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Glass Engraving is mostly a Czech phenomenon, and Czech lands can be proud of being among the first to master this royal discipline. The most famous period of Czech engraved glass began at the court of Rudolf II, by engravers headed by Caspar Lehman. Since then, engraved glass has been in and out of favour, but it has a long tradition and can boast many famous practioners. The process of glass decorating has changed over the years, reflecting the pace of the modern world. Techniques became popular which did not require as much effort, skill, invention, craft, imagination and time compared to the traditional ones. The classical glass engraving technique was replaced by etching, sandblasting and laser glass engraving, which are cheap and quick.
Since 1996, International symposia of engraving have been held in Kamenický Šenov. The founders included Jiří Harcuba, the director of the glass museum Kamenický Šenov Mrs. Helena Braunová and Peter Rath, a successor of the founders of the famous company of Lobmeyr. The main aim of the symposia has been to consider the future of glass engraving, and to revive interest in the technique. The organizers wanted to create an environment where artists, art historians, galleries, museums and general public could meet. The idea attracted the best glass engravers in the world. The symposia offered also a chance for presenting works of young talents.
The latter half of the last century saw numerous interesting events aimed at the popularization and awareness of the engraved glass technique amongst the general public. Among the most distinctive personalities devoted to glass engraving was Jiří Harcuba (1928–2013). He was not only a world famous glass engraver and medal maker but also a respected propagator of the glass engraving technique, and brought many new fans from all over the world to the discipline. He dedicated his entire life to this. Besides glass engraving he was also famous for designing medals and coins.
Jiří Harcuba soon realised the most serious ‘bugbear’ of all students attempting the technique was their fear of their own lack of skill, the fear they could never produce the same standard of work as skilled engravers. He himself may have felt the same. In order to minimize the trauma of all novice engravers and amateurs, he established the Dominik Biman school.
Jiří Harcuba had not only professional but also personal reasons for following the work of Dominik Biman, the greatest Czech engraver of the first half of the 19th century. Both of them came from humble beginnings in Harrachov, a village in the Giant Mountains, where they had their first experience in working with glass. They were born approximately 100 years apart, and their native cottages were situated just tens of meters from each other. The happy coincidence inspired Jiří Harcuba to follow the outstanding engraver in popularizing glass engraving. Jiří Harcuba continued Dominik Biman’s legacy in his work.
Dominik Biman (1800–1857) had been one of the greatest portraitists in glass engraving. He overshadowed all his contemporaries with his extraordinary creative talent and craftsmanship. His portraits can be compared to his contemporaries, the painters Antonín Machek or Antonín Mánes thanks to their artistic qualities.
Dominik Biman was born the fourth of ten children in a poor family of a carpenter and mould maker in Harrachov in the period of the flourishing local glassworks. Biman himself worked in the glassworks since the age of seven and was apprenticed as a glass engraver by to the outstanding craftsmen Anton and Franz Pohl. His education continued at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague which substantially influenced his further work. Already Biman’s early works from the period deserve the name ‘masterful’. He lived in various places, the longest stay was in Prague (in the same building there was also the landscape painting school of Antonín Mánes) and since 1826 worked during the summer seasons in Františkovy Lázně. The wealthy clientele visiting the spa gave him a chance ‘to earn’. Biman himself wrote that during his career he engraved portraits of people from all social classes, not only rulers and nobles, but also people from the ranks of the bourgeoisie. In 1829 and 1831 he participated in Prague industrial exhibitions and his engravings were awarded by silver medals.

