Jaroslav Rona Sculptures
Born in 1957 you could say that by the age of 15 Jaroslav Rona knew that he wanted to be some kind of artist. He applied to various arts schools and was rejected so having completed his basic 9 years of education he enrolled in a 3 year vocational school to train as a ….. furrier. It’s during this time that he develops an understanding of fine arts and he then used that qualification to enroll on another 3 year vocational school course, this time at a fine arts school. Then he used that qualification to get into the Arts, Architecture and Design Academy where he spent a further 6 years studying under Professor Stanislav Libensky specialising in art using glass. For his graduation he created “Big Dog and Small Dog” made with glass and metal which for some reason you can now find at the Prague City Museum. So this is a guy who has now been in the education system for 21 years. What happens next?
The picture above is the Sitting Devil from his Exhibition at the city gallery House at the Stone Bell in 2017. In 1985 there’s a definite split. He continues with his glass work following Professor Libensky to become his assistant during a visit to the Pilchuk Glass School in Washington State and then to stay on as a Summer Artist in Residence. But there are other things that now interest him as he begins to paint and starts sculpting in Bronze.
It starts off quite small in 1985 with bronze figures no more than 30-40cm high (look for “woman – idol” and “snail”). After the Velvet Revolution Jaroslav Rona travels extensively abroad and begins to explore using other materials like tin, wood and terracotta resulting in his largest work of the time called “Oscar” in 1991 (pictured below). That was a kind of a cross between a dog and a lion which was made from Terracotta and took up a space of 6 Cubic metres in a housing estate south of Prague. Smaller models in this period were later recreated in much larger versions after Rona became more well known.
Then in 1993 we get two “Franz Kafka inspired” pieces. The first is a commission in Crete called “Labrinth” using steel and concrete which was part of a film about “Amerika” (Kafka’s fist uncompleted novel). The second was in Prague and his largest bronze so far called Parable With Skull. Parable is defined as “a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson”.
1993 Parable With Skull
This is from 1993, worked in Bronze. Jaroslav Rona takes inspiration from Franz Kafka’s short story called Bucket Rider where a man is freezing and rides his empty coal bucket to where the coal merchant lives. There is no scene in the story where the man is on his hands and knees but Jaroslav Rona’s interpretation is of a man who faces death and is begging to get some coal on credit but he is denied by the coal merchant’s wife and will soon be dead. Location: Rear of ST Agnes Convent, entry from Klášterská.
2001 Franz Kafka Monument Competition
For the next eight years Jaroslav Rona returns to his drawings, paintings and small bronze sculptures and then in 2001 things begin to change. Following the year 2000 when Franz Kafka began to be recognised by the city they held a competition for a monument and Jaroslav Rona was invited to submit a design. Like for Parable With Skull he again went back to Franz Kafka’s short stories for inspiration and settled on Description of a Struggle. In the story there is a scene where Franz Kafka jumps onto the shoulders of a character called “the acquaintance” and points a finger in the direction he wants to be carried. Jaroslav Rona took this as a literal recreation in his design and it was unveiled in 2003. Location: Adjacent to the entry of the Spanish Synagogue. The story of this sculpture is included in the Old Town and Jewish Quarter Walking Tour.
2003 Child of Mars (Martian Baby)
A couple of times in his works, Jaroslav Rona has experimented with alien-inspired art and the confidence that came with the Franz Kafka Monument also resulted in Child of Mars. The first time I saw this was on a day trip to the city of Liberec and we climbed up to the TV Transmitter at Jested. As we got to the foot of the tower, we were met by this weird statue which I now know as “Child of Mars”. That was actually the second casting. The first is in the Hadovka Park in Prague 6. This is the period when academically he becomes noticed and by 2005 is offered a teaching position at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, his Alma Mater. At the time of writing, he was the lead teacher in the sculpture department. Location: Hadovka Park.
2006 David and Goliath
My Mother-in-law lives in the town of Cheb in the far west of Czech and on a trip in 2006 this statue on the corner of a building called “Spalicek” which is an old cafe and scene of Hitler speaking to a crowd in 1938. A small detail of this sculpture is that “David” is wearing knights armour. This was first seen in a piece called “Knight with Dragon” in 1995 and several pieces since have had this armour included. Like most Jaroslav Rona sculptures I knew there had to be a story to David and Goliath apart from the obvious but I wasn’t prepared for this one. The statue is made of bronze and stands 117cm tall. There are two characters i.e. the young boy (David) sitting on the head of an evil giant (Goliath). It symbolises the hope of the oppressed where spiritual liberation triumphs over physical brutality. The two characters are based on real people. For the boy David, Jaroslav Rona used a photograph of the Dalai Lama aged 14. For the head of the evil giant Goliath he used a photograph of……….Mike Tyson! Location: Cheb Town Square, Spalicek building.
2011 Little Devil
Jaroslav Rona created two Little Devils full size in Bronze weighing half a ton each and one was the hook during his 2017 exhibition for the City Gallery in the House at the Stone Bell. The first regularly tours the country and was actually offered to the the town of Karlovy Vary for CZK2.5 Million but they declined to buy it. The second is right outside the studio of Jaroslav Rona. In 2019 he gave an interview to a national newspaper called Novinky. It’s an interesting read especially when he describes himself firstly as a painter although his time is evenly split between painting and sculpting. Location: Studio. Link and Picture Credit: Novinky.cz
2019 The Reader
The Reader in bronze is all about escaping the real world and being in a protected space. The piece was originally supposed to be located outside of the National Technical Library in the 6th District for some synergy but, plans were changed and it ended up in it’s current location in the Old Town. It was included as part of the 2019 “Sculpture Line” exhibition which is usually a temporary exhibit but at the time of writing, it’s still there. Location: Junction of U Radnice and Linhartská.
The last Jaroslav Rona work that I personally have seen is Rhinoceros. It was part of the Sculpture Line exhibition. It might look a bit plastic but again, it’s a work in bronze. I can’t help but see the likeness to “Oscar” from 1991 and he even manages to squeeze in some knights armour. Location: behind the Bata shoe shop on Wenceslas Square (actually the space is part of Jungmann Square).