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Jiří Kayser 90
Last year Jiří and his wife Dagmar celebrated the 70the anniversary of their wedding. They talked about their marriage in the humble language of people who know that profound experiences and bombastic language don't mix too well.They talked about it, simply and occasionaly movingly, on a documentary film made about them by Marketa Slepčíková on her television program Nová Vize on the OMNI Ontario channel. This year, on November 16, Jiří will celebrate his 90th birthday.  Ninety years he can survey - even with the greatest humility - with a good feeling that he is leaving behind deep and lovely traces.
He was born in 1918 in Pisek, Czechoslovakia. His family came to Bohemia many, many years ago from Holland, where his forefathers were also involved with art and actually were among the first to experiment with group portrait. For a considerable time, Jiří was having a hard time to decide between art and music (multiplicity of talents has its own unique and specific problems}. He learned to play violin {his brother studied cello with the renown Professor Sadlo) and was sufficiently good to play - at the age of 14 - in a quartet. His family was on good terms with many musicians - one of the visitors was Leoš Janáček. Between the two world wars, Jiří studied at the Charles University (history of art, anatomy and pychology) as well as at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague where he graduated (his studies were interrupted by closing of universities by the Nazis) in 1947. One of his teachers at the Academy was Cyril Bouda, whose most useful advice probably was: paint it as you see it. During his early studies, Jiří spent whole days copying old masters – Dürer, impressionists, Piccaso. His philosophy of work: Every stroke of your brush is like a word in the story you are telling. The line you draw must relate to everything around it, just as a word must relate to the words which precede it as well as to the words which follow it. 
Even though he decided to become a painter, music remained one of the leading inspirations of his art - he painted Talich, Kubelík, Boris Krajný, Smetana Quartet (his favoured group) and in the end also the Prague of the musical.

Kayser paints everything he sees, finding inpiration in the smallest leaf when walking in the forest, he is fascinated by the curve of a woman's body just as much as by the pathos of the human destiny. His art was respected even by the communists. For example he was given the Order of Work and an award from the Antonín Zápotocký Mine. But when he was asked to become a member of the Communist party, he refused and when in August 1968 the armies of the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia and some Soviet soldiers shot at his car and President Svoboda was rumored to have stated that he would go to Moscow, ask Brezhnev to release Dubček and should Brezhnev refused, he (Svoboda) would returns his medals and shoot himself, Jiří Kayser (and partiularly Dagmar) felt that it was time to go. Canada welcomed them two weeks before Christmas, on December 10,1968. They lived a number of years in Montral and - at the beginning (as is the case with most refugees) it was nothing much: Jiří and Dagmar each earned 50 dollars a week ad in addition, Jiří felt depressed by the poor quality of the Canadian art. But then he bagan to teach and made a name for himself as a portrait painter. After the Velvet.revolution in Czechoslovakia, a retrospective of his work was exhibited in his native Pisek, his graphics are a part of the permanent collection in the Vienna Albertinum and his paintings were successfully exhibited in Europe, United States and Canada. Today, Jiří and Dagmar live in Campbridge, a city in the middle of Ontario and feel happy. They have a beautiful marriage, two good sons and three lovely granddaughters, they are healthy and as Dagmar humbly says: What more can you ask?

And Jiří Kayser's art? Zuzana Hahn sees Jiří as an artist who developped his own style, who sees the substance of things with clear eyes. His art mocks all isms. It is largely sensual: we hear in it violins and cellos as well as clicking of high heels of a woman walking on the street. We smell in his paintings the scent of the fresh soil in Danae in receiving her divine lover and the scent of Eve's apple. And if we are really quiet, we may understand 'Remebering Brueghel's Blind man'.

 And yes, Jiří Kayser, who - as the only non- member of Sokol - received, in 2005 by Sokol Canada", the Medal of Dr. Miroslav Tyrš for outstanding contribution, in 1982 made a beautiful drawing of the bird falcon for the V. Jubilee Sokol Festival of the Czechoslovak Sokol Abroad, held in 1982 in Vienna at the occaison of Tyrs' 150th birthday. And in 1986, Sokol representatives presented - at the occasion of the VI. Jubilee Sokol Festival in Curych - to the United States ambassador in Switzerland, Kayser's painting of the Statue of Liberty dedicated to President Ronald Reagan, who thanked for the gift by a personal note. I believe the painting is now in President Reagan's Library. 

Copyright © z archívu paní Zuzany Hahn

Tento článek byl v Pozitivních novinách poprvé publikován 16. 11. 2008.