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The "great themes" of graphic artist, painter and illustrator Adolf Born include travellers and traveling. The Czech public is well acquainted with his admiration for gentlemen who discover unknown places in the company of their ladies. He has honored the life of Emil Holub, a famous Czech adventurer of the 19th century, in one of his recent lithographs named "NATIVES OBSERVING EXPLORER EMIL HOLUB".

The explorer on the litho is depicted immediately after having used a well-known trick of the natives for crocodile hunting - he pacified the animal by sticking a rifle in its jaws and then, standing inside the jaws, he is having a dignified conversation with the Africans. They are not apparently from the Machukulumbu tribe who attacked Holub's expedition in 1886 and prevented him from reaching the East African Coast.


Adolf Born's admiration goes not only to explorers, but to exploring itself. He has developed a special liking for the countries he visited and they are frequently featured in his works. His last litho is a declaration of love for Norway. Melting snow on mountainsides, a beautiful landscape, a seal traveling with an elk on his head, a troll as a predecessor of famous langlaufers, as well as sheep and goats encountered by every automobilist driving on Norwegian roads, wild ducks, waterfalls... These are Born's experiences of his Norwegian travels that he depicted on a litho named "A MELANCHOLIC DREAM BY A NORWEGIAN FJORD".

Adolf Born

(The exhibition of Adolf Born)

One of the first films I saw when I settled in Montreal was the film version of Joy Adamson's story of Elsa the lioness, better known - as well as the musical motif - as "Born Free". I like to play with words and images so the first idea which immediately occurred to me was about the same book, illustrated by Adolf Born. It was only a half-serious idea, of course. I was also interested where did Joy Adamson get that title since it sounded somehow familiar.

It was not so difficult to guess: she said it all in her motto, right on the first page. It was the quotation from Bible (Acts, Chapter 22) describing the arrest of St. Paul. After he proclaimed he was a Roman citizen, the captain of soldiers told him: "I had to pay quite a sum for my citizenship" and Paul replied: "But I was born free".

Adolf Born was not only born as a free spirit, I guess he was also born in different century than the one he was originally scheduled for. That's the only way I can explain his various interests and talents, his diligence and ability to give away so much beauty. And so he is today living peacefully in his time, the time which is so close to his heart and in his space, which is populated by his best friends: men in top-hats, bearded or mustachioed, with women looking quite helpless while heavily armed with their charms, people of circus, magicians, Turks with fezzes and Muslims with turbans, persons veiled in masks, which may be borrowed or just their own, and with animals of all kinds - yes, with lions too.

And all are quite happy over there and while we can see they have their own problems and troubles, every picture has an undercoat of all-embracing peace of mind. People are smiling, openly or just internally and everywhere is that essential humor, not to mock anybody, but all-embracing and understanding, in other words the "Bornian" humor. And on top of it we find a lot of optimism, without which there would be no point to keep on living.

Yes, Adolf Born is the painter and illustrator, caricaturist and film-maker, the Nestor of our graphic artists (but hardly a patriarch), workaholic as well as bon-vivant. I will not list here how many books he illustrated, how many films he made, how many exhibitions he had and how many prices he was awarded (two of them even in above mentioned Montreal). There numbers are so high that those quoted on some Internet web sites actually vary by several tens! I rather tell you what we all know quite accurately, that is how much pleasure we take from his work: quite a lot and plenty more. How did he managed all that only he knows; others would surely need at least five lives for it.

And all that while he, the spirit free and unbounded, is living in the time-space he calls "my world" and I suspect he is extremely happy there. In his time-space, which easily accommodates the Emperor Rudolph with all his artistic collections and alchemists, the whole Austro-Hungarian Empire with general Radetzky, the mad King Ludwig from Bavaria with his fairy-tale castle and much more.

With his coming anniversary it would be appropriate to wish Mr. Born all the best, but I am afraid it would sound rather superfluous - as we can see, he already got all the best, long time ago. And through him, so did we.

© Jan B. Hurych
Hurontaria - Czech/English magazine

© 2000 Adolf Born, ArtForum / ICZ a.s.
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