmyzu) in 1973. Even names like Viktor Preiss, Ilja Prachař or Petr Čepek can be found in the casting.

A television film adaptation from the short story ”The Shadow of the Fern“ (Stín kapradiny) was shot in 1984. The director Karel Vláčil took charge of the film and with the assistance of Vladimír Kröner, they wrote the script. The music was composed by Jiří F. Svoboda.

The Shadow of the Fern:https://www.csfd.cz/film/9352-stin-kapradiny/prehled/

During the same year, Věra Jordánová directed the fairytale A Fat Grandpa. Even the Lotrando robber character, also known from the fairytales of Josef’s brother Karel, appears in the fairytale.

A Fat Grandpa:https://www.csfd.cz/film/229405-tlusty-pradedecek/prehled/

Other parts of Josef’s artwork were book illustrations, scenography, theatrical plays, reflections, essays and a number of poems. Similar to his brother Karel, Josef was also recognized as a columnist and a journalist.