PhDr. Helena Honcoopová


Letenska 5, Prague 1

Helena Honcoopová was born on Nov. 1, 1948 in Prague, graduated from Japanese and English literature at Charles University in Prague in 1972 with a thesis on “Methods of Integration of the Classical Anthology of Japanese Poetry Shinkokinshú, 1205.” Her PhD thesis (1986) was based on the translation and analysis of Hyakunin Isshu, a classical anthology of Japanese poetry compiled in 1236. She started working for the National Gallery in Prague at Zbraslav Chateau from 1972, while taking a post graduate course in history of art at the Charles University. In the history of Asian art, she was tutored by Lubor Hájek (1921-2000), the founder of the Oriental Art Collection, National Gallery in Prague.

She spent a two-year maternity leave in Japan (1983-85) as the wife to a Japanese photographer. Returned to Prague with her two children in 1985, working as a free-lance translator and interpreter, mostly in the field of classical music and opera. After 4 years of working as the Chairperson of the Czech Section of the international organisation European Culture Club (1990-1994), she returned to her work in the National Gallery in Prague in 1994. Specializing in Japanese graphics, painting and Buddhist art, she wrote several catalogues for graphic art exhibitions to be featured in Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara) as well as a catalogue oeuvre on Japanese Illustrated Books and Manuscripts in NG collections (660 titles, 1997) and a monograph on Kunisada –Master of the Late Japanese Woodcut (400 ills, 2005) and a number of catalogues on Asian art (such as Books Carved into the Wood, Black on White – Modern Japanese Calligraphy, Figural Painting of East Asia, The Art of Korea, Africa – The Fateful Encounter of Rainer Kreissl, Birds, Flowers and Landscapes in Japanese Art, Japanese Horrors, Oriental Furniture, etc.). As the Director of the Collection of Oriental Art of the National Gallery in Prague (2003-2012) she conceived of two large permanent Asian collections exhibitions – Oriental Treasures for Noble Courts in Zalužany Chateau in 2009 (not realised due to the overall economic crisis) and The Art of the Old World at Kinsky Palace in Prague (opened in 2011). Since 2004, she has participated in a number of international research projects as a Board member of ENJAC (European Network of Japanese Art Collections): Digitation of Japanese art collections in the Czech Republic with the Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Buddhist Art Collections in Europe Database with the Hôsei University, Tokyo, Virtual Collection of Asian Art with the Asian-European Museum Association (Asemus), Paris.

Having retired from the National Gallery after 35 years of work in 2012, she has started lecturing on Japanese art and culture at the Anglo-American University and the Charles University in Prague, besides promoting Japanese art in a series of public lectures in Prague and participating in Japanese art symposia. As a private retired scholar, she, together with Joshua Mostow and Makoto Yasuhara, translated and commented on a 16th century manuscript of Japanese poetry A Book of Fans published by Charles University Press (Karolinum) in 2016 in English and Czech. Since 2014, she started researching a set of 17th century scrolls called Shuten Dôji – The Ôeyama Monster Story as a representative of a team research group of the Art Research Centre of the Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. In 2015 she was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun with a Rosette (Kyokujitsu shôjushô) for her life-long work in promoting of Japanese art and culture by the Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzó.