Tavik František Šimon
Biographical Sketch by Catharine Bentinck



The artist was born with the baptismal name František Jan Šimon on May 13, 1877 in the town Železnice (also called Eisenstadl) near Jičin in Bohemia. His father was Antonín Šimon (Rovensko pod Troskami 1835- Mšeno 1912), a miller and merchant in grits who moved as a child in 1837 with his parents Josef Šimon, a miller and Anna Tvorsky to Železnice (house number 97). His mother was Anna Ludmila Tavik (1835-1898?), a daughter of František Tavik, a baker in Nymburk and Katerina Machackov. As an artist Tavik František Šimon used from the beginning on in Paris his mother’s second name Tavik. He did this to distinguish himself from the many other artists with the name Simon.
Antonín and Anna had seven children, two daughters died shortly after the birth. They lived in the large corner house number 85 in Zeleznice; now the street is called T F ŠIMONA. There is a memorial plaque on the wall of František’s house of birth, where nowadays the library is located.


Children of Antonín Šimon and Anna Tavik:
Maria Šimon (*10-05-1863-† 1941?).
Anna Kateřina Šimon (*03-02-1865-† 1908?). She lived in Bosnia and was married to a farmer.
Antonín František Šimon (*01-01-1867-† 1928?). Iimmigrated to Baltimire and moved later to Detroit (USA). (Ford).
Julie Antonie Šimon (*11-04-1869-† 10-05-1869).
Rozena Šimon (*12-03-1872-† 28-04-1872).
Robert Antonín Šimon (*01-06-1875-† 11-04-1943). Czech photographer and journalist.
František Jan Šimon (*13-05-1877-† 19-12-1942).

Antonín Šimon moved with his family from Železnice on November 1, 1883 and lived eventually in Mšeno in Karlova Ulice 138. Mšeno is an ancient town located east of Kokořín, a region of forests and enchanting rock formations. T.F. Šimon spent a good deal of his childhood and adolescent life in Mšeno. In 1898? his mother Anna Tavik died. His father remarried Rozalie Zeiberlich
(1843 - 1922). Velké Námĕstí 279 since 1910 called Riegrova Námĕstí.
T.F. Šimon held a speech at the opening of the Šimon exhibition in Mšeno in 1940: “Mšeno brings to my mind an abundance of the best moments in my whole live – youth in its wake, with dreams, desires and ideals which would sprout nowhere better than in the country meant for the sensitive soul of an artist. I feel a deep and legitimate attachment to your town, as its former dweller.... who will never forget this place, with its picturesque landscape and the many good friends I had here and where I spent my joyful youth.” 

Art Academy

At the elementary school František accompanied in the final years his teacher with drawings on the blackboard. The teacher advised Šimon’s parents to send their talented son František to Prague for an art education. After finishing the civic high school in Duba in the region Kokořínsko north of Mšeno he was admitted in 1894 to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague after passing the entrance examination. He entered the class of Maximilián Pirner (1854-1924) in the year 1895 and later at the Academy befriended Hugo Boettinger (1880-1934), Richard Lauda (1873-1929), Jan Honsa (1876-1937) and Ferdinand Michl (1877-1951). He travelled in 1897/1898 for health reasons to his sister Anna Katerina (1865-1908?) in Bosnia because of the better climate. She was married to a farmer and lived permanently in Bosnia. In 1899 he travelled in Bosnia, Dalmatia and Montenegro. Then in 1900, after completing his art studies, he travelled for four months in Croatia (including Dubrovnik), Bosnia and Italy. The painting “Reminiscence of Dalmatia” from 1900 shows that he was a full-fledged artist.
He was in Military service for about a year until October 1901. In 1905 he completed his military service for another period of four months in Przemyśl, then in Austrian Galicia, now Poland. During these four months, he visited Krakow. He was saddened by the poverty he saw and the coarseness of his fellow soldiers. Two subsequent calls for military service, he ignored for the latter reason. A sketchbook with small sketches of the old Jewish cemetery in Przemyśl witnesses his stay.
T.F. Šimon was awarded twice for the Hlávka scholarship (called after Josef Hlávka, 1831-1908), in 1902 and 1903 (source: exhibition catalogue Chrudim 1903). It enabled him to travel. In 1902 he travelled to Italy for a period of four months and in 1903 to France, where he stayed in Paris and Ault-Onival. In the same year he travelled to London, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Moving to Paris 1904

