Portrait of Milan Ratislav Štefanik
by
Tavik František Šimon, 1918


Milan Rastislav
Štefánik (1880-1919)
was an astronomer and art-connoisseur.

M.R.
Štefánik became a general, politician and diplomat 
and was one of the founders of Czechoslovakia. 
Štefánik was befriended with the artist
T.F. Šimon (1877-1942),
he
 financially supported the young artist during his early career in Paris.

 
 


"there is no such thing as the impossible

(M.R.
Štefánik)

 
 

Štefánik Memorial in Cleveland, Ohio

With the tragic death of  Štefánik  on 4 May 1919, the Cleveland Slovaks raised money to remember this national hero with a monument. The sculptured bronze figure atop a stone base was commissioned to Slovak sculptor M. Frico Motoska in 1922. The monument is located in Cleveland Wade Park, at the foot of University Circle. The Slovak Cultural Garden extending 3 acres along Rockefeller Park began in 1929 as a civic plan to join with other nationalities along this long parkway extending north from  University Circle. There are 24 nationality gardens along this route.

                         Slovak stamp of 1939 

Issued in commemoration of the death of
Štefánik. Shown is Štefánik as a general and his memorial barrow, a national cultural monument, designed by the architect Dusan Jurkovic, standing  on Bradlo Hill above the town Brezová pod Bradlom in Slovensko. The comet and the stars remind his profession as an astronomer.



Stamp issued 5 May 2003 in France in memory of Štefánik: value 50 euro-cent. Stamp issued 5 May 2003 in Slovakia in memory of Štefánik: value 
14 Slovak crowns.

 

 

 

Milan Rastislav Štefánik (1880-1919) was born on July 21, 1880 in the evangelic parish house in Kosariská, a small village with a population of about 400, in Slovakia (Slovensko). Then part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

 

His father was Pavol Štefánik (1844-1913), a Lutheran priest and patriot; 
his mother was Albertína Jurenkova.

 

 

In Kosariská he attended the folk school and after that he was accepted to the evangelical lyceum in Bratislava. After his final examinations 1898 in Szarvas Štefánik chose to study, at first architectural engineering , then mathematics and astronomy, but finally Štefánik applied to the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague where in 1904 he graduated with a doctorate from philosophy. From his childhood he liked astronomy, physics and mathematics and therefore left Austria-Hungary, as hundreds of Slovak intellectuals, and travelled abroad. He chose Paris with its science, culture and art and desired to act there as an astronomer.
Besides studying,
Štefánik also put his energy into club activities. He was a member, later also chairman of the Slovak student club Detvan in Prague, which propagated Slovak culture, poetry and folk songs. In Prague he entered its intellectual society and also met among others Tomás G. Masaryk, the future president.


 

 

A drawing of Milan Štefánik by the Czech artist
Hugo Boettinger (*Pilzen 1880 - †Prague1934).
Signed HB, dated 1905 and Paris. 
Hugo Boettinger was a close friend of the Czech artist
T. F.
Šimon, who had a good relationship with Štefánik.

 

Štefánik arrived in 1904 in Paris with just a few things in his suitcase and a recommendation from his Prague professor. After a long period of poor existence and waiting for French professor Jansen who was in Italy, Štefánik was finally accepted as an assistant in Jansen's observatory in Meudon.

 

 

His first act in his new job was an ascent from the town of Chamonix to the highest European peak, the 4810m high Mont Blanc, with an expedition. The main purpose was to observe the sun and atmosphere on the observatory constructed by the famous Gustave Eiffel. The weather worsened and the stay on the top was prolonged from a planned two weeks to the final three. Already no one believed that members of the expedition were still alive. On the 21st day the decimated and starving group was discovered in the streets of Chamonix. The record of a stay on Mont Blanc was broken and it is unbelievable that the observations themselves took only 20 minutes out of a three-week stay. Štefánik has written an original report about the expedition. He worked at Meudon Observatory during 1905-1907 and proposed to build a new observatory on the island of Tahiti. He received the Janssen award in 1907 and the Wilde award in 1911.  

