Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Exhibition of Artworks in Prague


The Prague art exhibition in 1832 presented an alternative to the Academy exhibition organized so far by the Society of Patriotic Friends of Fine Arts (Společnost vlasteneckých přátel umění, SVPU). It resulted from the personal initiative of Dr. Alois Klar, a philanthropist and art patron, in cooperation with artists from Prague, Dresden and Vienna, as well as art collectors. It showcased works considered modern and antithetical to the official academic art, including a large and diverse set of international art. 

The fact that the exhibition was organized by a private individual outside the existing institutional structures was a result of particular circumstances. In 1830, the traditional Academy exhibition was not held due to the situation at the Academy and in SVPU: the Academy's director, Josef Bergler, had died the previous year and Franz Sternberg, SVPU's president passed away in 1830. In this period, the SVPU committee decided to hold the exhibition biennially and for this reason, it did not take place in 1830 and 1832. (Later on, it was again organized annually.) In addition to this, antagonisms between the increasingly confident young artists and the official academic line became sharper and the Academy was criticized for conservatism in both its teaching methods and the way it supported and presented contemporary art [Hojda – Prahl 2004, p. 17]. In his recollection, Rudolf Müller, points out the discrepancy between the interests of an ever growing bourgeois audience and the Academy's waning aristocratic patronage, a situation reflected in not only its operations but also in the (poor) state of contemporary art [Müller 1883, p. 3]. In these circumstances, Klar decided to establish a foundation that would support young artists; the profits from the exhibition would help get the foundation started. 

According to the report in Bohemia from March 18, 1832, the exhibition took place in Malá Strana in the so-called Graf´schen Garten. The exhibition space were provided by Wenzel Steinitz (then owner of the Steinitz House in Malá Strana and a famous café). Later literature cites a house in the garden at Klar's property as the exhibition's venue [Hojda 1995, p. 321], but the scope of the exhibition demanded larger spaces, such as the garden hall of the so-called Steinitz House in the garden of Johann Anton Graf adjacent to the Dominicaner (Bredauer) Street [Machalíková, forthcoming]. This garden pavillion served at that time as one of the first cafés in Prague and also a ball room - therefore it could offer enough room for an exhibition of this scale. The catalogue was published in lithograph print by Anton Svoboda and financed most likely by Klar himself. The revenue from the admission fee (139 fl. 49 Kr. C. M.) was transferred to Klar's art foundation founded for the support of young artists. 

Klar had displayed a commitment to new art and young artists long before the exhibition. In 1822, during his stay in Dresden, he met the director of the local Academy, Christian Vogel von Vogelstein, the writer Ludwig Tieck and art historians Karl August Böttinger and Karl Förster. This interest also led him to the circle of younger students of the Prague Academy around Josef Führich, who were inspired by developments in contemporary Dresden (and German) painting and already presented examples of Dresden painting at the Prague exhibition in 1824. In 1832, Führich had a scholarship in Rome and could not participate in organizing the exhibition. 

The catalogue lists 155 artworks among which, according to the report by Rudolf Müller, a special place was reserved for Josef Führich and František Tkadlík as prominent adherents of what contemporaries considered the new trend in art. However, critics awaited with particular eagerness the painting St. George by František Horčička, then administrator of the Colloredo-Mansfeld gallery. Horčička finished the painting during the previous year but was unable to exhibit it, allegedly due to lack of space. A reviewer in Bohemia (probably Anton Müller) writes that the painting exceeded expectations because it was rendered with great “spirit and passion.” In terms of the exhibition's concept, the list of artworks shows that younger Czech painters following the new tendencies in German Romantic art were particularly well represented (Gareis, Mrňák, Tejček) as were the painters of the new, Tkadlík-style religious-patriotic line (Josef Vojtěch Hellich, Johann Gruss). The Bohemia critic describes these painters' respective styles with fitting epithets (the sweet Gruss, talented Hellich, humorous Gareis, excellent Piepenhagen, efficient Navrátil, industrious Holzel); unfortunately, he never published the promised second part of his critical text. 