In the first place T.F. Šimon considered himself as a painter. His first paintings testify of mastery, for example, the painting “Symphony” of 1900, a highlight of the collection of the National Gallery in Prague (Veletržní Palác). Already before 1900 he experimented in Prague on techniques of graphic art. There was no advanced education in techniques of graphic art in Prague. Impressed by the metropolis Paris, the opportunities for the artist to develop himself and obtain more knowledge in the field of making graphics let him decide to settle in Paris. With his friend Ferdinand Michl he travelled by train to Paris, where they arrived on February 22, 1904.
”Together they set up a modest studio (“atelier”). With limited financial means their beginnings were quite hard and Michl eventually gave up and left. Šimon gradually acquired the necessities for his efforts in graphic arts, some tools at flea markets, zinc plates at hardware stores and somehow- nobody seems to know how he learned all the crafts of etching, in particular that of aquatint (invented in France in the 18th century by J.B. Leprince). Aquatint appeared essential to Šimon the painter as it permitted the rendering of half-tones and colours. He also mastered the technique of soft-ground (vernis-mou) which produced the effect of pencil drawing and skilfully combined this with the aquatint. In order to obtain exactly the desired effect he preferred to do his own printing and for this purpose purchased a second hand press.” Source: Exhibition catalogue National Gallery - Eva Bužgová, 1994. English translation by Ivan Šimon (1914-2009).

He lived in Rue Daguerre 19 and since his marriage with Vilma Kracík, February 17, 1906 at the Boulevard Montparnasse 83. Autumn 1908 they moved to Rue Humboldt, to a rental house with a huge studio. Other Czechs who had preceded him to Paris included Josef Kratina (1872-1950), Alfons Mucha (1860-1939), Luděk Marold (1865-1898) and Josef Mařatka (1874-1937).

“My favourite Paris quarter had always been the Latin Quarters. Following me, Czech fellow artists and friends moved to this quarter one after another. It was my friend the painter F. Michl, the sculptors Španiel and Kafka, later the painter Strimpl and the illustrator Placek. Štefánik had called us once for a fun a ‘bunch of fumblers’. The oldest Paris residents were of course: Kupka living in Montmartre, A. Wiesner in Neuilly, J. Dědina and K. Špillar in Montrouge but we met them occasionally or by chance. We were youthful, had the same interest and modern thinking, always overflowing with merriment, and although our work was different, the relation with them was amicable and somehow amusing. We did not have much money but we had strong appetite for life, especially for the Parisian life, and the sense of humour and merriment was never missing. We were happy in a Bohemian way. We used to go for lunch to some restaurant at noon and instead of dinner, we rather went to some café-house where we could sit, with a glass of café or another drink, relaxing, talking and sketching till or even over midnight.” Source: Arnošt Bareš; Štefánikuv Memoriál, Praha 1929, T.F. Šimon - From the life of Milan Štefánik in Paris, p. 79-80.

Whistler in London
T.F. Šimon visited with his friends Hugo Boettinger and Bohumil Kafka the James Mc. Neil Whistler (1834-1903) exhibition in London, organized by the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Engravers at Regent Street.

First solo exhibition in Prague.
From December 1905 until January 1906 a Šimon exhibition was held in Prague, organized by The Mánes Association of Fine Artists (SVU Mánes). The exhibition was appreciated, although the important critic F.X. Šalda saw too much “Whistler” in Šimon’s art. He painted in an original way the Paris life, whereby he increased his fame, the French called his scenes “Paysage de Paris”.

