Baruch, Josef / Memory of Christmas
mixed technique, paper, 195×290 mm
purchased in 2019 with support from the Czech Republic Ministry of Culture
Josef (Jožka) Baruch’s work is particularly associated with his wood engravings depicting folk traditions and customs in the region of Wallachia, as well as his book illustrations and ex libris plates. The graphic print Memory of Christmas depicts the Christmas ceasefire that was respected by both sides during the First World War. In a mountainous, almost idyllic landscape – which may be a reminiscence of Baruch’s native Wallachia, but may also depict the Italian front – stands a seemingly solitary soldier on guard in the no-man’s-land between the two trenches. The Christmas atmosphere is expressed in an unusual scene in which the guns have been laid down and the front is shrouded in an eerie silence. Thoughts of home and family are evoked by the snow-covered Christmas tree next to the soldier, symbolizing the festive season spent within the bosom of the family. The blue accents which create an optical illusion of a cold night are partially disrupted by the white reflections from the snow, and the entire scene is imbued with sadness and alienation. The emotional content of the work and the depiction of the front draw on Baruch’s own personal experience, as he too was conscripted to fight in the war. The canvas is not an entirely typical example of the artist’s work; this supports the idea that it depicts a personal reminiscence. It is also interesting that Baruch dedicated the work to Jiří Mucha, a prominent bibliophile.