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Jan Štohanzl was born on November 6, 1948, in Přibyslav. Following one year of practical training in the Dobronín Glassworks attached to the Sklárny Bohemia in Poděbrady (1966–67), he studied at the Specialized School of Glassmaking in Železný Brod, in the Department of Cut Glass (1967–71). For two years he prepared for the career of workshop instructor of the Department of Cut Glass (1971–73). Subsequently, he was employed in the Glass-cutting Studio of the Centre for Artistic Crafts in Prague (1973–89); in 1981 he was put in charge of the studio. He was awarded the title “Master of Artistic Crafts” in cut glass (1977) and joined the Association of Czech Fine Artists (1988). He has been a freelance glass artist since 1989.



Jan Štohanzl: Forty Years of a Glass Art Career


Throughout the past four decades, glass artist Jan Štohanzl has achieved notable artistic results in two of the most characteristic glassmaking methods used in Czech art glass in the second half of the 20th century. One is mould-melted sculpture, which first emerged in the mid-1940s in Železný Brod. Until the 1970s, this technique was creatively developed by Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová in Železný Brod alone. The second method is the glass-cutting technique. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, some of the emerging glass artists who had been enrolled in Professor Libenský’s Glass Studio at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague were surprisingly successful when they decided to cut optical glass, instead of sodium-potash glass or lead crystal. Moreover, Jan Štohanzl is a glass artist who has combined the discoveries made in both mould-melted and cut sculpture, heralding a new direction in studio glass, still at the forefront today.


The creative beginnings of Jan Štohanzl date back to his arrival at the glass school in Železný Brod forty years ago (1967), where he studied at the Department of Cut Glass led by the teacher-glass artist Ladislav Oliva and the workshop instructor-art glass cutter Břetislav Novák Sr. After a thirty-year tenure, Novák retired and Štohanzl was to take his place. He spent two years conscientiously preparing for the tasks of workshop instructor, but in the end was not granted the post, owing to the political situation that followed the military occupation of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, which also had dire repercussions on the school. The newly-appointed school management gave precedence to a politically more “reliable” candidate.

         Štohanzl found employment in the cut-glass studio attached to the Centre for Artistic Crafts in Prague. This proved to be an auspicious solution, for his fifteen years in the studio were of critical importance to his further development as glass artist and craftsman. Naturally, there, too, series production of glass predominated, yet its cut glass lines were artistically much superior to those manufactured in other enterprises. Glass items were made there in limited editions according to designers’ innovative designs.  Customarily, few pieces were produced at a time rather than all at once, depending on the orders made by the customers of the Skloexport and Artcentrum trade companies. Glass cutters consulted the new designs with members of the Centre’s creative council that was in charge of approving the designs, and with the designs themselves, and in doing so, they learned new skills from them. Moreover, the cutters were able to present their own designs to the creative council and upon approval they could execute them. Štohanzl made use of this opportunity. He engaged in the designing of cut vases, plates, dishes, bowls and ashtrays, which conformed to the cut glass vocabulary of those days, but also enabled him to seek his own artistic orientation.

         His access to blanks provided him with the opportunity for free creative activity. His cut glass began appearing at exhibitions held by the Centre for Artistic Crafts, Artcentrum and Skloexport, and from 1976 onward also at one-man shows.

         In the middle of the 1980s, Štohanzl established an occasional collaboration with Jaromír Rybák, a former classmate from the glass school in Železný Brod. At the time of their renewed contact (of major importance to Štohanzl), Rybák had just graduated from the Academy of Applied Arts, launching a career of an glass artist who was enjoying his first successes in glass both at home and abroad. Initially, Štohanzl helped Rybák finish some of his cast-glass sculptures. Later on, they built a studio together, equipped with an electric melting furnace and a glass-cutting workshop, which they used for the next ten years. He learned from Rybák how to make mould-melted glass sculptures. Based on a mutual agreement, a few years later Štohanzl adopted from Rybák some of the glassmaking processes of fusing coloured inclusions into glass. Over time, he successfully introduced his own innovations to the adopted technology. And he has been doing so ever since.


Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Jan Štohanzl made his cut glass vases, plates and sculptures mostly in sodium-potash glass manufactured in the Škrdlovice glassworks. Later, he began to work with coloured composite and colourless optical glass, the latter of which had been used for the production of tank cupola slits. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, glass sculptors discovered that this type of glass was suitable for cut sculptural glass, and its popularity with glass artists rose rapidly. While some of them were content to use the tank glass for cutting sculptural glass, others melted it in electric furnaces into semi-finished glass better suited for their creative intentions. Jan Štohanzl was one of them.