Acceptation by the Paris Salons.
‘Salon’ stands for an art exhibition of paintings and sculptures, held once a year. The first Salon in Paris had in 1648 exhibiting works of art from students of the École des Beaux Arts. In order to gain prominence, it was necessary to take part in the exhibition. For two centuries it was the most important exhibition for fine artists in France. After the revolution of 1848 the policy was smoother and fewer artists were denied; the elitist principles had been watered down. I
In the 19th century the Salon was of great importance and attended by all sections of the population. It was mostly work of established artists from the Art Academy that was shown. There gradually came rebellion within the art world against the still elitist official Salon. Between 1862 and 1865 including the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, chaired by the critic Gautier, independent salons were set up with their own organized exhibitions.
The French artist Jacques Villon, graphic artist and illustrator (1875-1963), was one of the organizers of the first exhibition of the Salon d’Automne in 1903. Villon was befriended by František Kupka, they were neighbours from 1901 in Montmartre and later in Puteaux as well. Kupka was married to Eugénie Straub and moved to Puteaux starting 1906. T.F. Šimon and František Kupka were acquaintances from Prague. In the summer of 1904 they were both in Ault-Onival. Šimon wrote on a postcard to Hugo Boettinger: “Kupka arrived here the day before yesterday and he will stay probably for 14 days. Everything can be discussed with him very nicely.” Kupka exhibited at Salon d’Automne for the first time in 1906. With the establishment of the Salon d’Automne artists like Matisse, Gauguin, Picasso and August Rodin exhibited.

T.F. Šimon was accepted as a member by Salon d’Automne in 1905. His first exhibited graphic works were PORTRAIT OF OTAKAR ŠPANIEL (N 27) and OXFORD CIRCUS (N 35). In a letter to Edmund Sagot of April 23, 1906 he wrote: “I am a Czech painter and graphic artist and member of Society Mánes in Prague. I live now for two years in Paris and have acclimatized well. Last year in 1905, there was an exhibition in Prague organized by Mánes Society showing my ‘tableaux et eau-forts’. Included were 80 oil-paintings and 40 ‘eau-forts’ + monotypes. Also I exhibited in Vienna, Berlin, München and London.”

Šimon invited Sagot for a visit to his studio. The dealer Sagot accepted his work in commission. One of the first graphic works in commission was THE SHADOWS OF PARIS (N 24). For an artist it was necessary to exhibit to get attention from art dealers, who were a growing link between artists and buyers of art. In 1904 the artist met the important publisher and art dealer George Petit. MARCHÉ AUX LÉGUMES (N 13, 1904) and LES BOUQUINISTES (N 43, 1905), both published by Petit, were exhibited in 1906 at Salon de Societé de la Gravure originale en Couleurs. Leading figure of this Salon was Raffaëlli, who Šimon already had met in 1903.

T.F. Šimon was accepted by La Société de la Gravure en Noir, La Société des Peintres-Graveurs Français, Royal Society of Painters, Etchers and Engravers (London) and in 1910 as a member of ‘Union Internationale des Beaux-Arts et des Lettres’, founded in Paris by Paul Adam, August Rodin and Vincent d’Indy.

Marriage František and Vilma (Vilemina) 1906

František and Vilma were married on February 17, 1906 in St. Nicholas Church in Prague. In 1906 their first child Kamil was born, followed by Eva (1908-1997), Ivan (1914-2009) and Pavel (1920-1958). Kamil died young on September 5, 1912.

Ruzena Kracík, daughter of Václav Kracík and Eleonora Soumarová from Hradec Králové, sister of Vilma Kracík, was married to the Czech sculptor Josef Kratina. They lived already in Paris before Šimon settled there in 1904. In 1907 Josef and Ruzena immigrated to New York. Their daughter Lydia, born in New York (1907-2010), was a student (1930-1933) of her uncle František in Prague and married the Slovak artist Koloman Sokol (1902-2003), also a student of Šimon (1925-1932)The couple lived since 1948 in America; they both died in Tucson, Arizona. (see also Kolomon Sokol)



Original record of Marriage:
Prague: February 17th, 1906.


Moving to Rue Humboldt 25
In the autumn of 1908 the artist moved with his family to the villa with a spacious studio in Rue Humboldt (now Rue Jean Dolent).