 

1906.   Scientific journey to Turkestan.
1907.   During coming back from Russia he visited L. N. Tolstoj in  Jasnaja Poljana.
1909.   Meteorological observations in Algeria and tour to Tunis.
1910.   He is observing Halley's comet in Tahiti in Polynesia.
1911.   Journeys to New Zealand, island Vavau, Fiji Islands and to Australia for observing the eclipse of the sun.
1912.   Diplomatic and intelligence services and observation of the sun in Brazil. He got the French nationality.
1913.   He visited Kosariska and Slovakia for the last time in case of   his father's funeral. Journeys to Tahiti, USA, Panama, Ecuador and Galapagos Islands.
1914 .  He got the Chivalrous decoration of the Honest Legion. He received a message about the outbreak of the world war in Morocco.
1915.   He entered the French army as a pilot and he became founder of the meteorological service in the air force. He flied on the Serbian front and  began organizing the Czecho-Slovak rebellion abroad.
1916.   He founded the Czecho-Slovak National Council in Paris with T.G. Masaryk and E. Benes. He negotiated in Russia, he organized the intake of volunteers-countrymen in Roumania.
1917.   He took a diplomatic journey to Russia; he tried to create an army from countrymen in USA. French president H. Poincaré  accredited a decree about creating a Czecho-Slovak army in France. 1918.  He tried to create legions from Czech and  Slovak captives, previous Austro-Hungarian troops in Italia. He took up with his coming fiance Giuliane Benzoni. And he        travelled to USA, Japan and Russian Siberia with general Janin. There were still large Czecho-Slovak troops. He became general and minister of war of the new Czechoslovak republic.   
1919.   He took part in politic and diplomatic negotiation in Paris and Rome.
1919.  
4 May: tragic death of Milan Rastislav Štefánik in an airplane crash, near Ivanka pri Dunaji near Bratislava.

 

 

Štefánik as a soldier, later even general of the French Army, was decorated with the state prize (Légion d’Honneur) and gained many good contacts in high places. He mediated a meeting between T.G.M. (=Masaryk) as the head of the Czechoslovak government in exile and French PM Aristide Briand. This meeting is considered to be the beginning of the fight for establishing the CSR.
From this time the supreme organization of the Czechoslovak foreign resistance movement – the Czechoslovak National Council began its work. Its main aim on the field of diplomacy was to initiate connections with western governments and in the military sphere to build foreign legions in the U.S.A., Russia, France and Italy made up of Czech and Slovak volunteers. In this case
Štefánik played the most important role. After the war and establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic the new state had a good position for negotiations at the Paris peace conference, mainly thanks to the fact, that volunteer legions fought on the side of the western countries. His absolutely unexpected and tragic death met him as a 39-year old man at the height of his career.
He is buried near the place of the disaster. The memorial barrow to General Milan Rastislav
Štefánik, a national cultural monument, was designed by the architect Dusan Jurkovic, and stands on Bradlo Hill above the town Brezová pod Bradlom.


 

The Death of Štefánik - accident or murder? 

 

Since 1919 historians have been arguing over one of the first and one of the most controversial events in the history of Czechoslovakia - the death in 1919 of the Slovak general Milan Rastislav Štefánik

Štefánik - along with Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and Edvard Beneš - was one of the three co-founders of the modern Czechoslovak state. But it was his untimely death - in a plane crash in May 1919 - that has captivated both Slovak and Czech historians ever since.
Milan Rastislav
Štefánik - war hero, accomplished diplomat and some say legendary womanizer - the name is revered by both Slovak nationalists and Czechoslovak federalists alike. His short life was a screenplay of heroic exploits, diplomatic intrigue and passionate affairs.
When war broke out in 1914,
Štefánik joined the French Army, and after being wounded in Serbia he was sent to Paris. There he was heavily involved in the formation of the Czechoslovak legions, the breakaway army which fought with Britain and France against Austro-Hungary. It was his diplomatic efforts, however, that are widely credited with winning French support for the creation of an independent Czechoslovakia. In May 1919, six months after statehood had been bestowed on the Czechs and Slovaks, Štefánik boarded a four-seater aero plane to return to Czechoslovakia a national hero.  
But he never made it. On May the 4th, 1919, his plane crashed as it was approaching the Slovak capital Bratislava. Myriad conspiracy theories - regularly dusted off by Slovak nationalists over the decades - have sprung up to explain the crash: the plane was shot down on
Beneš´s orders. Štefánik was piloting the plane himself and committed suicide. Štefánik was shot by army officers travelling with him in the plane.
Interest in
Štefánik´s death was rekindled during a visit to Prague by Slovakia´s president Rudolf Schuster. The Czech president Vaclav Havel handed him a bundle of secret documents, which were said to contain details of an autopsy on Štefánik and his three fellow passengers - which shows that none of them were found with bullet wounds.
This, however, has not settled the matter. Slovak historian Ivan Kamenec says the autopsy merely proves the passengers had not died from bullet wounds. It does not, he says, prove that the plane was not shot down. But Mr Kamenec does not subscribe to the conspiracy theory. The idea that
Štefánik was murdered by his Czech colleagues is absurd and illogical, he says, for a number of reasons.
At the time of the crash Czechoslovakia was fighting a fierce border war with the Hungarian Red Army, which occupied parts of Southern Slovakia immediately after the declaration of Czechoslovak independence. Italy was helping Prague in its efforts to push the Hungarians out of Slovakia. Two of
Štefánik´s fellow passengers were senior Italian army officers. The idea that senior Czechoslovak officials ordered the plane to be shot down just doesn't make sense, says Mr Kamenec. Besides, Masaryk and Beneš may have disagreed with Štefánik on a number of issues, but ordering his assassination was just not their style, he says.
At the time of his return to Czechoslovakia General
Štefánik was facing an uncertain future. Most key posts in Prague had already been filled. There were even rumours that he had decided to retire from politics and return to his first love - astronomy. 
We will never now exactly how he died. But his memory lives on, not just in Slovakia but e.g. in Prague, at the observatory on Petrin hill which today bears his name. 

