Saturday, January 20, 2007

February 2007 - Artist Hampl

I met Petr Hampl for the first time in the autumn of 1992 when he came to the Zamek and lept upon the chapel altar to point out aspects of the painting of The Fourteen Auxiliary Saints. This astonished me of course, but I soon learned that this creative person, overflowing in energy, dips into dozens of interests.

After his visit, several firemen arrived to see our two depictions of St. Florian, the firemen's patron saint. One's a fresco and the other's a statue outside. Their visit puzzled me until I learned Petr had sent them. He quite likes astonishing people. At a church under repair he took his sister up to the open tower and shot photos, which shocked his mother later.

Hampl was born in 1964 in Pacov, a small town east of Tabor. Artists and craftspeople are in his blood: his mother teaches art and math; his grandfather, now in his nineties, was an extremely skillful blacksmith; and his uncle is an artistic blacksmith.

After basic school Hampl studied at art schools in Prague: Umeleckoprumyslva skola; the painting department of Vysoka Umeleckoprumyslva skola; and the restoration department of Akademi vytvarne umeni. He does both original compositions and restoration work. If he drops in for coffee or lunch, he's soon off again - to Olomouc, Bechyne, Nepomuk, Prague - wherever he is working on restorations. Asked to enter a local show, he painted a slew of pieces in just a few days.

Before this, he'd had his own show. The centerpiece and crowning glory was an absolutely fantastic triptych of the Battle of Britain with Churchill, Big Ben, planes, Czech flyers in their youth and in their old age. The flyers included General Perina whose wife Anna belonged to IWAP. They and other flyers still living had come to his show! Hampl gave the painting to the Air Force Museum where it was displayed at first. Later he found it shuttled to a storeroom and, disgusted, took it home.

Hampl ordinarily restores frescos on or in buildings - government ones, churches, zameks. One very hot summer he worked on the Mala Strana clock in the wee hours of the morning, because of the heat and because tourists were there all day. He used a ladder, painting by street light.

If you are walking in Prague late at night it is quite normal to run into Petr. We have. During the millennium celebration one daughter met him on Charles Bridge. Another daughter and her husband were once on Old Town Square when they heard: "Leslie, Robby". Startled, they looked around to see Petr. He took them to Umgelt, the ancient customs house, and up in the construction elevator to see how he and colleagues had been repairing frescos.

We have some of his work - a formal portrait of a Polish officer, a lovely sketch of the Zamek, posters for Pacov's 400 year celebration, a contemporary portrait of my husband and me behind the chapel, surrounded by impressionistic foliage. The Grand Dining Room features his painting of General Helidor Pika.

Hampl has done some restorations here, also - a large painting of the Prague skyline, sprucing up St. Florian in the chapel, some work on the library fresco. For that fresco it was tremendous watching him, with a few brush strokes, bringing out a face. He wanted to work more on it, but it turned out to be impossible. He had other work that summer before our daughter's wedding and we needed to remove the scaffolding to do the floor in the library.

He restored the painting of The Fourteen Auxiliary Saints, which designates our chapel's name. It was greatly damaged. [We were told that a potato-picking brigade - from another location of course - had amused themselves by making holes in it.] Petr Hampl removed it from its frame putting it in an unused room where he set a new canvas. He ironed the painting onto the new canvas! Eventually he painted missing and damaged sections. I had had a 1941 photo enlarged which helped him. We no longer use the enormous and very heavy Baroque frame, but have made a simple frame in our workshop.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Czech Dumplings

Czech Dumplings

5 Viennese rolls [rohlicky?], or one half loaf of white bread, 1-2 days old.
1/2 cup butter or bacon fat.
Cut the rolls or bread into small cubes, heat butter or fat and fry cubes until they are crisp. Set aside.
Often dumplings are made without this frying, but babicka says they are really much better.
Of course you might experiment if you wish, with tossing in oil & baking or microwaving.

2 eggs
1 1/2 to 2 cups soda water.
1 pound flour sifted together with [or just mixed with]
1 teaspoon salt & 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Beat eggs & soda water.
Add flour mixture & beat vigorously until dough is very smooth & loosens.
[It says from a wooden spoon with which you are beating, but I think I'd use the Kitchen Aid, until the dough would be smooth & start to ball.] Mix in the fried cubs and if desired, chopped parsley, until all cubes are covered in dough.
Let rest for 15-20 minutes.

With dampened hands (small bowl of water) form two large long rolls.
Slide them into a very large saucepan with briskly boiling salted water.
Be sure the water is boiling vigorously when you put the rolls in, or they will stick to the bottom. Bring to the boil again.

Cooking time is 25 minutes - about half-way through, turn the dumpling over.
Test readiness with a cake tester - no dough should cling to it.
Remove with a dumpling lifter. If I didn't give you one yet, use 2 spatulas.
Immediately poke with something long & thin - skewer, cake tester - to let the steam out, so they don't collapse.

Dumpling may be reheated in the microwave, either sliced or whole dumpling.