The villa is located behind a row of houses with studios built specifically for artists in front of the high-walled prison La Santé. Through a small alley at the back of the small houses which nowadays is called Allée Verhaeren (Paris 14th district), you reach the white villa where the artist lived and worked.

Rue Humboldt 25 (14th district of Paris). From ca.1926 on this street was called Rue Jean Dolent. In the thirties the small part of Rue Jean Dolent, in where this house is located, got the name Rue Verhaeren. This is the present name for the small alley in where the house is located. The family moved to this house circa starting 1908.

Simon's studio was on the second floor of the house (photo: ca. 1910).
The upper floor is broken off totally in 2015, and will be built up again.

T. F. Šimon: "Vilma reading a Book", oil on canvas. 

Fame across borders

The first exhibition in America was at Albert Roullier Art Galleries in Chicago in 1910 and a second in 1911. The Public Library in New York organized an exhibition with works by the artist in 1911 and Gallery Frederick Keppel & Co in New York in late 1914 to early 1915. The Musée du Luxembourg in Paris bought the painting ‘Snow in Bruges’ in 1911. In a laudatory article in an American newspaper around 1920 is written:
< The studio in Prague of T. François Šimon reveals the development of an artist of international repute from a colourist and impressionist to a decorative painter within twenty years. One of the best known pictures “Bruges in Snow” hangs in the Luxembourg, in Paris. To the average man in the street who pauses to consider art, Šimon is known to him as an etcher. In the smaller circle of artists and art-critics, Šimon is painter first and etcher second. And it is as painter Šimon would prefer history should record on him. He is today one of the leading Czech painters and is probably, without exaggeration, the master of the decorative school in his country.>

In Zagreb, like Prague a part of The Habsburg Empire, 100 works of art by T.F. Šimon were exhibited in 1910 in the Ulrich Salon. The Croatian art historian Žarka Vujić noted in her book “Ulrich Salon notes on Continental  (2011)”:

< The exhibition season started in 1910 with an international monograph exhibition of the Czech printmaker František Tavik Šimon, who showed his attractive etchings of scenes on the first floor of the city’s main street. More than a third of the prints are bought by the owner of the Salon and one early self-portrait. Today, it is kept with another 40 works in the collection of the museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. >


The Netherlands
T.F. Šimon stayed in 1903 for the first time in the Netherlands. A later visit dates back to August 1909. He travelled by train from Berlin to Amsterdam, arriving in Amsterdam 8:38 pm. On August 26 he was in Zaandam, known for the many windmills and August 30 he sent a postcard from the Kurhaus in Scheveningen to his friend Hugo Boettinger: “It is a beautiful country, just made for painters.”

He was 3 to 4 days in Amsterdam and visited from the capital in one day Haarlem with his Frans Hals Museum and the seaside town Zandvoort. He noted in his sketchbook: < Zaandam, Hoorn, Marken. Hotel Krasnapolsky, Sikshaus = Sixhuis (portrait of Rembrandt), Haag (Mesdag, Mauve, Delacroix, Courbet, Corot), Hotel Edelweiss.>
On a Sunday the artist stayed in Scheveningen / The Hague and travelled on Monday from The Hague to Paris. This trip inspired him to create OLD HARBOUR OF AMSTERDAM (N104), CANAL IN AMSTERDAM (N 116) and OLD HOUSES IN AMSTERDAM (N 117) from 1909.
A drawing from 1909 shows the Damrak in Amsterdam seen from the Victoria Hotel, where the artist stayed in room 21.

T.F. Šimon stayed as far as we know from May 15-24, 1912 in The Netherlands; this resulted in two graphics in colour in the same year: THE OLD CANAL (Oudezijds Achterburgwal), AMSTERDAM (N 212) and HARBOUR OF DORDRECHT, HOLLAND (N 183) and two graphics in black and white AN AMSTERDAM RAGMAN (N 182) and FIRE IN AMSTERDAM (N 239). Amsterdam inspired him to create a variety of oil paintings.

