Jiří Šalamoun

* 1935  †︎ 2022

  • “Eva’s mother, Mrs Natus, she was a classic example: her husband was a Jew, so they had to divorce; then he - Eva’s father - was in a concentration camp, he was a worker, but he lost his life during an American bombing run. [The Americans] blew the camp to bits, and he died in the air raid.”

  • “[Rudolf Čechura] wrote it about a St Bernard dog because he had childhood experience with St Bernards, so he wrote [the stories] about a big dog, but not a Bobtail [i.e. Old English Sheepdog]. When we set to work on it with Mr Bedřich [the director Václav Bedřich - ed.], I already had this dog [a Bobtail], so I automatically started drawing it. And besides, shaggy dogs - St Bernards are like that as well, but not so much - are more suited for animation: you had the funny motions of this great big shaggy mound of fur. I made Mr Bedřich several concepts for Fig the dog, but this one was the most suitable, so in the end I actually drew our Bobtail.”

  • “The train only went as far as Dresden. I had my daughter on my shoulders, and I went to the borders on foot. I paid one bloke to take me a bit further, so I brought my daughter home in the end. But it was pretty dramatic, we walked through the night, and on top of that it was raining...”

  • “From when I was six, seven years old till I was ten, I used to go down Slezská Street every day, through Perunova to Crown Avenue, and there’s a tram line that goes through Jičínská Street, it’s still in use. So if we came to Jičínská Street and the sirens hadn’t started yet, we went on. If the sirens sounded, we had to hide in a shelter. So we either went back home, if there was an alarm, or if we were on the other side, past Jičínská, we carried on to school, to the Perunka.”

  • “[Thanks to my membership in the Czech Fund of Fine Artists] I could work, I wasn’t supported, they didn’t have any scholarships. But I did have the Fund stamp saying that I could sell [my art]. That was all done by a committee of course, it presided at Mánes once a fortnight or once a week, you took your things there, and they either approved them or rejected them. So I have a number of things that are stamped ‘approved’ on the back, and others that were rejected. In the end, when the political situation changed, it was all ‘cooked up’ in some way or other anyway, of course.”

  • “I was surprised right from the start how [both the schools] had the same problems. But otherwise the main difference was that by that time things were quite okay in Prague thanks to UNRRA. Not so in Germany, there was awful poverty there, everything was broken up, Leipzig was bombed to pieces, I always rode to Berlin by train via Dresden, it was awful there, it still stank of the dead bodies from the bombing of Dresden. And they were missing men, they had lots of women, but the men were beaten up or stuck in a prison camp somewhere in Siberia. So there was poverty there, everything was rationed, even more than here in Bohemia.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 08.06.2015

    duration: 05:47:40
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    byt pamětníka, 30.11.2016

    duration: 02:02:50
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

Man is a kaleidoscope. The things we experience shift and form new shapes

Jiří Šalamoun
Jiří Šalamoun
photo: witness archive

Jiří Šalamoun was born on 17 April 1935 in Prague into the family of the Catholic agricultural engineer Josef Šalamoun and Emílie Šalamounová, née Antošová. His mother’s brother Josef Antoš was an artist, a glassblower, and an entrepreneur, and under his influence Josef took to painting already as a child. His family lived in Prague-Vinohrady. His uncle was unjustly convicted in a show trial in the early 1950s, when Jiří Šalamoun was considering what professional career to follow. With his background profile “marred” by his relative’s conviction, he did not receive recommendation to study at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University, but he was given one for the Academy of Fine Arts (AFA). He enrolled at the Academy in 1952 and remained there until 1956, when he transferred to Leipzig’s Hochschulle für Graphik und Buchkunst. He graduated in 1959 and then returned and also graduated from AFA. He married the German artist Eva Natus, who gave birth to their daughter Barbora in 1964. He worked as a book designer, illustrator, he edited the “Život kolem nás” (Life Around Us) series, and worked with the magazines Estetická výchova (Aesthetic Education), 100+1 zahraniční zajímavost (100+1 Foreign Curiosities), Film a doba (Film and the Times). In 1963 he made his first animated film with director Gen Deitch. Although he initially avoided membership in Communist youth organisations, in the 1960s he allowed himself be persuaded to join the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Following the August 1968 occupation, he requested a termination of membership but was expelled instead. He continued to work as a book designer and illustrator. In 1975 he drew the first series of popular animated fairy tales about Maxipes Fík (Maxidog Fig). In 1976 he prepared the exposition for Montreal in the Czechoslovak house from the 1967 World’s Fair. Besides illustrating he also takes an interest in lithography. His works are popular, and they are frequently exhibited. Jiří Šalamoun passed away on March 31st, 2022.