Karel Hlaváček (1874-1898)

Karel Hlaváček was born in the family of a poor worker. In the years 1885-1892 he visited the higher middle-class school in the Prague middle-class neighbourhood Karlín, where he was also active as a gym teacher and organiser at the Czech nationalistic gymnastic club Sokol (Falcon). Since 1893 he wrote short texts and poems for the magazine of Sokol. After his graduation he studied 2 years as an external candidate Classical Philology at the Faculty of Arts at the Charles-Ferdinand University of Prague. In this period he started following evening courses drawing at the School of Applied Art and worked as a freelance journalist for the Národní noviny (National Paper). At that time he had no steady job and was dependent on small allowances and support from his parents. At the end of the year 1894 he started cooperating in the new magazine Moderní revue (Modern Review). In 1895 he met the love of his life Marie Balounová. In that same year he had to draft into the army and was transferred to Southern Tyrolia, but after three months he was freed from military service because of his bad health condition.

After his return from Italy Hlaváček started working intensively for the Moderní revue, in which he published his expressive work, his art critics, critical notes and his poems. In the period of his cooperation at Moderní revue he got closely befriended with Jiří Karásek ze Lvovic, Arnošt Procházka, Antonín Sova and Karel Kamínek. In 1897 Hlaváček’s design won the written out match for a new head of the Cracow magazine Żicye which was edited by Stanisław Przybyszewski. In that same year Hlaváček started his cooperation as an artist with the magazine Nový Kult (New Cult) of Stanislav K. Neumann. Still in the same year he got tuberculosis. Although his friends paid for a cure, his illness had a quick development, because Hlaváček’s organism was very weakened by an inborn heart abnormality and by his long life in poverty. In June 1898 Hlaváček died of tuberculosis and was buried at the cemetery of Prague-Libeň.

In spite of his very short life Hlaváček made history in Czech literature. He was not only famous as a poet, but also as an expressive artist and illustrator. He illustrated for example the volumes Prostibolo duše of Antonín Procházka and Větry od pólů of Otokar Březina. Also his portraits of Antonín Sova, Arnošt Procházka and Emile Verhaeren are well-known.
Source: Universität Wien


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