The artist was in the Netherlands at the time his father died in his hometown Mšeno in Bohemia. He would not have been in time to attend the funeral. His wife and children were at that time in Paris. He wrote the following two letters from the Victoria Hotel to Vilma.
Translation (Czech-English) by Ivan Šimon (1914-2009).

Amsterdam. May 15, 1912. “At best I would have arrived May 11, at which time my father would have been dead. It is an unfortunate set of circumstances that I am here while I would preferred to have seen my father still alive and hear his last words. - I was suffering in consideration of what should I do and decided to not going to the funeral mainly for practical reasons, such a loss of time and cost of travel. - "I will stay here still longer (perhaps 14 days) and give my best efforts to my work, which will be my only consolation. These days a representative of the Dorens (a very pleasant man) took me around Amsterdam – through sections I never dreamed of – some sort of ghetto- from which I expect to gain some inspiration - Write me soon about all of you, in particular the children. I feel so lonesome in a strange country” -.

Amsterdam. May 22, 1912. “I wrote in my previous letter (May 15) that I will probably return to Paris by the end of this week, but I am sorry to say that I must stay longer, at least through Saturday and then I want to go to Utrecht (perhaps overnight) so that - at best - I should start going home Sunday (even though I dislike travelling on Sundays - everywhere crowds of people).”

These days I was showing to Dorens (Dutch publisher of prints) and his representative my work, drawings, oil-sketches, and colour drawings and we agreed on the selection of subjects. Now it remains to produce the designs for the copper plates. I have already one almost finished and I want to produce at least one more, so that I would not need to come back here from Paris. As I wrote you; they (the Dorens) are quite good people, businessmen of course, but of quite different kind, say the Petits or other French businessmen. Surprisingly, they are understanding, they give me complete freedom in the choice of my subjects and the way of rendering it and they do not ask for (as I expected it) some well known views of Amsterdam, rather then letting me to do some intimate, unusual subjects. I worked a lot these days and I will have a lot of material for both the colour as well as the black etchings. For the black ones, I was most impressed by the Jewish quarter, the people as well the character of the little streets. If we stay in Paris this summer I hope to finish some of these etchings in addition to the colour ones which were ordered.”

On May 23, he wrote from Amsterdam to his friend Boettinger that he will go to Utrecht. ”Dear Hugo, my brother Robert wrote to me that you came to the grave of my old father, which shows your true kindness of friendship. Thank you my friend for your condolence. I will stay in Amsterdam only a few days. I will travel further to Utrecht. I am restless and it is lonely here.”
On May 24, he decides to go home and sends a telegram from Amsterdam to his wife in Paris.”I arrive tomorrow at 5:40 - Gard Nord = Frant.”

September 5, 1912. Son Kamil died by meningitis while on holiday in Moravia. Vilma became depressive. In the early spring of 1913 the artist decided it would be good for the family to travel. Toledo, Ronda, Cordoba and Seville were visited in Spain. The artist wrote in one of his letters on April 18, 1913 to Hugo Boettinger that he went with his family on a trip to Morocco. “Hugo, we went to Tangier after all and we don’t regret it since it is a marvellous, truly biblical world of Arabs and Muslims of Africa here. These are the most spectacular impressions during our trip - whole Spain is nothing and “swindle” beside this. One feels completely out of Europe and like in the days of Christ here. I think that India cannot give more. Sincere regards from us all. Tangier 18/IV, 1913 The Šimons.” Several etchings, drawings and paintings testify to the inspiration that Šimon picked up during the trip.

Return to Prague
On June 5, 1914 son Ivan Šimon was born. On June 28 Archduke, Crown Prince of Austria, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie Chatek were assassinated in Sarajevo. There is a growing danger of war in Europe. František and Vilma decided to travel to Prague with the children. On July 28 Austria attacks Serbia, August 1 attack of Germany on Luxemburg, and August 4 on Belgium. France and Great Britain try to defend Belgium. A crucial period in the life of Šimon; he cannot return to Paris and finally settled permanent in Prague.

