academic painter Jiří Altmann

* 1942  †︎ 2023

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I never regretted coming back from the West although I had missed all the chances here

Jiří Altmann during his studies at AVU, 1960s
Jiří Altmann during his studies at AVU, 1960s
photo: Witness's archive

Jiří Altmann was born in Prague on 28 January 1942 into the family of František Altmann, a railway builder, and Jiřina Altmannová, née Petršová, a musician and teacher. The father’s job caused the family to live in Ústí nad Labem for five years after the war, then move back to Prague. After graduating from the eleven-year-old school in Ječná Street, Jiří Altmann continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts (1960-1966). While still a student, he began to specialize in woodcutting and wood engraving. He mastered these techniques and pursued them throughout his life. Following the invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops, he left for West Germany to join his wife-to-be, Jana, née Schlichtsová. They married in 1969 and their son Jiří was born the following year. Jiří Altmann Sr. worked at the Girardet publishing house in Essen (1968-1971). He gained a wealth of craftsman know-how, especially in typography. In the spring of 1971, the Altmanns returned to Czechoslovakia. Following initial hardships, Jiří Altmann managed to regain his foothold, among other things through competitions run by the Ministry of Culture. Thanks to friends and collectors, he was able to organise exhibitions in the West, though it was only restoration work that gave him stable income. Tragedies in his personal life included the premature death of his only son Jiří (1991) and later the loss of his brother František (2013) and his wife Jana (2021). Despite that, he never lost his perspective, good humour, a friendly demeanour, or interest in art. At the time of filming (2022) he was an active member of the Association of Czech Graphic Artists Hollar and creating art. He died in Beroun on 8 June 2023.