Dominik Biman lived and worked in the Biedermeier period. Times when urban and family life were valued, also good taste and attention to fine details. These things were offered by Biman in his works during the most successful period of his life. His engravings were extremely popular.
In the time of Dominik Biman’s life it was unusual for glass engravers work using to live models. His colleagues used coins, medals, engravings or outstanding art work as models. Biman started work on an engraved portrait with an interview with his customer, getting to know his character first. The following sessions were neither numerous or long due to his phenomenal memory. Biman studied human nature by types and appearance of the face. Then they were transferred to glass. This method of working gave portraits their individual expression. His best works are technically perfect and at the same time quite lively. It is here that lies the importance of his work. His generosity was combined with minute details in a harmonic form. Biman’s works transcend time and are among the most important in the history of engraved glass.
Unfortunately, the changing social and political situation of the mid-19th century as well as the market situation deeply affected his work. He never married and had no children. The fear of poverty experienced in his childhood didn’t allowed it. His high self-confidence based on his work was replaced by a rush of agonizing doubts blighting his later life in the form of deep depression. He became an oddball paying no attention to his appearance. All that and the dropping number of orders caused his death in poverty. Soon thereafter he was forgotten. As late as in the 1890s the extraordinary qualities of his work were discovered and appreciated by G. A. Pazourek and now the largest world museum collections show Biman’s portrait engravings.
After Dominik Biman no Czech portrait engraver reached such creative expression and deep immersion into the model’s psyche until Jiří Harcuba.
Jiří Harcuba was born in Harrachov into a family with a glassmaking tradition. Every day he could see his father and grandfather cutting glass, where grandfather liked to paint for his grandchildren. Thus Jiří Harcuba knew already from his childhood that he would do the same. Even before his apprenticeship his father bought a treadle engraving machine for him to try the work of old engravers at home. He used to tell him that knowledge of glass engraving means better cutting skills. Also he visited the glassworks after school to train in engraving with an old master. His father was his first and maybe even greatest example. He trained him to cut glass, and besides German he introduced him to English, French, Russian and Esperanto. His father played the violin and the trumpet and possessed a great library despite having had only basic education. Other Jiří Harcuba’s influences were Dominik Biman, Stanislav Libenský and Professor Ronald Penell from Great Britain who enriched his glass engraving by the experience he had gained in rock crystal engraving. Ronald Penell’s engravings were full of humour, looking at common country people and animals. All that formed both the character and work of Jiří Harcuba himself.



On March 12, 1998 the Dominic Biman Society was established in Harrachov at the initiative of Jiří Harcuba. Its founders were Ing. Karel Dolejší the then mayor of Harrachov, František Novosad, the owner of the Novosad and Son glassworks and Professor Jiří Harcuba a Harrachov native and glass engraver. The aim of the Society was to renew the significance of Dominik Biman as the best portrait engraver of the 19th century and to revive the interest in engraved glass that has been stagnating for a long time.They also aimed to contribute to the development of the museum and its collections in Harrachov. Another idea was to establish the Dominik Biman School. The Dominik Biman School was to become an international centre for the restoration of engraved glass prestige.
On Sept. 19, 1999 in the presence of Sophie Harrach a Dominic Biman commemorative plaque was unveiled at his birthplace in Nový Svět, Harrachov on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his birth. Sophie Harrach became a patron of the celebrations which followed. The event took place during the 2nd International Symposium of Engraved Glass in Kamenický Šenov. The year long gap between the celebrations and Dominik Biman’s birthdate was due to the organizers wish to coincide with the engraving symposium in Kamenický Šenov and the presence of numerous foreign participants. Thus Harrachov saw 150 engravers from Japan, the USA, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, England and other countries join the celebration. The participants visited the glassworks and museum with an exhibition of members of the Dominik Biman Society, among them not only professional engravers and students but also children. Other events followed.
In the eve of the 200th anniversary of Dominik Biman’s birth a festive meeting in honour of the outstanding Czech engraver was held in the Academy of Fine Arts Prague under the auspices of UNESCO. The event was organized by the Academy of Fine Arts Prague, the Academy of Applied Arts Prague, the Technical Museum and the Dominik Biman Society. A speech was made by Professor Jiří Harcuba and Professor Jiří Kotalík introduced participants to the entire history of the Dominik Biman School. Two significant supporters of engraved glass and the Dominik Biman Society, Professor Ronald Pennell from Great Britain and Gernot Merker from Germany were awarded gold medals. Invited guests of honour included the Countess Sophia Harrach, the Prince Karel Schwarzenberg, the UNESCO Secretary of Cultural Affairs Mgr. Jiří Beneš and representatives of the Austrian Ambassy and the Harrachov municipality.


