It is with great regret to report the passing of the SVU long-time member Mojmír Svatopluk Frinta on Wednesday, January 21, 2015. I have known him from the inception of our Society and still vividly recall when I invited him, in my capacity as a program chair, to our First World Congress of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Science in America, as the Society was then called, held in Washington, DC, on April 20-22, 1962. He talked on the subject “Czechoslovak Painting from its Beginning until the Second World War.” He also actively took part in the Society’s Second World Congress in 1964, which I also organized, with the paper “The Beautiful Style in the Sculpture around 1400s.”
Mojmír was born in Prague on July 28, 1922, as the son of Antonín Frinta, a founding member of the Prague Linguistic Circle. He attended the School of Graphic Arts and School of Applied Arts 1941-43 in Prague and studied art history at Charles University (1945-47). In 1947, he went on a Bourse d’echange du Gouvernement Francais to Paris to study at the Academie Andre Lhote, École nationale supérieure des Beaux-arts (fresco and lithography), and École du Louvre. He also worked as an art restorer at the atelier Chauffrey et Muller. In 1951, he immigrated to the U.S., where he continued his studies on history of art at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, which awarded him M.A. in 1953 and Ph.D. in History of Art in 1960.
After serving on the staff of the Medieval Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as a senior restorer (1955-63), he moved with his family from New York City to Altamont, NY, having received an appointment at the State University of New York (now the University at Albany). He was the first art historian in the expanding program housed in the Art Department. In 1965, he became an associate professor and in 1969 a professor of art history. He retired after teaching for 30 years and became professor emeritus in 1993. In the fall of 1991, he was a visiting professor at his first alma mater school, Charles University in Prague.
His major interest was Medieval and Early Renaissance painting. He endeavored in his research to incorporate art technological findings into standard art historical approaches (stylistic and connoisseurship). Most of the fifty articles were first presented at scholarly colloquia, symposia, and congresses and then published in the Acta and periodicals such as The Art Bulletin, The Art Quarterly, The Burlington Magazine, Pantheon, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, Gesta, Simiolus, Umění, Acta historiae artium, Zograf.
His book The Genius of Robert Campin was published by Mouton at The Hague in 1966. Actually it was through my contact with Peter de Ridder, director of this old, tradition-rich Dutch firm Mouton & Co. which led to publishing of Mojmír’s book manuscript there. I knew Peter de Ridder personally through my negotiations with him which led to publishing of the Proceedings of the first two SVU Congresses, under the title The Czechoslovak Contribution to World Culture(1964) and a two-volume set of Czechoslovakia Past and Present(1968).
He was also the author of Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel Painting. Part I: Catalogue of Punch Shapes (Prague, Maxdorf, 1998). Part II: History of the Procedure was not published yet.
His passing is a great loss to SVU and to many of his friends and acquaintances.
Read also Mojmír Frinta obtuaries on Dagmar Frinta’s website.