Švankmajer, Jan By Ivins-Hulley, Laura
Jan Švankmajer (1934–) is a Czech surrealist visual artist, primarily known for his film works. He studied puppetry and theatre at university and began his career working in Prague theatre. In 1964, he made his first short film, The Last Trick of Mr. Schwarzewald and Mr. Edgar (Poslední trik pana Schwarcewalldea a pana Edgara), and over the next few decades, he continued to make short films. Many of these are stop motion animations featuring everyday objects like chairs, suits, or raw meat, and were occasionally banned by the socialist authorities for their alleged subversiveness. In 1970, he and his wife Eva Švankmajerová (1940–2005) joined the Czech and Slovak Surrealist Group. He has participated in many of the group’s exhibitions and writes poems and essays for its publication, Analogon. After working exclusively in shorts for almost 25 years, Švankmajer directed his first feature-length film in 1988, Alice (Něco z Alenky), inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. He has gone on to direct five additional feature-length films, and as of this writing, is in production for his seventh, an adaptation of Karel and Josef Čapek’s satirical play, Pictures from the Insects’ Life. All of his features include stop motion animation sequences.