President Masaryk visited Hradec Králové eleven times. The first time was on May 1, 1892, when he came to lecture on universal suffrage. The idea of erecting a monument to President T. G. Masaryk was raised by the citizens of Hradec Králové, who addressed it to the city council. On 23 May 1923, the city council decided that Masaryk’s monument would be erected, established a fund for this purpose and also appointed a commission for
the monument itself. The architect Josef Gočár, who had designed buildings in Husovo náměstí Square (today’s Masarykovo náměstí Square) since 1922, suggested to the city council the renowned sculptor Jan Štursa, who was eventually approached. Štursa and Gočár arrived together on 27 April 1924 to inspect the site for the monument. In June of the same year, Štursa sent his official offer to the city authorities. He promised to have the monument made by 28 October 1925 at a price of CZK 160,000 and to deliver the model of the statue by the end of October 1924. Štursa’s offer was accepted by a resolution of the city council on 14 June 1924.
As part of the three-day celebration of the President’s seventy-fifth birthday, the foundation stone was laid on Husovo náměstí Square on 8 March 1925. During the laying ceremony, speeches were given by the then mayor František Ulrich and the chairman of the Chamber
of Deputies of the National Assembly and a native of Kukleny, František Tomášek who concluded: “We do not build monuments to the living; if we build this mon-ument to Masaryk [who is still] alive, it is a testimony to how much love, gratitude and appreciation we have for him, the most lasting monument to him, however, should be built in our hearts.” The adding of the box with the memorial charter in the cornerstone brought the ceremony to a close.
On May 2, 1925, Jan Štursa died tragically. This event thwarted the execution of his thoughtful work, which remained unfinished; moreover, his sculptural sketches could not be used by any other artist: namely, the life-size figure standing with a hat in one hand and a scroll of paper in the other. Josef Gočár therefore suggested a new sculptor, his peer and good friend Otto Gutfreund.
When Gutfreund heard about Gočár’s idea, he wrote in a letter to his mother on 4 July 1925: “The Hradec [Králové] project has seemed rather silly so far… there is to be a public competition for it... this morning Gočár telephoned me to say that he had a message for me: the city council had already voted that I should do it and that I would receive the commissioning letter in the next few days.” In a subsequent letter of the same date, he writes to his mother about setting up a temporary studio for the work. The builder Jan Strnad promised to buy it for him at a low price, and the owner Karel Barták offer the land next to his metal foundry. Gutfreund made eight portrait studies of the President in Lány. He also needed the anthropometric data on his figure and photographs. The measurements were taken by Jindřich Matiegka and photometric photographs of the Presi-dent were taken by Jaroslav Pantoflíček in the presence of Otakar Španiel and the President’s personal physi-cian Adolf Maixner. On the basis of the written protocol and the photographs, Gutfreund created a one-third scale model. This was subsequently cast in bronze and the sculptor presented his work to the public in July 1926 at the Economic-Industrial Exhibition of the Czech Northeast in the town of Jaroměř.
The following year (30 July 1926) Gutfreund wrote to his mother again: “My work is going well, I will start casting on Monday.” The sculptor Bohumil Stehlík enlarged the plaster model to actual size in the workshop of his colleague, the sculptor Joza Novák. The second half of
the statue was cast in plaster, and the hands were cast separately. After his final corrections, Gutfreund handed the model over to the metal workshop of Karel Barták for casting in bronze.
Meanwhile, Josef Gočár, designed the architecture of the monument, which he set in his original design of the square. In June 1926, after an assessment of the bids received and Gočár’s recommendation, the stone and sculpture firm of Václav Škoda and sons was commissioned to carry out the work.
During the installation of the memorial, the box with the memorial charter was lifted to include the name of the new sculptor in the charter which was then placed in a copper box in
the stone foundation. The unveiling ceremony took place on 28 October 1926 as part of
the celebrations of the establishment of the Czechoslo-vak Republic. The ceremony was attended by the troops of the Hradec Králové garrison with an honorary company, members of the Sokol and Orel organizations, scouts, firefighters, legionnaires, the Peasant Caval-ry, teachers and pupils, representatives of the state and municipal authorities from towns and districts, politi-cal parties, churches and other institutions and associations, and probably
the creators of the monument. The mayor of the town, František Ulrich, delivered a solemn speech in which, among other things, he thanked the creators of the monument and all those who had contributed to its construction, and presented it to the pub-lic with the words: “Forward! Follow Masaryk! Follow his great example!” The national anthem then closed
After the German occupation, the sculpture was removed on 6 October 1940, and then destroyed and re-placed by a statue of Božena Němcová by Josef Václav Škoda (1901-1949). Thanks to a public collection (J. V. Škoda played an important role in its organization), the statue of Masaryk was re-cast and the monument was restored in October 1947. During March 1953, however, the sculpture was removed again and melted down. Originally,
the statue of Soviet leader Stalin was to replace Masaryk’s Monument, but this did not happen. The new monument was unveiled on Masarykovo náměstí Square after thirty-seven years on 27 October 1990 in the presence of President Václav Havel. The sculptor Stanislav Hanzík collaborated in the making of the new cast according to the preserved models.
The sculpture depicts a larger-than-life President standing in an unbuttoned jacket in a calm, yet focused and determined position, with his left leg slightly bent and his arms loosely lowered along his body. It is placed on a high plinth against a continuous, uniformly arranged front of houses topped by geometrically openwork attics. The lower parts of the plinth are clearly overlain by a rectangular, horizontally oriented stone inscrip-tion plaque with
a typographically distinctive inscription: “TOMÁŠ GARRIGUE MASARYK, THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE CZECHOSLOVAK REPUBLIC”. Gočár’s urban composition of
the square, DESIGNED to the smallest de-tail, is complemented by a low wall made of bricks on the plan of an arch, which, together with the originally designed low vegetation, forms the rear pendant of the monument itself.