Ondřej Sekora's work on display at Můstek

The artist is famous for Ferda Mravenec but was also involved in sports and politics

Fans of the children's book characters Ferda Mravenec and Brouk Pytlík can see some of artist Ondřej Sekora'swork at Palác Koruna at Můstek until Sept. 15. The exhibition marks the 90th anniversary of the first appearance of the anthropomorphic ant Ferda Mravenec and the 50th anniversary of the death of the artist. Ferda Mravenec first appeared in Pestrý týden in 1927 but became better known after he appeared in daily Lidové noviny starting in 1933.

Ondřej Sekora is sometimes called the Czech Walt Disney, although that name is given to other illustrators as well. Sekora was also a journalist, a pioneer of comics, an amateur entomologist and a promoter of the sports rugby. His first published work was actually a translation of the rules of rugby, introducing sporting terminology that is still used.

Ferda Mravenec appeared in several books in the 1930s and in a TV series that started in 1984. Brouk Pytlík, another anthropomorphic insect, appeared in books with Ferda Mravenec and on his own.

Sekora was born in Brno in 1899 and died in 1967 in Prague. His career suffered a setback in 1941 under the occupying German authorities. He was married to a Jewish woman and as a result, he was forced out of the Federation of Czech Journalists. Both Sekora and his wife, Ludmila, were sent to concentration camps but survived.

During the communist era, he was again active in publishing children's books and illustrating, and he received the Meritorious Artist title in 1964. The same year he had a heart attack and stopped his public appearances. Asteroid 13406 Sekora, discovered in 1999, is named after him.

The Moravian Museum in Brno last year received Sekora's estate from Jana Kolarová, whose sister married Sekora's son. The artist now has no direct descendants.

Kolarová came to the opening of the exhibition from her current home in Sweden. “I am glad that the name of Ondřej Sekora is not forgotten in Bohemia and his work is still known by little ones,” she said. The exhibition includes drawings, comics, pastels, books and newspaper illustrations.

Lešek Wronka, who is an organizer of the exhibition and also behind the production of a family musical about Ferda Mravenec, said that many aspects of Sekora's life are not known by the public. His sport's reporting, in particular, is forgotten. He covered the Olympics and Tour de France, as well as working to popularize rugby starting in 1926.

His pre-war cartoons mocked Hitler, and while he was in a concentration camp he met actor Oldřich Nový and worked with him on a puppet theater, Wronka pointed out.

Sekora kept diaries of his wartime experiences, which were not published until last year.

Video on YouTube

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