 


The relation between Paul Gauguin, Milan Štefánik and Tavik Frantisek Šimon:

 
A woodblock cut by Gauguin, taken from Tahiti by Štefánik

 


Paul Gauguin
was born on June 7, 1848 in Paris; he was one of the leading painters of the Postimpressionist period.
In 1849 the political activities of his father, a journalist, forced the family into exile. The Gauguin family set off for Peru. His father died during the crossing from France. Gauguin's mother, of Peruvian descent on her mother's side, and her two children moved in with a great grand uncle and his family in Lima. At the age of 17 Gauguin joined the French merchant navy, travelling around the world for six years. After the death of his mother in 1867, he settled down with his wealthy guardian, Gustave Arosa, who had a large art collection that included works by Delacroix. This period in time shaped Gauguin's interest in the arts. He started collecting Impressionist paintings, and became an amateur painter.
In 1883 the bank that employed Gauguin experienced financial difficulties, and he found himself free to paint full-time. Much of his work during this period was influenced by the Impressionists, especially Pissarro. In 1884 Gauguin went to paint at the artists haven of Pont-Aven. Influenced during this period by Van Gogh, Seurat, and Degas, he began to adopt his own independent style.
In 1887, Gauguin left France for Panama. For a short time he worked as a labourer for the Panama Canal Company. He soon left Panama for Martinique, where he continued his development as an artist. In 1888 he returned to Brittany. His experience in Martinique broadened his vision and enabled him to develop original interpretations of scenes in Brittany.
In October, 1888 he travelled to Vincent van Gogh's home in Arles, France. His stay was both traumatic and fertile for both artists. They learned a great deal from each other but were often at odds. Gauguin returned to Paris in December after Van Gogh's "ear incident."
Gauguin's break with the Impressionists came when he painted "Vision after the Sermon," where he tried to depict the inner feelings of his subjects. This painting also marked the start of a new painting style that came to be known as "Symbolism."
Although this period had been highly productive for Gauguin, he was deeply depressed and in 1891 abandoned his family to seek an idyllic life in the South Pacific Islands. He stayed briefly in Tahiti's capital, Papeete, and then relocated to a remote part of the island.
He lived in Tahiti from 1891 to 1893, and again from 1895 until his death. In Tahiti his painting style evolved to reflect the Pacific Islands' primitive forms and brilliant colors. His striking images of Polynesian women rank among the most beautiful paintings of the modern age. In 1904, Gauguin, dissipated by drug-addiction, died of a heart attack on Hiva Oa Island in the Marquesas in French Polynesia. 
In Tahiti Gauguin made some very interesting woodcuts; after his death some of the wood blocks he cut were left on the island. Only in 1910
Štefánik discovered them, in that way he rescued them. He took them to Paris, where his friend, the artist Tavik František Šimon, printed the blocks. Now these blocks are in the collection of the National Gallery in Prague.

 

GAUGUIN Paul (1848-1903), "Femmes, animaux et feuillages"
woodcut, 161x334 mm, undated, Prague (1930), unsigned, signed PG in the bottom centre (legible only on original print). This print belongs to a series of Gauguin prints created most probably in the years 1895-1903, the author himself took the blocks to Tahiti where they were discovered by M. R.
Štefánik during his trip in 1910 and subsequently brought to Europe. T. F. Šimon printed this series after 1911 in Paris, later they were printed again in Prague around 1930, wood cut lengthways 20 mm thick
GAUGUIN Paul (1848-1903), "Te Farure" (= Ici on fait l'amour).
woodcut, 66x102 mm, undated, Prague (1930), unsigned, signed PGO in the block. This print belongs to a series of Gauguin prints created most probably in the years 1895-1903, the author himself took the blocks to Tahiti where they were discovered by M. R.
Štefánik during his trip in 1910 and subsequently brought to Europe. T. F. Šimon printed this series after 1911 in Paris, later they were printed again in Prague around 1930, wood cut lengthways 23 mm thick, torso of the original block 355x205 mm
GAUGUIN Paul (1848-1903), "Woman under a tree".
woodcut, 100-135x323 mm, undated, Prague (1930), unsigned. This print belongs to a series of Gauguin prints created most probably in the years 1895-1903, the author himself took the blocks to Tahiti where they were discovered by M. R.
Štefánik during his trip in 1910 and subsequently brought to Europe. T. F. Šimon printed this series after 1911 in Paris, later they were printed again in Prague around 1930, wood cut lengthways 22 mm thick.


