Costume Designer Ludmila Purkyňová

Ludmila Purkyňová was a costume designer, pedagogue, founder of costume design as an academic study field at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava

Portrait, Ludmila Purkyňová (1978/1985) by Magdaléna RobinsonováThe Theatre Institute

Ludmila Purkyňová

Ludmila Purkyňová attended the Academy of Arts and Design in Prague under the tutorship of Professor František Tichý and Heda Vlková between 1947 and 1952. In 1953, Purkyňová started working as a costume artist for the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava.

Portrait, Ludmila Purkyňová (1978/1985) by Magdaléna RobinsonováThe Theatre Institute

From 1959, she worked as a pedagogue at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. She taught a course of costume design in Havana (1963), lectured at the Fachhochschule in Berlin (1977–1978), and also at the DAMU in Prague. She worked as a costume artist not only in theatre, but also in film and television. Her lifetime artistic domain was opera and ballet. In 1967, she was awarded the Gold Medal for costume design at the Prague Quadriennale. 

Costume design, Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy: Anna Karenina (1959) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy: Anna Karenina, Jozef Gregor Tajovský Theatre in Zvolen, 1959

Governor Abashvili's costume, Bertolt Brecht: The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1968) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Bertolt Brecht: The Caucasian Chalk Circle, 1968

In preparation for the visual solution to Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Ludmila Purkyňová visited Georgia together with stage designer Ladislav Vychodil. They discover an ancient country and one of its oldest stories.

This authentic experience inspired them to create a unique, original design in which both artists found common ground and a precious symbiosis in approaching the dramatic character as well as the theatre space and costume.

Costume design for Othello, William Shakespeare: Othello, Ludmila Purkyňová, 1978, From the collection of: The Theatre Institute
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Othello's costume, William Shakespeare: Othello, Ludmila Purkyňová, 1978, From the collection of: The Theatre Institute
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In the costumes made of luxurious materials, Ludmila Purkyňová not only referred to historical fabrics, but also deliberately suppressed the local colour to emphasize the universal validity of Shakespeare's verse. 

Othello's costume, William Shakespeare: Othello (1978) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

William Shakespeare: Othello, Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava, 1978

Costume design for Platonov, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov: Platonov (1979) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Chekhov: Platonov, Slovak National Theatre, 1979

The historical context for the creation of costumes for A. P. Chekhov's Platonov was the turn of the century and the nostalgic character of the fin de siècle. The costume design contains all types of clothes, their various cuts and details.

Costume design for Count Esterházy, Ján Solovič: The Bell Without a Tower (1984) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Ján Solovič: The Bell Without a Tower, Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava, 1984

Costume design for Boris Godunov, Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (1954) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov, Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava, 1954

Costume design for Violetta, Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata (1955) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata, Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava, 1955

Costume design for the female choir, Giacomo Puccini: Tosca (1957) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca, Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava, 1957

group composition

Costume design, Richard Strauss: Ariadne on Naxos (1966) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Richard Strauss: Ariadne on Naxos, Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava, 1966

clothes' variations

Rienzi's costume, Richard Wagner: Rienzi (1967) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Richard Wagner: Rienzi, Slovak National Theatre, 1967

The costumes for Richard Wagner's opera Rienzi were made using the innovative "artprotis" technique. The costumes were awarded the Gold Medal at the Prague Quadriennale in 1967.

Artprotis is a material equivalent of painting and, as a technique, makes use of layering non-woven thread that is sewed onto a textile base. The technique is protected by a Czechoslovak patent. Costumes made using this technique are incredibly heavy. 

Costume design, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin (1972) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin, Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava, 1972

Costume of Count Friedrich von Telramund in Richard Wagner: Lohengrin (1976) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Richard Wagner: Lohengrin, Slovak National Theatre, 1976

When creating the costumes for Lohengrin, Ludmila Purkyňová took her cue from Wagner's composition principle of synthesizing all artistic elements known as Gesamtkunstwerk.

She used vivid details shifted to surreal appearance: lacing shaped like skeleton bones, sleeves with tips in the shape of animal hooves, and an armour from crooked metabolic forms evoking intestines.

Costume design, Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlos (1981) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlos, Slovak National Theatre, 1981

The geometrical and subtle silhouette of the Spanish type of clothing was made unique by a graphical black-and-white structure.

Costume design of the Butterflies, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (1956) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava, 1956

Costume design for Giselle, Albrecht and the fairies, Adolphe Charles Adam: Giselle (1966) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Adolphe Charles Adam: Giselle, Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava, 1966

group composition

Costume design, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty (1968) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty, Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava, 1968

Costume design for the Skeletons, Oskar Nedbal: From Fairy Tale to Fairy Tale (1983) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Costume designer, artist and pedagogue Ludmila Purkyňová was the first to develop the methodology of teaching costume design for the theatre at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. She was not only the expert pedagogue, but also a practitioner.  In her lifetime, she designed costume art for nearly 250 theatre productions, 10 movies and over 30 television productions.

Costume design, Oskar Nedbal: From Fairy Tale to Fairy Tale (1983) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

For Purkyňová, the departure point for costume design creation was the fabric, cloth, and drapery. She approached theatre costumes as a united artistic whole set against large, monumental areas. She kept searching and discovering new material solutions and realizations, which enhanced the dramatic effect of the costumes. She frequently used the method of blending original and traditional clothing with new forms. 

Costume design of the mask for the daughter of the Mountain King, Edvard H. Grieg: Peer Gynt (1984) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Ludmila Purkyňová’s artwork remains a great source of inspiration not only for students of costume art in theatre, but also for the students of other visual arts disciplines in the field of textile, clothes or aesthetics. 

Costume design, Johann Strauss: The Bat (1987) by Ludmila PurkyňováThe Theatre Institute

Purkyňová’s work has left traces in almost all Slovak and international theatres, where some of her successors are continuing her work at present.

Portrait, Ludmila Purkyňová (1978/1985) by Magdaléna RobinsonováThe Theatre Institute

Ludmila Purkyňová

17 June 1928, Hradec Králové – 26 July 1990, Bratislava

Credits: Story

Author: Miroslav Daubrava
Slovak proofreading: Mária Kvaššayová 
English translation: Ivan Lacko 
Editors: Vladislava Fekete, Dominika Zaťková 
Production: Zuzana Poliščák Šnircová, Marko Popović 
In cooperation with: LITA - Society of Authors


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