Velký Betlém (Nativity scene)Alexander Forýtek (1953 - 2019)
Dřevohostice, 751 14, Czechia
The work is erected in early December in the town’s main square and remains on view until Epiphany, January 6.
About the Artist/Site
Alexander Forýtek was born in 1953 in the city of Zlín in the Czech Republic. After completing his primary education, he studied pedagogy and obtained a position as an educator. He then moved to Turovice, a small community of some 200 inhabitants located just outside the city of Dřevohostice, a larger town of approximately 1600 inhabitants.
Even as a young man, Forýtek was quite interested in visual art. He liked to paint, often choosing subjects such as landscapes, portraits, and still lifes, but he also tried sculpting and carving. In the 1970s a selection of his illustrations were published in various Czech magazines.
The story of the nativity scene begins in 2001. That year, for the first time, Forýtek, as a respected person in the community and well known as a self-taught artist, was given the opportunity to create the nativity scene that is annually installed on Dřevohostice's main square. It was a traditional arrangement of the manger scene with the holy family, three kings and a couple of lambs.
But in the following years this arrangement was gradually supplemented by a number of new sculptures depicting many ordinary people from the city. The municipal website says this was the idea of Ladislava Sigmunda, the mayor of the city. The characters depicted include a village band and other musicians, a horse pulling a car, a miller carrying a sack of flour, a mother and her son walking and carrying a milk can, various small animals, and so on: in general, a selection of scenes from daily life in the community during the 1930s. Forýtek’s sculptures are so realistic that some residents of the community recognized themselves in the depicted characters.
The sculptures are built over an infrastructure of wood to which blocks of polystyrene are attached. These are subsequently cut into the shape desired and finished with a special paint with added glue within, which slows the negative effects of the weather. The sculptures are so solidly built that, for example, children can sit on top of the horse pulling the car.
Since its beginning in 2001, the site has grown in size, with Forýtek making a number of new sculptures to enlarge the scene each year. By 2017 it reached its maximum size, with about forty sculptures covering an area of 200 square meters. Unfortunately, Forýtek fell ill and now lives in a retirement home in Radkov Lhota, and is no longer adding new sculptures.
Each year the community looks forward to viewing this extensive nativity scene that depicts the neighbors and ambiance of old Dřevohostice. It is erected in early December in the town’s main square and remains on view until Epiphany, January 6.
~Henk van Es
Update: Forýtek began having problems with his health in the late 2010s. He moved to a retirement home, where he passed away in 2019.
Map & Site Information
, 751 14
Latitude/Longitude: 49.4259425 / 17.5920528
Csalogány köz 36 9400 Sopron
Kacanovy, Liberec Region
Zalipie, Lesser Poland Voivodeship