In Honour of Milan
Štefánik:

 



Otakar Španiel (1881-1955), plaque with a portrait of Milan Štefánik, Paris 1905, 47 x 50 mm. 

 

The Slovak 5000 crowns banknote honours  Milan Rastislav Štefánik
Shown is the front. The elements printed on the left side of his portrait illustrate the sun and the moon, representing a part of his life which he dedicated to research and observations in the field of astronomy.
Dimensions: 82 x 164 mm and ± 1,5 mm
Designer: Jozef Bubak
Engraver: Vaclav Fajt
Manufacturer: Giesecke & Devrient

 

"Place Général Stéfanik" (Square) in Paris



Literature about
Štefánik:

 

For those who are interested in this intriguing man a paperback  is recommended; alas,  not yet in English." Navraty do Polynezie po Štefanikovych stopach", by Frantisek Kele and Miroslav Musil. Collected and rendered in verse by Richard Neugebauer, illustrated by Ladislav Hanka. The authors retraced the early 20th century transcontinental odyssey of Milan Rastislav Štefánik and were intrigued by the man who, in his own words, would "gladly exchange my stars of general for the real world of stars." From the highest summits of Europe to the Polynesian paradise, they tried to perceive the people and places through the eyes of Štefánik. The result is an intimate, lavishly illustrated and captivating account of the adventure.

 

Maybe the most important book about Štefánik was published in 1929, redactor was Arnost Bares and the book (420 pages, bound, 27,5x23 cm, 78 photographs) was printed by the Czech Graphic Union in Prague. It is called "Štefánikuv Memorial", Praha, Památnik Odboje, 1929. Some of the people who contributed to the book are Arnost Bares, Josef Bartusek, Rudolf Medek (a poem), Hana Gregorová, Jan Zikmundík, Prof. Dr. Jan Konrád, Alois Kalvoda, F.X. Svoboda, Fr. Bílý, B. Kafka, Tavik František Šimon, Hugo Boettinger, Stefan Krcméry, Ruzena Svobodová, Vojteska Vanecková, V. Tille, K.J. Zákoucký, Camille Flammarion, Camille Mauclaire, Jan Havlasa, J.A. Amédet, A.V. Novák, J. Rivnác, Fedor Houdek, Anatole de Monzie, Marshal Lyautey, T.G. Masaryk, Dr. Eduard Benes, Marshal Foch, General Weygand, Major Prat, Major Roger Vitrat, Major Dangelzer, Dr. Svetislav Predic, Josef Procházka, C. Boas de Jouvenel, Bertrand de Jouvenel (son of C. Boas de Jouvenel), C. Picard, J. Sauerwein, Aristide Briand, Louise Weiss, Prof. Hartmann, Camille Barrère, General Girard, General Berthelot, Count Lareinty de Tholozan, Dr. J. Markovic, V.E. Orlando, General A. Diaz, Arnaldo Agnelli, Gen. V. Zupelli, Gen. Pietro Badoglio, Count R.A. Galenga Stuart, Rafaela de Vita, Enrico Scodnik, Admiral Lacaze, Jean Jusserand, Dr. Lev Sychrava, Julien Luchaire, Josef Rybka, Emil Konrád, Jan Seba, Ferd. Písecký, General Maurice Janin, Dr. Josef Kudela, Ing. Ant. Pavel, Major Tulasne, Dr. Lev Sychrava, Dr. Ivan Markovic, General E. Mittelhauser, Adolf Cerný and J.Bohác.
Further articles about his life and his correspondences by V. Sokolova, J. Sujan and M. Neumannová-Zilkova. All articles in Czech, only a preface by Arnost Bares and a facsimile of a letter in French. 
From this book we present you some of the beautiful pictures on this page. 

Interesting essays:

1. Štefánik in search for Gauguin's traces on Tahiti.
2
'From the live of  Milan Štefanik  in Paris'
 



Some other interesting photographs:

 




T. F. Šimon: "Portrait made in memory of M. R.  Štefánik,
astronomer and co-founder of Czechoslovakia"
Colour Woodcut
.

[Listed by Arthur Novak in the Catalogue Raisonne
of the Graphic Art of T.F. Šimon, no. 597, 1933.
Size: 37,3 x 51,2 cm.]





www.tfsimon.com








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