From May 5–25, 2001 the first international glass school of Dominik Biman in Harrachov premiered. The school was primarily concerned with the problems of engraved glass. By its establishment, the objectives of the Dominik Biman Society were met, i.e. to further develop the glassmaking tradition and – based on the tradition – to contribute to better under-standing among nations and to lead people to respect the cultural heritage. The school set itself the task to take engraved glass from isolation, caused by fears of the difficulty of the technique. It also aimed to increase interest from glass artists in the employment of glass engraving in their work.
Jiří Harcuba realised that the interest in engraving meant eliminating the prejudice of the percieved difficulty of the technique. He took as models, pre-historic cave paintings and engravings in Africa and Australia, basically primitive art and folk art. He presented to his students examples of ancient glass with portraits in profile that are the most natural for portrait engravings. His great examples were children and their naturalness and spontaneity. He liked to recall a story called ‘Little cow in strawberries’. In Corning a three year old girl Sofia was put to the engraving machine. After finishing her work she was asked what it was. She answered with children’s grace: “Naturally a little cow in strawberries!” Jiří Harcuba liked the engraving very much. He said it was unwitting, contemporary, fashionable and related to prehistory.
The Dominik Biman School was opened to the general public and absolute creative freedom was applied there. Besides presenting Dominik Biman’s work, its aim was to popularize engraved glass and actual techniques connected with the craft among all practicio-ners. It was available for everybody who was open to new opinions without fear of trying something new. Complete beginners without any professional or artistic education were also welcome. Jiří Harcuba accepted primarily those participants as they were not limited by any conventions. “They are like small children”, Jiří Harcuba used to say, “they have such a spontaneity which is often hard to find for an experienced artist.” One of the main benefits for the Dominik Biman School participants was the pleasure of the creative process itself. Jiří Harcuba adhered to so-called zen paintings, i.e. mindless paintings the origin of which was the subconscious. He Based the process on the Zen Buddhist call to throw away all acquired and read opinions and attitudes, and the effort to reach the truth by a direct experience. It was one of the principal ideas widely applied in the school. He himself presented the words from the TAO book – ‘The art of not knowing is the greatest art’. The approach opened the engraved glass world to many of his students and successors all over the world.
He declared simplicity in engraving – it is the essence of the doctrine of WABI-SABI (the art of life) – and orientation on the essential things. He wanted to express himself by a shortcut to live simply. He appreciated the beauty in its crystalline form – similar to Haiku poetry.
According to Jiří Harcuba’s wishes the Dominik Biman School was primarily meant to be a place of dialogue. The common work of participants was aimed at the realization of the individual differences of everyone. He compared glass engraving and pencil drawing on paper to a difference in movement – instead of the pencil moving on paper, we move glass against a fixed engraving tool.
The Dominik Biman School has an international format and is a travelling school. Each year it is held in a different venue where some of them providing the background for the school, repeated. Where possible, Jiří Harcuba interconnected the school with International symposia of engraving which took place every three years in Kamenický Šenov headed by Mrs. Helena Braunová, the glass museum director. Jiří Harcuba got sponsors necessary for the school and enthusiastic collaborators who helped him with the organization. Jiří Harcuba endeavoured to have a simple catalogue of each year of the Dominik Biman School, documenting the entire course of the event (not all of them were preserved). The Dominik Biman Schools were always connected with an excellent friendly working atmosphere. Various accompanying events were a part of the programme, e.g. visiting studios of some glass artists, lectures, social gatherings etc. Jiří Harcuba encouraged the effort of engravers in many ways. For example, each of the students got a glass plate the size of a slide to engrave on a given theme. The plates were then projected at the final social evening and students used them also as the base for vitro-graphy (printing from a glass plate). The resulting prints were included in the catalogue together with the name of their author. In this way all participants including their works were documented. The catalogue, printed in a simple way using a copy machine was given to all of them as a memory of creative moments. Finally, a common exhibition of the implemented works was kept and each participant received a certificate.