Foundation Hollar Association

T.F. Šimon was with Max Švabinský the initiator of the establishment of the Hollar Association in 1917, named after the famous Bohemian graphical artist Wencelaus (Václav) Hollar (1606-1677). Hollar Association has contributed to the development of the Czech culture. The intention was to help artists who had financial difficulties. Workshops were made available. Exhibitions were held, also abroad and in Magazine ‘Hollar’ articles on art were published.

After the war, Šimon returned for a few weeks to his home in Paris. The rent was not paid during the years of absence, a huge financial setback. A dusty but intact studio he found. He restored as soon as possible contact with the publishers and art dealers in Paris. In two letters to Sagot he writes self-consciously:
Paris. May 14, 1919
“Monsieur, after years of long and terrible War I have returned to Paris. I am here for a few weeks to arrange my business. Please let me know if you have sold some of my prints you still have in commission”
Prague. July 15, 1920
“On this occasion I mention you that I have doubled the selling prices of my prints that I have informed to all print dealers in Paris".

The Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Czechoslovakia has asked him and other artists to record the ravages of war at locations where Czech and Slovak battalions fought. Šimon chose France and travelled to Reims that was severely affected by the war. Šimon made sketches at locations and a series of prints were issued. Šimon received for his effort an honourable French award: the Legion of Honour, “Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur”.

Milan Štefánik (1880-1919)
A good friend of Šimon was the Slovak Milan Štefánik. He was an art collector, astronomer, general, politician and diplomat. He travelled to Tahiti in 1910 and went there at the insistence of T.F. Šimon looking for traces of Paul Gauguin, who died in 1903. He found several woodblocks cut by Gauguin and brought them to Paris. Attempts to sell the woodblocks failed. Šimon restored the blocks and printed them on sheets. Nowadays they are cherished as a precious treasure of the National Gallery of Prague.
On May 4, 1919 Štefáník was killed by the crash of his plane under suspicious circumstances that never has been elucidated. For Šimon this was a great shock. In the Czechoslovak government were already heavy political conflicts about the status of Slovakia in a country dominated by Czechs. The dispute between the Slovak Štefánik on one side and Beneš and Masaryk on the other side often ran high up. Masaryk wrote after the crash ”With Štefánik is all over and out”.
In a contribution to Hollar 1937 Šimon wrote:
“At our many meetings in the cafés and studios, where Štefánik came with pleasure, we discussed the contemporary exhibitions and art in general. I remember that Štefánik sometimes went with us to contemporary exhibitions, organized by the best Parisian businessmen like Durand Ruel, Vollard, Bernheim, Druet etc. At a meeting in café Viennois on the Grand Boulevard, that we often visited, I had suggested to visit an excellent exposition of Asian Art, mainly Chinese and Japanese that was organized in the passages of the art-auction house Hotel Drouet. After this visit we went along the Grand Boulevard to the Madeleine, to visit gallery Bernheim that just had opened an exhibition with paintings by Gauguin. There were about 30 paintings exhibited by this famous artist. The impression of these paintings, most of them from Oceania, was fabulous. He created harmonious stylistic paintings of tropical landscapes. Also Štefánik was affected by these artworks and considered to make a journey overseas, he dreamt about the exotic and primitive beauty of the Island Tahiti.”

Publication of the Graphic Artists Handbook
In 1921 the artist stayed for the first time in a spa in Teplice because of problems with his respiratory tract. Of the towns and natural surroundings, he made a number of etchings. In the same year was published his book ‘Graphic Artists Handbook" (Příručka umělce-grafika). Šimon donated the book to the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington. Martin Hardie, the curator of museum of the department of graphical artworks and drawings writes in a letter to Šimon: “The book is charmingly produced, does great credit to publishers - printers, as you. I wonder whether you could not profitably have an English edition printed chez vous. I am sure the book could have a good sale.”

Son Pavel and the villa in Bubeneč
Pavel Šimon was born on June 16, 1920. He was a talented artist. His first wife Věra Kaplanová, born in 1920, was an artist and pupil of Cyril Bouda who was married to Pavel’s sister Eva Šimon. They had a daughter Alena. After the divorce Pavel married Milá. Pavel died before the birth of his son. The widow remarried the dissident Václav Ottl. The family emigrated to Zürich in Switzerland, where Ottl became a teacher.