From the outset, he took great care to render his utilitarian and decorative cut glass objects with perfect craftsmanship. Hence, in 1977, the Art Committee of the Czech Ministry of Culture granted him the title “Master of Artistic Crafts” in cut glass and, in 1981, the Centre for Artistic Crafts entrusted him with the supervision of its Prague studio, which he headed until the late 1980s. By that time his reputation as glass cutter and designer had become firmly established, winning him membership in the exclusive Association of Czech Fine Artists. His appointment to the Association was important for his career: he was able to become a freelance glass artist – with all its pros and cons – even before the 1989 Velvet Revolution, which brought with it widespread political and social  change.

         The second half of the 1980s saw not only Štohanzl’s renewed collaboration with Rybák, admission to the Association of Czech Fine Artists and freelance career of glass artist. This was also a period when he met George Broft, launching a fruitful collaboration with him and his gallery (Glass Gallery Broft) in Leerdam. In 1991, Jan Štohanzl held his first one-man show in the Gallery Crystal in The Hague, followed by an exhibition in the Gallery Jan Witjes in Oisterwijk in 1992, the Glass Gallery Broft in Eindhoven in 1996, and the Glass Gallery Broft in Leerdam in 2001. His glass sculptures were featured at collective shows of contemporary studio glass not only in the Netherlands, but also in Tokyo, Montreaux, Hamburg, Klagenfurt, London, Luxembourg, Prague, Shanghai, New York and elsewhere.


The Štohanzl-Rybák collaborative partnership continued even after they had lost their Prague studio, a situation which each of them solved in his own way. Štohanzl moved to the small town of Mnichovice in the Sázava River Basin – a picturesque region noted for its long tradition of glassmaking, where he found both a new home, and the peace and facilities necessary for the further pursuit of his creative endeavours.


Jan Štohanzl has been a perfectionist glass-cutter from the very outset. Early on, when he was just beginning to seek his place in the art glass world, his glass articles were already attracting notice for their distinctive forms and colouration.

In the late 1980s, he engaged in work with optical glass, which has the necessary properties to endow all his creations with an artistic persuasiveness, while not hiding the least flaws. He began melting glass in the electric furnace and creating lead crystal pieces of ever more intriguing shapes and colours. For this he used both adopted techniques and methods that he himself devised. Eventually, he reduced the forms of his sculptures to cubes, blocks, cylinders, discs, pyramids and cones, whose surfaces he impeccably cut and polished, and only rarely decorated with further details (Narrenturm, 2004).

         To create the colours and forms inside his objects, the artist employs continually perfected methods, which he keeps a well-guarded secret. The preparation and execution of these pieces is demanding and time-consuming; from the beginning to end, the individual assembled and cast glass sections are meticulously cut and polished. He also works with enamels, which he applies to glass with a brush or spray. This is preceded by a painstaking preparation of the glass surfaces; sometimes he “simply” cuts the glass roughly, leaving visible marks of the cutting wheels even after it has been melted (Phoenix, 2005), but more often he polishes the glass surfaces to perfection.

         The creative process only just begins with the initial casting of the prepared glass segments, followed by the cutting, re-assembling and re-melting of the glass sections. The process is repeated, each time in a mould of a different shape and usually also inclination, which facilitates the natural motion of the glass substance and enamels (fired at temperatures of 1000º C and more), yet in keeping with the artist’s creative aim. Over the years, Štohanzl has acquired such technical virtuosity in re-forming and modelling glass that virtually nothing can take him by surprise, providing he observes the time-tested procedures. Nevertheless, glass can respond differently from the expectations of even an experienced glassmaker. At that point, it is only up to him whether he can make the best of the previously unforeseen “novelties”, re-think them and adopt them to his original ideas, or whether he ultimately abandons them. In the past three or four years, he has introduced in his sculptures regularly-placed air traps with colourful designs. He is capable of influencing the conduct of the bubbles in the melted glass to such a degree as to be able to position them wherever he wishes and, what is more, to make them pass through several layers of colour.

         Ultimately, he cuts his sculptures to shape. Then again he proves to be a glass cutter-perfectionist: he will sign no sculpture before he cuts and polishes its surface so that there remains not the slightest “defect” that would otherwise be noticeable only to his own experienced eye and touch.


