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ENGLISH LETTERS ARRIVE AFTER 86 YEARS
Czech artist’s book published in English for the first time
In 1926. T.F. Simon travelled the world, recording his journey in a series of sketches, journal entries and letters home. When he returned to his native Czechoslovakia he published the book locally and as the country moved into Nazi occupation and then Communist rule, his art and this book became inaccessible to the West. Over the past two decades his work has gradually become more available and now, for the first time his book ‘Letters from a Voyage Around the World’ has been translated into English by David Pearson from Melbourne, Australia. The book will be self-published and available worldwide on 17 April 2014.
Tavik Frantisek Simon, known to the art world as T.F. Simon, was 49 years old when he undertook the journey of his lifetime, sailing literally around the world departing Cherbourg in September 1926 and travelling through the USA, crossing the newly built Panama Canal to sail the Pacific to the Far East and then back home to Europe via Ceylon and the middle East.
His notes and letters home reveal a world that was unknown by those in Old Europe – a challenging new mechanistic society in America, a transforming Empire in the Far East, and an untouched paradise in the island of Ceylon. These glimpses into the past provide us with a view of history, from the eyes of a painter, that takes us back to a time when neon lights were marvels, when geisha were icons, before commercial air travel and when the only way to share your adventure with loved ones and family was through sending letters home.
The artist was widely known in the early twentieth century, particularly for his colour etchings and aquatints as he specialised in graphic arts exhibiting his work across Prague, Paris and London with interest extending from Chicago and New York. Following his trip around the world, he was appointed a Professor at the Academy of Arts in Prague in 1928 to head the school of graphic arts. He died at home in 1942 and was survived by his wife, Vilma, and his three children.
Over the last twenty years, Czech artists have gradually been rediscovered and there have been a number of recent Simon exhibitions held in galleries. His work continues to be collected, exhibited and sold around the world.
In 2010, David Pearson discovered an original copy of the book, in Czech and set out to translate it so that he could find out more about the story behind the art, “I felt it was important to share his journey and experiences and to introduce the artist to a new generation, to a new world and preserve his place in our culture”. T.F Simon collectors have expressed great enthusiasm for the translation. Finding an original Czech language copy of the book is difficult and an English version finally allows them to hear the artist’s voice.
T.F. Simon’s grandson, Michal, learned about this project from one of Simon’s admirers. “I was delighted when I learned that David Pearson was translating my grand-father’s book ('Listy Z Cesty Kolem Světa') from the Czech language. He took [the project] on out of an appreciation of his work and curiosity about the world he saw. The translation is excellent and is true to the spirit of his writing”.