In the early twenties the Šimons built a house in  Bubeneč Na Zatorce 483 (later called V Tišine 10, a district in Prague). The architect of the house was František Kavalír. Artists like Mucha, Boettinger and Švabinský lived and worked in this district too. Šimon painted on the house three beautiful murals which are still to be seen. The ground floor has been converted into office space. On the outside on the north side you see the windows of the former large studio of the artist.
Vilma died on January 4, 1959. The house was expropriated by communist law. The family got the house back from the state after 1990. It was sold to Algeria to become an embassy.

“THE BOHEMIAN MASTER - T.F. Simon, painter, etcher and perhaps the most famous of all artists of Bohemia is in New York. Already Mr. Simon is at work, making nocturne, twilight and daytime sketches of New York’s skyscraper buildings, its busy thoroughfares, suspension bridges, docks and harbour craft. Tiny little sketches they are, on uniform rectangular sheets, perhaps six inches wide, or high, black ones being used for the nocturnes.” A commentary in the renowned American art magazine “The Art Digest”.
It proves that Šimon’s fame across the Czech border has made great strides.


It was a cherished wish of T.F. Šimon to make a trip to Japan. After a long period of preparation he went. In his diary we read about the route of his voyage around the world. On Monday August 30th, 1926 his voyage started in Prague, his wife Vilma and their children Eva, Ivan and Pavel wished him a good journey and waved him off. Šimon first travelled to Paris; on September 4 he took the boat from Cherbourg and arrived after 6 ˝ days in New York. He visited then Cleveland, Buffalo and Detroit where he stayed two days with his brother Antonín. He went to Chicago, Pittsburgh and New York. He left New York on October 28 and reached San Francisco via Havana and the Panama Canal on November 19. From here he travelled with the ship Tanjo Maru across the Pacific that took him to Honolulu, Yokohama, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Penang, Ceylon and Aden. The ship sailed through the Suez Canal, along Greece and the trip ended in the port of Marseille on February 27, 1927, after a journey of almost half a year.

The artist had in his luggage art supplies, sketchbooks and small sized canvases. The trip was a great success and led to many drawings, prints and paintings. Facts about his trip were also given to the homeland via the radio, in those days very special. Encouraged by friends and colleagues in Prague, he wrote the book “Listy z cesty kolem světa”, edited by Jan Otto, Prague 1928. It is a compilation of notes and letters to family and friends and is illustrated with reproductions of sketches he made during the trip. It was recently published in an English translation with the title “Letters from a Voyage around the World” published by David Pearson from Melbourne.

Since 1918 T.F. Šimon was a member of the Kuratorium of the Moderni Galerie (predecessor of the National Gallery in Prague).
1924/ Stay in Italy.
1926 1927 – Publication of Handbook for Woodengravers (Dřevoryt, druhá příručka pro umĕlce grafika).
1928 – Appointed Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts of Prague, to lead the Department of Graphic Arts as successor of Max Švabinský.
1933 – Stay with his sons Ivan and Pavel in Italy and in 1936 on the Island Rab, in Dubrovnik and Cavtat.
1937 – Publication of the Chronicle (Kronika grafického díla T.F. Šimona) and the Catalogue Raisonné (Seznam Grafických prací T.F. Šimona) by Arthur Novák. The catalogue raisonné (626 titles) was realised in collaboration with the artist.
1938 – On the occasion of his 60th birthday a special exhibition is held at Pavilon Myslbek in 1938. At the same time was published a monograph on T. F. Šimon, written by the art historian Antonín Mat&ecaron;j&ccaron;ek.