2001 – Glassworks Novosad a syn, Harrachov
2002 – Glass School, Kamenický Šenov
2003 – Bild-Werk, Frauenau, Germany
2004 – Secondary School of Applied Arts, Jablonec nad Nisou
2005 – Secondary Art School, Neu Gablonz, Germany
2006 – Glass School, Kamenický Šenov
2007 – Glass School, Rheinbach, Germany
2008 – Glass School, Nový Bor
2010 – Studio of the Glass Museum Corning
2011 – Studio of the Glass Museum Corning
2012 – Studio of the Glass Museum Corning
Since 2004 Jiří Harcuba dedicated each year of the Dominik Biman School to an outstanding female personality. Then she became the central theme of the entire year. Participants could be better acquainted with the figure and be inspired by her. They could respect the theme given but also their free expression was respected.

The female personalities in individual years

2001 – The first year of The Dominik Biman School
The first Dominik Biman School was held from May 7 – 25, 2001 in Harrachov. The school was officially opened by a honoured citizen of Harrachov, Countess Stephania Harrach. As it was a project of the Dominik Biman Society and the Association Bild-Werk in Bavaria the event received support from the Czech-German Fund for the Future. Further support was received from the Art Glass Gallery AVE ART Prague, the ‘W’ Gallery Nový Bor and the Eliška Stolting Gallery Hitfeld near Hamburg. The event was sponsored by glass companies. Spaces were provided by the Novosad a syn glassworks Harrachov and the training was also sponsored by our outstanding glass artists who presented their work free of charge.
Participants in the first year of the Dominik Biman School came from all over the world. There were two students from Rochester, a Venezuelan living in the USA, an Irishman, Germans, Dutchmen and Spaniards. The young generation was represented by students from the secondary glass school Zwiesel, Bavaria and from secondary glass schools Nový Bor and Železný Brod. Also a glass artist Vladimír Jelínek participated. For one afternoon, children from the local kindergarten and basic school were guests of the Dominik Biman School. They showed their creative naturalness and fantasy and became not only students but also teachers as required by Jiří Harcuba.
Mr. Harcuba in an interview for the magazine Krkonoše 7/2001 said: “It was a certain step into the unknown as such a class was held directly in a production plant. It is charming that we are working in an old cutting workshop.”
The programme included such techniques as glass engraving, vitrography, drawing, metal carving and engraving.

2002 – The second year of The Dominik Biman School
The second year of the Dominik Biman School was held from Aug. 25 –Sept. 7, 2002 at the Secondary Glass School in Kamenický Šenov where there is a long tradition of engraved glass. The town has a glass museum that has an unique collection documenting the engraved glass history in the Czech lands.
The Dominik Biman School was supported by the director of the glass school Kamenický Šenov, Mr. Pavel Werner who himself syste-matically works with engraved glass. The Dominik Biman School was successful thanks to him. Mr. Jiří Harcuba was assisted also by the school instructors. Thanks go also to Mrs. Ursula Merker who introduced vitrography to the participants. The background was partly provided by the apprentice glass school Nový Bor.
Students were working in branches of engraving, vitrography, cutting, mould melted glass, smithery and drawing.

2003 – The third year of The Dominik Biman School
The third year of the Dominik Biman School was held in the German Bild-Werk in the glass town of Frauenau. The motto was ‘the history of engraving’ from the very beginning of art. The inspiring source for everybody was the catalogue prepared by Jiří Harcuba himself which included photos of engravings from historical periods of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Mexico and examples of the 20th century art.

2004 – The fourth year of The Dominik Biman School
The fourth year of the Dominik Biman School took place in the Secondary School of Applied Arts in Jablonec. During this time the 200th anniversary of birth of Dominik Biman was also celebrated. Students of the school Jablonec and the art school Neu Gablonz also participated.
Due to the orientation of both partner schools, the training was mainly focused on metal engraving techniques. Instructors of the local school significantly participated in the training. Besides printing from metal plates, participants were engaged in glass engraving and Zen painting, i.e. painting with closed eyes. The resulting paintings served as a base for further work. The Dominik Biman School was traditionally characterized by a creative and friendly atmosphere.

