Jiří Šetlík was born on April 2, 1929 in Prague. He studied art history and aesthetics at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University, his professors were for example Antonín Matějček or Josef Mukařovský. In the 1950s and 1960s, he managed the Collection of Modern Art of the National Gallery in Prague, worked as editor-in-chief of the Výtvarná práce magazine, lectured at the Academy of Fine Arts (AVU), and at the end of the 1960s was the director of the Museum of Applied Arts. At that time, he was also studying for a postgraduate degree in the USA, but he did not complete his doctoral studies in Prague on Otto Gutfreund until 1994.
At the time of normalization, Šetlík was one of those whose professional activities were prohibited. He was expelled from the Communist Party of the Czech Republic, and between 1971 and 1989 he made a living as a technical worker renovating the historical objects of the Museum of Arts and Industry. Between 1985 and 1987, his essays on Czech visual artists who created despite the official culture were published in Samizdat. At the time, these essays circulated in typescript among all those interested in Czech visual arts. Portraits of Adriena Šimotová, Magdalena Jetelová, Vladimír Janoušek, Čestmír Kafka and other artists today belong to the basic literature on Czech art of the 1970s and 1980s.
After 1989, he worked for three years at the Czechoslovak Embassy in the USA as Ministerial Counselor for Culture and Health. After his return, he taught at the University of Applied Arts in Prague and from 1996 to 2001 he headed the Department of History of Art and Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture of the Technical University in Liberec. In 2014, he received the Artis bohemiae amicis (Friends of Czech Art) medal from the Ministry of Culture for his lifelong work in the field of visual arts. He was also one of the founders of the Jindřich Chalupecký Prize, which is intended for Czech artists under the age of 35.
Vital story Jiří Šetlík is also remembered by the Memory of the Nation project, which captures the memories of 20th century witnesses.
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