The Academy of Fine Arts was closed in 1939 by the German occupiers. T.F. Šimon continued to teach his students in a private studio. In 1940 he stayed for a time in the spa town Pod&ecaron;brady.
In June 1942 T.F. Šimon (65) visited his place of birth Železnice  together with his son Pavel. The local newspaper wrote: < T. F. Šimon, the academic painter and graphic artist of World-class, stayed since yesterday with his son Pavel, also a talented artist, in their town of origin. They enjoyed their stay here and left satisfied with their rich artistic harvest (production paintings) and refreshed for a new work. They promised to come back as soon as they can to Železnice  .>
In the same year the artist has set up a foundation for talented children from &Zcaron;eleznice to provide financial support for art education. During the communist regime this foundation was nullified.
On December 17, 1942 František Šimon died of a stroke. He was cremated at the Strašnice cemetery in Prague (There is a monument on the Cemetry of Bubenec). His son Pavel stayed with his mother Vilma in the house in  Bubeneč.

The modern art movements demanded all the attention and the communists avoided the “worldly gentleman-artist” T.F. Šimon and moreover: there is no art ‘market’ possible in a communist system. Since the 90’s there has been a revaluation for the artist. The number of admirers of his art is constantly growing. And so is the supply of and the demand for his works of art.

After 1989 auction houses were established in the Czech Republic. Regularly paintings, drawings and etchings by Šimon are in auction in the Czech Republic and abroad. An exhibition devoted to Šimon was organized by the National Gallery (Eva Bužgová) at Kinský Palace in Prague (1994).
In autumn 2002 the Czech Centre on Madison Avenue in New York organized an exhibition with works of art from the former collection of William Ganson Rose. Rose met Šimon in 1923 in Paris and built up an important graphic art collection of Šimons. He published an English version of “T.F. Šimon - Painter Etcher”, originally written by the Czech Arthur Novak. In 1926 they met again in USA during Šimon’s world trip. At the end of 2002 Gallery Fredrick Baker in Chicago organized a sale exhibition and published an illustrated catalogue with 288 prints.

Vilma Šimon
On March 25, 1948 Vilma Šimon wrote a letter to William Ganson Rose in America: “---I thank you very much for your kind letter and recollection to my dead husband. It is already 5 years since he left us: he died of apoplexy; his weak and sick heart could not stand the continuous excitement of the last years. He remembered to his last days the nice journey in 1926 and his kind friends he met on the World trip. On Cleveland and on you Mr. Rose, he had the nicest recollections and spoke often with his family about you. --- Up to now we are quite well, our house, pictures, and collections of my husband are yet in our property. Of course our life changed considerably and we have enough anxieties how it will go on--- “
During the communist regime in the 50s was unveiled a memorial by his wife Vilma in honour of the artist at the cemetery in Bubeneč;. It is designed by the sculptor Josef Šejnost and has a prominent place in the cemetery. Vilma died at her home in Prague on January 4, 1959, one day after her 77th birthday.

It was not all rosy in her life. She was born in 1883 into a bourgeois family under the Austrian regime whose secret service spied and oppressed the Czech population everywhere, a reason why she moved with her husband to the much more liberal Paris, spent the years of the Great War in Prague, celebrated 20 years of her life in free Czechoslovakia, but had to accept the brutal occupation by Germany from 1939-1945 and died in 1959 in a confederation of Czechs and Slovaks dominated by the Communist Party, a country in practice totally controlled by the Soviet Union led by Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev.

After the death of the artist T.F. Šimon his wife Vilma and their son Pavel have catalogued the art collection that was happily not confiscated by the communists. Pavel died shortly before the birth of his son in 1958.
After years of oblivion the artist Tavik František Šimon is nowadays added again to the list of renowned Czech artists with an international repute.

Text: Catharine Bentinck, 2015.

Update: 12-12-2017:
First son Kamil born: Paris, november 25 1906. In the act of birth named: Camille. Parents were named on the act of birth: François Simon and Guillaumette (=Vilma) Kracikova. Witness: Louis (=Ludvik) Strimpl and Ferdinand Michl. Arrondissement 6.
Daughter Eva Šimonova born: Paris, july 18 1908. In the act of birth named: Eve Marie Anne. Her parents were noted as François Simon and Vilemina Kracikova. Witness: Otokar Spaniel and Louis (=Ludvik) Strimpl. Paris, Arrondissement 14. (C.Bentinck).


Eva Buzgova