Author Topic: Unpacking Oldřich Menhart  (Read 116 times)

Offline Ngaire_W

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Unpacking Oldřich Menhart
« on: April 03, 2021, 03:29:21 AM »
Hi all,

Attended a workshop last week by Carl Rohrs on the work of Czech calligrapher Oldřich Menhart. Thought I'd start a thread of talk about his work if anyone else is interested.

Offline Ngaire_W

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Re: Unpacking Oldřich Menhart
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2021, 03:34:00 AM »
Here's an example I've been playing around with and trying to recreate. His is in black, mine is in green beneath.

I love the quirkiness and liveliness of his letters.

It seems to me that his letters are very 'built up' and drawn, with many of his strokes seeming to be built of two strokes. See close up at bottom. He has these funny little hairline serifs that have a tiny bit of weight to them. I've been combining a 15 degree pen angle with a flat pen angle to try to recreate his style but it's still alluding me.

« Last Edit: April 03, 2021, 03:42:36 AM by Ngaire_W »

Offline RD5

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Re: Unpacking Oldřich Menhart
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2021, 11:39:43 AM »
I think he is adjusting the pen angle mid stroke.

Offline Ngaire_W

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Re: Unpacking Oldřich Menhart
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2021, 12:32:15 PM »
@RD5 Hmm, so the pen width is equal to the thicker parts of the stems (towards the bottom?). Interesting theory!

Offline Ngaire_W

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Re: Unpacking Oldřich Menhart
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2021, 07:55:08 AM »
@Trazo I'm thinking of buying one of his books. As I know you have some of his books at home, I have a question for you. Which do book do you think is best for learning some of his calligraphic styles? I heard "Nauka O Pismu" is for students, so I guess it would be good for showing entire alphabets in upper and lowercase. However Carl Rohrs also mentioned in the class that the restrospective of his work is so comprehensive it almost makes "Nauka o Pismu" redundant https://www.antikvariat-benes.cz/detail/74791-oldrich-menhart-vybor-z-dila-pismare-a-upravce-knihy.html

What do you think?

Offline Trazo

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Re: Unpacking Oldřich Menhart
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2021, 02:43:19 PM »
@Ngaire_W  Glad to know you are playing with Menhart's inspiration. Your attempt looks really nice. From the calligraphic point of view, I would recommend Nauka o pismu, which is conceived as kind of hanbook. The book in your link is a whole life compilation of his work as a calligrapher and as a type designer. Very nice too. If you have an IG account or a whatsapp number I can send you a good quantity of pictures of these two books (and from a third one) so you can decide (you can send me a DM here or in IG: @bulutxin). I can't post them in the Forum for copyright reasons. Besides that, for me it is much easier if I can send them directly from my phone.

The other day I sent some one hundred pictures to Riccardo (the organizer of the workshop) with a lot of Czech stuff: exemplars of practically all the Czech types from 20th century (there was no type foundry in the Czech lands before that), exemplars of drawn letters from the 20s and 30s from posters and advertising, books designed by Menhart himself or with his types (sometimes without any credit), other books inspired by Menhart's work and so on. I still have the pictures on my phone, so if anybody is interested, just let me know.

I have been working on other things, but I am planing to get back to Menhart one of these days. Actually I have to watch the video recordings of the workshop before they are gone!

Keep writing/drawing/retouching/building up that letters!

Offline Ngaire_W

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Re: Unpacking Oldřich Menhart
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2021, 02:49:48 AM »
@Trazo Thanks for your encouragement! I will continue  :) I will message you on Instagram. It sounds like Nauka o Pismu is closer to what I am after. There is such an amazing culture of handwriting in Eastern Europe, I find it fascinating.

Offline Trazo

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Re: Unpacking Oldřich Menhart
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2021, 07:48:17 AM »
@Ngaire_W Looking forward to hearing from you. Mining in my library, yesterday I found another interesting book: a small bibliophile publication completely set with Menhart's Manuscript type. In fact, all his calligraphy rooted types were intended for this kind of publications, as they wouldn't work in a long text. Actually, in the view of the funcionalistic oriented artists and typographers (who were a very strong family in Czechoslovakia between wars) Menhart (with his "arts and crafts" and Johnstonian flavour) was not a man ahead his period (as somebody said in the workshop), but a nostalgic who doesn't go with the times. As everything in life, all depend on perspective. However, this is is a forum on calligraphy and I think at this respect Menhart will always stand in his pedestal.

Offline Ngaire_W

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Re: Unpacking Oldřich Menhart
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2021, 08:24:06 AM »
That is interesting! I think it was me who suggested that Menhart was ahead of his time in the workshop  :) Just my imagining of it. Looking at his work, he seems to be so freely creative and experimental and not too worried about following 'official' styles. I interpreted that such experimentation might ruffle the feathers of traditionalists but maybe that was not the case back then.

Offline Trazo

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Re: Unpacking Oldřich Menhart
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2021, 11:12:35 AM »
LOL  I hope this is not the end of our recent friendship  :) As I said, everything depends on perspective. I remember another interesting moment in the workshop, I think at the end of the second day. Somebody pointed to an alphabet of a very sober typeface whit no calligraphic traces (don't remember if Menhat's or from one of the others), he said it was a truly masterpiece and asked for Rohrs' opinion or so. Rohrs said: "Well, I didn't even notice that one". Our eyes see just what they want to see or what they are trained to see.

By the way, if you want to see the things from the other side of the artistic battle in Czechoslovakia, I recommend you to look for the work of Ladislav Sutnar, who was strictly contemporary to Menhart (both were born in 1897) but professed the opposite artistic credo. Sutnar was a total artist: he designed books, toys, pottery, posters, advertising, tapestry, furniture... He painted and wrote theoretical works on design. Unlike Menhart he went to exile to the US when the nazis occupied Czechoslovakia and he never came back. In fact, he is perhaps more known in the US than here, despite the most important part of his work was carried out in Prague between the two WW. The communistic regime banished all the avantgarde art from the 20s and 30s into oblivion, therefore Sutnar (very unlike Menhart) was very little known in his home land for decades. His comeback took place in 2003 with a huge and fantastic exhibition (I think I was there at least half a dozen times!). I can provide pictures from the catalogue too, if anybody is interested. No calligraphy around, but letters are usually part of Sutnar's designs.