As contemporary critics emphasized, the 1832 exhibition presented thus far the largest set of international art. This is also evident from the comparison of the number of foreign artists represented at Prague exhibitions [Lange 2017, p. 89]. These “foreigners” were largely Dresden-based painters known to the Prague audience from the 1824 Academy exhibition: Vogel von Vogelstein (represented by 10 artworks), Friedrich and Dahl (represented by 1 painting each). Two large oil paintings by Vogel particularly stood out for the critics who expressed their surprise that none of these works had been purchased. Other international artists at the exhibition were from Nuremberg and Brussels and there was also a large collection of Viennese artists (Waldmüller, Ender, Einsle) who were not “foreign” in the political sense of the word but as non-Prague artists they only appeared sporadically at Prague exhibitions. In addition to Klar, the press also mentioned two other private lenders from Dresden: von Nostitz-Jänkendorf and von Lindenau whose concerted effort resulted in a show that was highly valued precisely because it brought together contemporary art from two neighbouring countries: Bohemia and Saxony. 

Quite remarkably, the review in the Dresden periodical Artistischen Notizeblatt offers a number of details about the exhibition's installation, generally regarded as “very tasteful.” Its author was the Prague painter František Horčička. The works were placed in a large hall with a wide and tall window that provided good lighting. (Further artworks occupied a neighbouring, smaller room). The walls were covered with red and blue cloth and the interior was decorated with fresh flowers, which according to a biting remark of the reviewer replaced quite sufficiently the product of then popular flower painting. The report concluded that the show was an undeniable success, evident also from its financial profit. 

The show was a clear step towards conscious confrontation between inland and foreign artists in an art exhibition. As far as the exhibition spaces are concerned, it was the first exhibition in Prague where colours of the interior and lightning were used to impress the public and their sentiments in front of the exhibited artworks.

Pavla Machalíková

Works Cited

Hojda 1995: Zdeněk Hojda, Geneze uměleckých výstav v Praze 1791–1851, Documenta Pragensia XII, 1995, pp. 317–324

Hojda – Prahl 2004: Zdeněk Hojda – Roman Prahl, Kunstverein nebo/oder Künstlerverein? Hnutí umělců v Praze 1830–1856 / Die Künstlerbewegung in Prag 1830–1856, Praha 2004

Machalíková (forthcoming): Pavla Machalíková, Flowers and Windows: The First Art Exhibitions in Prague in the 19th Century and the Shaping of Modern Exhibition Spaces (forthcoming)

Müller 1883: Rudolf Müller, Die Prof. Dr. Aloys Klar´sche Künstlerstiftung nach ihrer Bedeutung und Wirksamkeit, unter Beischluss biographischer Skizzen, Praha 1883

Lange 2017: Birgit Lange, „Der Stufengang der vaterländischen Kunst.“ Die Prager Akademieaustellungen der Gesellschaft patriotischer Kunstfreunde (1821–1833), in: Susanne Kimmig-Völkner – Eva Pluhařová-Grigienė – Kai Wenzel (edd.), Gestaltungsräume. Studien zur Kunstgeschichte in Mittel- und Ostmitteleuropa. Festschrift zu Ehren von Prof. Dr. Michaela Marek, Regensburg 2017, pp. 79–99 

Exhibiting authors

Austellung von Kunst-Werken zu Prag
(lithographed by Anton Svoboda)

Place of Publication: Prag 1832


Reviews in the press
Müller Anton

anonymous author [Anton Müller], Kunstnachricht, Bohemia V, 1832, no. 44, 10. 4., p. 3 

Böttiger C. A.

[C. A. Böttiger], Prager und Wiener Kunstaustellung, Artistischen Notizenblatt X, 1832, no. 10, pp. 37–38

Brief notes about the exhibition

anonymous author, Kunstnachrichten, Allgemeines Repertorium der neuesten in- und ausländischen Literatur XIV, 1832, Vol. 2, p. 234

anonymous author, Für Freude der Kunst, Bohemia V, 1832, no. 34, 18. 3., p. 1

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