Collection: Rudolf Kalvach

Rudolf Kalvach was born Vienna, Austria on Dec 22, 1883. He died in Kosmanos (now Kosmonosy), Bohemia in what is now the Czech Republic on March 13, 1932. 

Kalvach studied at the Hochschule für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna, under Alfred Roller. His woodcut series Il porto di Trieste is characteristic of his artistic activity during this period. With Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele he took part in the first exhibition of the Kunstschau at Schwarzenbergplatz, Vienna (1908; held by a group of artists who had left the Secession as the Klimtgruppe (1905)).

Bertold Löffler, Kokoschka and Kalvach all designed posters for the Kunstschau (1908) and consequently their styles are strongly analogous during this period. Kalvach’s compositions are even more expressive than Kokoschka’s. Kalvach also produced postcards for the Wiener Werkstätte (publ. 1908, 1909 and 1910), in which dramatic expression, under the veil of satire, makes itself even more apparent. They evoke a tragic feeling touched with the grotesque. Kalvach was also active as a member of the Neukunstgruppe.

Kalvach painted in tempera and in oil, on canvas and on panel. His early themes reflect the influence of Löffler. These works were often composed of large, monochromatic, brilliant patches of colour. Little remains of his monumental oil paintings, such as The Hunt (c. 1.5×2.0 m; exh. Vienna, Gal. Miethke, c. 1918; untraced). He worked as an advertising artist for the Austrian Lloyd; The Studio (1910) published reproductions of the Lloyd posters he designed. After he studied enamel under Adele von Stark at the Kunstgewerbeschule (1909–12), he made studies for enamels in tempera and watercolour, which were exhibited at the Galerie Miethke (1913).

Satire and social criticism were important factors in Kalvach’s productivity between 1908 and 1912. Preferring the woodcut technique, he never tired in portraying every aspect of the worker’s life in Trieste harbour. He attempted to express diverse moods by enhancing his woodcut prints with watercolours. He also taught at the Volkshochschule for adult education, founded by the Social Democrats in 1901 in Ottakring, a traditional workers’ district in Vienna. On 29 May 1912 he was admitted as a patient to a mental hospital where he was diagnosed as schizophrenic. Despite his discharge in September 1915 he was readmitted between 1921 and 1926 and died in another institution. - Oxford Art Online

A. Uboni and G. Uboni: ‘Rudolf Kalvach—Leben und Werk’, Expressive und dekorative Graphik in Wien zwischen 1905 und 1925 (exh. cat., Vienna, Mus. Angewandte Kst, 1979)
Le arti a Vienna (exh. cat., Venice, Pal. Grassi, 1984)