Professor Jan Solpera

* 1939

  • “I remember that I was in hospital in Jindřichův Hradec as a ten-year-old in 1948, I had appendicitis, it had almost perforated; moreover, I had an infection of the middle ear and they even told my mum to stay there because it looked that I would die. And my dad came to see us and I know that he opened the door and said: ‘The Bolsheviks staged a coup!‘ I remember that as a little boy, I do not know what happen or did not happen next.”

  • “And there were already wrecks there. Of course, everything was besieged by those bastards in green T-shirts and berets. One started to argue with me. A photographer, Miloň Novotný was walking with us, I do not know if his name sounds a bell but it was my friend from the time of the Na Zábradlí Theatre. He somehow got into an intense argument with that Russian and he did not want to let us in and we ignored that. We went on and we turned around and there was an antique store behind us and a wall about half a meter away. A piece of plaster suddenly flew from the wall and Miloň said: ‘Dude, he has shot at us.‘ That bastard shot between us as we turned around and were moving.”

  • “A strike of course started at school and the students stayed there and painted. I tell you when I was driving to the school and parked my Trabant close to Rudolfinum, I was frightened that a militiaman would stand there wearing camo suit trousers. Fortunately, it was not like that, but after some time, it was around 5 December, I could feel that everyone was tired and they did not want to see me there anymore. I was saying to myself that I needed that solved. I was too cowardly to ask them straight away. To let someone tell me to fuck off because I would then hate them and I did not want that. So I chose quite a ridiculous way of making little squares: white and black ones according to a children's book and a box, a closed, sealed box. And I told them to consider whether they wanted me or not. That they had to mainly consider the fact that I was a member of the party even though I had not been a member for two days or more. It happened right after Albertov. (I told them) that was the most important to consider. I was sitting in my office and after about half an hour or an hour, student Honza Hýsek came and he gave me that sealed box and I had decided that if there were two or three squares there out of the number of people, there were a lot of people, about twenty of them, that I would leave immediately. I opened it and there were none. I later got to know that they called those who were abroad, at home, on internship. That was the greatest experience of my life and I started to cry back then.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    V Praze, 17.03.2022

    duration: 01:40:07
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    V Praze, 21.03.2022

    duration: 02:40:34
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

When the students expressed their confidence in me after the Velvet Revolution, it was the best experience of my life

Jan Solpera in the 1980s
Jan Solpera in the 1980s
photo: witness´s archive

Jan Solpera was born on 26 December 1939 in Jindřichův Hradec but he spent his childhood in a small town called Stráž nad Nežárkou. After WWII, the family had a bad cadre reference due to the fields they had been renting and because of that, they were labelled as exploiters. Their political situation got better after some mishaps and moving to Řevnice near Prague and artistically gifted Solpera was admitted to the Art School in Hollarovo Square in Prague. He developed his love for typography and graphic design. He was admitted to the Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design in Prague for the second time and studied under František Muzika. He started to cooperate with Na Zábradlí Theatre. Having graduated from the university, he worked for the Czechoslovak Television and cooperated with the magazine Tvář (Face magazine). He started to give lectures at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague at the beginning of the 1970s and he started teaching the science of writing at the Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design in 1973. In the same year, he co-founded the free association Typo &, which exhibited at home and abroad, including in New York in 1983 and 1988. He also joined the Czechoslovak Communist Party during his teaching career. He started to lead the Studio of Book Graphics and Lettering in 1987 and after the Velvet Revolution, he offered his function to the students who expressed their confidence in him. He worked at the Academy until 2003. Jan Solpera has been inducted into the Czech Grand Design Hall of Fame for his work, his work is represented in many collections around the world and he has contributed to the development of typography both practically and theoretically in the context of global production.