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Albin Brunovsky - Ex Libris: From the Studio of the Master of Small Format Printmaking

Albín Brunovský (1935-1997) was a painter, printmaker and illustrator from Bratislava, and one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, especially when it comes to small format printmaking. A dense net can be drawn upon the world map based on all the cities Brunovsky exhibited in - he had solo exhibitions, took part in significant international biennials and received prestigious awards in Ljubljana, Krakow, Frechen, Varna, Freiburg, and the list goes on. In his prints, Brunovsky’s attempts to preserve that which is most fragile in the human spirit. The works seem like echoes from the past, as he finds his motifs in the realms of the surreal and the fantastic.
The artist was educated in the traditions of Vincent Hloznik’s school, whose approach he maintained in his academic career as a professor at the Academy in Bratislava. This background gave him the opportunity to learn all the secrets and techniques of printmaking, which was apparent in the surprising perfection and meticulousness of his prints. He used a magnifying glass to cut and etch his copper plates, like an engraver would. This kind of patience is what we imagine the Renaissance artists had to have. On top of a multitude of details on each plate, he maintains a clarity of expression and drawing precision which resembles that of a postage stamp. His artistic achievements in the old forms are displayed in many limited editions and private collections of small format prints in Switzerland, Czechoslovakia and Japan. By touching upon the same motif over and over again, the artist tries to discover the multitude of meanings behind some fundamental concepts. Part of his rich iconography can be interpreted and recognized as dreams, apocalyptic visions of bacchanalia, imagined cities, seas and ships, boats filled with odd figures, man and woman - the protagonists of those imaginary fortunes, various towers and Babylons. In this system of symbols the figure of the woman is associated with an evil spirit, not unlike Eve or Pandora.
Brunovsky exhibited his works in Belgrad four times; the last time he came to Belgrade was for an exhibition in the Graphic Collective in 1984. That exhibition and the meetings around it represented an important artistic event. His artistic imagination and skillful technique, as well as his melancholy charisma, left a deep trace of friendship and respect which was never lost. The exhibition “A Fairy Tale for Adults” in 2017. was an homage to Brunovsky’s printmaking oeuvre.



A. Brunovský, photo by B. Karanović
Exhibition of A. Brunovský in the Graphic Collective, 1984, exhibition opened by prof. B. Kršić
Publication A. Brunovský ex-libris 1970-1995, The World of Ex-libris, the Graphic Collective, October 1995

The ex libris retrospective which was held in the Graphic Collective in 1995 as part of the large-scale project entitled “The World of Ex Libris”, proved once again that Brunovsky had devoted his entire artistic being to the small format. As a form of applied printmaking, the ex libris form gave Brunovsky a chance to be playful in combining literary motifs with the specific personalities of his clients/ex libris owners. At the same time, ex libris was a question of devotion and an artistic challenge which requires a synergy between the individual spirit and the skillful hand. Today, Brunovsky’s ex libris editions are precious collectibles appreciated all over the world - the series “Dream”, “Summer View”, “The Drunken Boat”, “Orpheus and Eurydice”, “Lady with a Hat”...
His affection for 15th and 16th-century printmaking was confirmed by a series of works which are essentially the old form of printmaking combined with a contemporary approach. For this reason Brunovsky’s ex libris series can be seen as parts of a larger fairy tale for adults, with many iterations of biblical quotes about the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve finding their very own Noah’s Ark. Fiction and metaphor take over from elements of reality as the erotic tension brings the eternal duality of the sexes to the realms of fantasy.
The fact that masters such as Albin Brunovsky were present in our digital civilization just goes to show that matters in art have never been finite and every era has its own weirdos and wonders. Despite all the technological achievements we have made in all fields, we still feel the need for and have the ability to understand these kinds of fantastical works.
His compatriots called him master Brunovsky, and his friends from Belgrade, who greatly appreciated and respected him, regarded him as a poet enchanted by history and the past.

Ljiljana Ćinkul
Translation from Serbian: Dunja Karanović


The Balkan Stage, ex libris B. Kršić, 1995, intaglio, 9 x 10 cm
Rachel, ex libris J. Bílek, 1976, intaglio, 10.3 x 8.5 cm
The Christmas Boat, ex libris B. Levych, 1990, intaglio, 11 x 8 cm


The Summer Image, No. 1, ex libris J. Souverein, 1978, intaglio, 10 x 12.6 cm
Youth, ex libris J. Pavlík, 1980, intaglio, ø 12.1 cm


The Frustration of Tolerance, ex libris W.J. Götz, 1982, intaglio, 10.9 x 7.4 cm
Voyage at Dusk, ex libris A. Hausweiler, 1991, intaglio, 12.1 x 10.1 cm
Il fascino della morte, D'Annunzio competition, Pescara, 1988, intaglio, 19.5 x 13.8 cm
The Pilgrimage to a Good Hope, ex libris O. Kalabusová, 1990, intaglio, 13.1 x 10.1 cm


Great-aunts - Melancholically, ex libris K. Rödel, 1976, intaglio, 10.5 x 11.1 cm
Paradise, ex libris I. Panenka, 1995, intaglio, 10.1 x 9.1 cm


Highlands, ex libris L. Bergomi, 1993, intaglio, 12.8 x 10 cm
Eve and Adam, ex libris H. i F. Kriška, 1974, intaglio, 11.4 x 7.8 cm
The Song, ex libris A. Vrubel, 1989, intaglio, 13 x 10.2 cm



Graphic Collective Gallery, Dragoslava Jovanovića 11, Belgrade, Weekdays 12 - 20h, Saturdays 12 - 17h, Sundays closed
tel: +381.11.3285.923; tel/fax: +381.11.2627.785