On 10 July, the Gallery of the Central Bohemian Region opened the exhibition Starry Sky, which looks at how Josef Sochor, owner of a textile factory in Dvůr Králové, and his sons worked with leading figures on the art scene. Besides František Kysela, creator of the eponymous monumental textile piece depicting the position of the heavenly bodies on the day of Czechoslovak independence, the exhibition also includes works by Alois Fišárek, Alois Wachsman, Jiří Trnka, Karel Svolinský, Toyen and Marie Fischerová-Kvěchová.

The first half of the twentieth century was a fundamentally important period in the development of the profession of designer as we know it today. During this time, progressive industrialists seeking to manufacture products of high aesthetic quality first began to collaborate with established artists. One such industrialist was Josef Sochor (followed later by his sons), who promoted modern artistic styles and invited leading artists to come up with textile designs. Sochar’s company and his family worked with architects Josef Gočár and Pavel Janák, who collaborated with František Kysela, Otto Gutfreund and Antonín Kybal to create the interiors of two family villas in Dvůr Králové nad Labem.

“This visually interesting exhibition looks at the operations and the products of the Josef Sochor factory, whose name is still known in eastern Bohemia and beyond. The general public remembers its founder as a progressive and successful entrepreneur and as a patron of the arts who surrounded himself with the ‘stars’ of the Czech art scene,” says Jitka Škopová, who is behind the exhibition concept. Sochor’s ties to architects and artists can be seen as a typical feature of the First Republic, when influential factory owners become great fans and supporters of the arts and directly influenced the development of the young Czechoslovak Republic’s cultural and visual identity.

The Josef Sochor company (1904–1942) made its mark on the history of textile production mainly thanks to the progressive nature of the company’s manufacturing and management and its activities in the area of social policy. Especially in the 1930s, it was among the country’s leading enterprises, and its success extended far beyond Czechoslovakia’s borders. Josef Sochor’s sons Zdeněk and Josef Stanislav Sochor, who eventually took over the company’s management, were greatly inspired by America’s Ford company, and – like Zlín’s Baťa shoe company – the Sochors invested significant effort into advertising, distribution and sales. In 1938, the company expanded its production abroad, establishing a textile printing company and later a textile mill in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The exhibition also aims to call attention to the story of materials and to offer visitors insight into the work of the designer. In an experimental workshop, visitors can encounter the phenomenon of designing first-hand. The goal is to involve all groups of visitors in discussion and to inspire active creativity. By participating in the creation of exhibition items and creating their own work, they receive an original experience and create cultural and social bridges.

Starry Sky is the third of four exhibitions being organized in 2022 in Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia by Prague’s Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design as part of the grant project Industry and the Arts: Neglected Regional Industrial Personalities As Drivers of Czechoslovak Economic Progress, Their Significance and Their Cooperation with Artists, Architects and Designers