2005 – The fifth year of The Dominik Biman School
The fifth year was again held in Germany at the Secondary Art School Neu Gablonz. For that year Jiří Harcuba prepared a catalogue showing the public works of four glass artists – Václav Cígler, Jan Kotík, Bohumil Eliáš as well as his own pieces. Through works of the artists and himself he pointed out different attitudes to glass creation.

2008 – The eight year of The Dominik Biman School
Until 2006 the Dominik Biman School was supported by the Czech-German Fund for the Future. In 2007 when the school took place in Rheinbach the event was financed by the EU. Nevertheless, the acquiring of funds for the event was more and more difficult. In 2008 the spaces were offered by the Higher Professional Glass School and Secondary School Nový Bor. There a varied society met. Participants of the school were students of the glass schools Nový Bor and Kamenický Šenov as well as the director of the glass museum Kamenický Šenov Mrs. Helena Braunová, the former secretary of the Glass Society Mr. Vlastimil Dvořák, a glass entrepreneur Peter Rath, Vlastimil Pospíchal and many others.
The motto of the year was the outstanding glassmaking personalities. The participants treated the task given quite creatively. A great response was aroused by Jiří Harcuba’s lecture. It was visited by students, pedagogues and numerous takers not only from Nový Bor. The participants of the school visited the AJETO glassworks in Lindava and the engraving workshop of Arno Čančík who showed his lifelong work. In the end, works by individual participants were projected in the form of slides. The works originated during the 8th year of the Dominik Biman School paid tribute to all outstanding engravers who contributed to the spread of traditions of the technique in the past.

My aim was to write up the history of the Dominik Biman School. I participated in 2006 in Kamenický Šenov and co-organized the school in Nový Bor in 2008 together with Jiří Tesař, an outstanding teacher and glass engraver. In time, Jiří Harcuba asked me to write up the Dominik Biman School history. First, I was enthused by the idea and I immediately agreed with pleasure. But then the time passed, there was more and more work, I was thinking about the catalogue and gathered strength to fulfil the promise. Nevertheless, Jiří Harcuba suddenly died and I intensively felt the need to fulfill my promise.
I remember Jiří Harcuba as a very kind and human person. In the same time as a very strong personality who did not tolerated human stupidity and was able to face it in a very original way. I have a deep respect of both Jiří Harcuba the artist and the man. For me, he became an example, sometimes idealized and with excused human errors.
When writing the text I met the problem of selecting the variant of the Dominik Biman name. The more common name is Dominik Biemann. Jiří Harcuba adapted it to Czech and strictly used the variant Dominik Biman thus I decided to keep the same name as used by Jiří Harcuba.
Thanks to the great kindness of Mrs. Zdena Harcubová I obtained almost all copies and originals of the catalogues documenting individual years of the Dominik Biman School and used them in the text. Some of them included more detailed information on the course of the entire event others were limited just to prints from engraved plates with names of participants. It is particularly the last years of the Dominik Biman School where the necessary information is missing. I appreciate any contact and information of participants of the last events.
The Dominik Biman School hasn’t finished with Jiří Harcuba’s leaving. The imaginative baton was taken over by an engraver and glass artist Pavlína Čambalová ‘having been chosen’ by Jiří Harcuba even during her studies in Nový Bor where she studied at VOŠ in the department of engraved glass. From the beginning Pavlína Čambalová respected the craft and was deeply interested in engraved glass. She began her cooperation with Jiří Harcuba and became an outstanding and respected glass engraver accompanying Jiří Harcuba on his travels and classes and mastered his original approach both to people and glass.
Pavlína Čambalová complied with wishes of her colleagues to take Jiří Harcuba’s legacy and decided to continue in organizing the Dominik Biman School with the blessing of Mrs. Zdena Harcubová, Jiří Harcuba’s spouse. According to Mrs. Harcubová’s wish for a distinct differentiation of the new school she renamed it Jiří Harcuba School – similarly as Jiří Harcuba earlier to Dominik Biman she expressed her respect to Jiří Harcuba. Its first year headed by Pavlína Čambalová will be held from Sept. 22 – 24, 2014 in the Glass Art Centre at the Glasswork František in Sázava. The circle is complete.

Mgr. Martina Matoušková