František Vladimír Foit

Born on 2 November 1900 in Tábor
Died on 31 August 1971 in Celje, Slovenia
Academic sculptor, traveller

He spent his childhood and youth in the carving shop of his father Ferdinand in the village of Doupí where the material was both the granite from the Mrákotín quarry near Telč, and from Sweden. After completing his grammar school studies in Telč, he continued his studies at the sculpting-carving school in Hořice, then under the personal tutelage of professor Wrba in Dresden, Germany, under professor Bourdell in Paris. Paris, too, was the venue of Foit’s first public exhibition. It was in this period that he created his famous sculptures A Mulatto Ballerina, A Monument to Humanity, Bygone Ages, or An Italian Boxer. He completed his studies in Prague with professor Štursa.
In 1931, accompanied by Dr. Jiří Baum, Foit made his first trip to Africa which he described in his book To Africa by Car. In the 1930s he created a number of sculptures of legendary Czech personalities, such as the monument of the Protestant leader Jan Hus for the town of Jihlava, nowadays located in the town of Hlinsko.
In 1947, Foit and his wife Irena went for a second African trip. Its aim was to portray Africans for the Hrdlička Museum in Prague and the collection of ethnographic materials for the Náprstek Museum in Prague. The problems the Foits encountered in the then Belgian Congo (Zaire) and the Communist political coup’d état in Czechoslovakia (1948) led to the continuation of their stay in Africa until Foit’s death.
In Nairobi, Kenya, F. V. Foit taught as a professor of painting and sculpting at Kenyata College, becoming the teacher of innumerable young African artists. At that time he also created portraits of several African statesmen. Foit is also the author of the monumental fountain “Thirst for Knowledge” located in front of the university in Nairobi.
In the meantime, Foit’s family firm at home and his studio in Doupí were confiscated, and his return home became undesirable.
During his second African venture Foit sent dozens of portraits of Africans and roughly 1,500 ethnographic items to his old country, but apparently a part of them never reached Czechoslovakia, others were damaged by the transportation and nothing is known about their future fate. In spite of this, it is largely thanks to Foit’s efforts that the Hrdlička Museum of Man at Charles University in Prague has its unique collection of African anthropological types, and the Náprstek Museum in Prague has a collection of 900 ethnographic items collected and donated by Foit. Finally, the branch of the Museum of the Highlands in Telč keeps a collection of Foit’s ethnographic items from his estate, as well as some of his sculptures from the 1930s and 40s.
In 1971 the Foits made a trip to the then Yugoslavia during which F.V.Foit died in a car crash. The Slovenian town of Velenje then created a museum devoted to Foit’s artifacts.

(Memoirs of Mrs. Irena Foit and the family archives; F. V. Foit’s travelogue Across Africa with a Car)
(fb, hb)
VLOŽIL: Terezie Veselá (31.05.2012) , UPRAVIL: Eliška Rodová (20.11.2020)
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