         Jan Štohanzl uses some production methods only in single glass objects, as in his Golden Wings (1995), Rush (1996), Two Sperm Whales (1997), Boats (1997), Gondolas (1998), Three Dolphins (1998), Tree (1998), Dunes (1999), The North Star (2001), Wings (2001 and 2007), UFO II (2007), Atmosphere I (2006), while employing other techniques in a series of glass sculptures, as in Magma I–V (1996), Bridges (1998–1999), Flowers I–VI (2000), Gardens I–III (2000), Landscapes (2002), Stargate I–V (2003), Cosmic Rain (2004), Totems I–III (2007), Jellyfish I–II, etc.

         In 2005 and 2006, Štohanzl created a unique, though still under-reckoned collection titled Glass Paperweights in 100 Different Ways – so far the most eloquent testimony to his masterful command of the art of glassmaking, his ingenuity, imagination and ability to achieve outstanding accomplishments. While small in size (10 x 10 x 10 cm), his glass paperweights are graced with such fused-in narratives that in terms of artistic quality they could easily compete with large glass sculptures. Many of those pieces call for multiple enlargement, something still to be considered by the artist...


         Jan Štohanzl was so intrigued with glass during his first encounter with the material that forty years later it still holds an intense attraction for him. Not only does he continue to devise new production methods, but he also puts them to artistic use. Genuine masters never enforce their ideas on glass, but are content to conform to the medium. Each glass artist has his own distinctive approach. So does Jan Štohanzl. He loves to create and exhibit his glass sculptures, but he is reluctant to discuss them. It is his wish that they speak for him and for themselves, as he believes this is the best way to convince glass connoisseurs of his creative qualities.


Antonín Langhamer

Glass Prize winner 2002




         Every exhibition of a glass artist’s creative output represents a completed period in his career. Each such event is an opportunity to re-evaluate and look back. It also is an occasion to expose oneself to the critical assessment of a glass-loving audience and demanding consumers. There are also those visitors, who simply walk through an exhibition uncritically, unable to grasp the artist’s creative intentions. There may be still others who leave with indifference or a few condemning remarks, which can be a source of disappointment to the artist.

         Invariably, however, an exhibition is a festive occasion for an artist. Every such undertaking makes him aware of his continued struggle with the glass substance. Although attained through human endeavour, the properties of glass (its transparency, colour, optical phenomena) and its beauty, sophistication and technical capabilities, align it with the foremost materials derived from nature. Glass challenges a sensitive artist toward finding his own expressive idiom and style. Less talented glassmakers assume the path of epigones – this is the deceptive aspect of the otherwise beautiful glass material.

         Jan Štohanzl was a student whom I enjoyed teaching and whose responsible approach to work I particularly appreciated. His characteristic traits included self-discipline, deliberation and a healthy optimism, traits that won him the reputation in the student milieu of a person who evoked a favourable atmosphere and a passion for creative work. Complemented by the positive qualities of an eminent student, his artistic expression was harmonious, well-balanced and thoroughly intelligent, which was soon to point out the direction in which his creative efforts would evolve. Štohanzl proved to be a skilful and manually gifted student, endowed with an understanding of the material, form and decorative means, which encompassed the breadth and possibilities of the fields taught at the school.

         Creative imagination governed by an artist’s sense of order and respect for the harmony of the artistic means of expression predetermines the singular aesthetic appearance of glass. A man of profound intellect and philosophical leaning, Štohanzl has set up for himself binding moral norms calling for the meticulous technical execution and careful implementation of a well-deliberated artistic concept. This approach excludes all superficiality and any tendency toward an eclectic imitation of impetuses foreign to glass; nor is there any place for carelessness in the glass craft. Technical bravura is the fundamental prerequisite for the realization of the artistic concept.

         Štohanzl’s creation of small glass objects and sculptures of simple form, in which he explores the relationship between decoration and the optical properties intrinsic to glass, is closely associated with the artist’s temperament and character traits. His glass artwork reflects his own unobtrusive and modest nature; it is relaxed, refined and unpretentious, yet captivating in its pure and stylistically crystalline treatment. The loftiest motives have compelled Jan Štohanzl to create his art glass: to bring happiness to others and himself, out of a sheer need to express himself through creative means. This is the essence and message of Jan Štohanzl’s artistic oeuvre and creed. 


Professor Ladislav Oliva