Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

51st Annual Exhibition of Fine Arts Association

Date:16 April 1890 – 15 June 1890

Place: Prague, Rudolfinum

Organizer:Fine Arts Association in Bohemia

Conception:Victor Barvitius, Emil Lauffer, Julius Mařák, Josef Mauder


In the history of the Krasoumná jednota annual exhibitions in the Rudolfinum, the 51st show stood out primarily for the concentration of domestic art in a separate room, the hall on the second floor. Most critics welcomed this change as “the first comprehensive annual exhibition of Bohemian art” [Weitenweber 1890, p. 276]. As such, it prepared the ground for the fine arts section of the 1891 Prague Jubilee Exhibition. Seven years later, Karel Matěj Čapek still appreciated this innovation: “Domestic art, previously squeezed right under the ceiling in the exhibition halls, has now received a permanent, honourable place in the most beautiful hall on the second floor.” [Filip - Musil 2021, p. 256] However, the definition of “domestic art” was quite broad: in addition to artists working in Prague or elsewhere in Bohemia, the hall also contained works by artists from Poland, a brotherly Slavic nation, a few Germans and one Italian (the latter were likely included to fill the space). Domestic art was also represented in other halls, especially the two rooms on the ground floor, where drawings were traditionally concentrated alongside paintings. Critics missed new works by leading Czech painters such as Václav Brožík, Vojtěch Hynais, Luděk Marold, and others. [Weitenweber 1890, p. 276]. In 1890, students of the Prague Academy were not allowed to exhibit, so the demand for works by established local artists was high. 

Among Czech painters, the following artists received the most praise: Hanuš Schwaiger (the painting Flemish Fish Market), Kamil Stuchlík (Chicken Run), Vilém Trsek, František Doubek and Josef Rolletschek for realistic genre scenes “from everyday life”; Jaroslav Věšín, K. V. Mašek, Václav Jansa and Joža Uprka for the ethnographic genre; Felix Jenewein (drawing Mother of God on the Way to Golgotha, or Mater Dolorosa), Ferdinand Velc (painting Assassination of St. Wenceslaus) and J. F. Gretsch (Galileo Galilei) for history and religious painting;  Antonín Chittussi, Zdenka Braunerová, Václav Radimský, and Karel Liebscher for landscape painting;  František Ženíšek and Alexander Jakesch for portraiture; Gabriel Max for spiritual themes; and Beneš Knüpfer for paintings of nymphs in the waves of the sea (this was Knüpfer’s first shipment from Rome; he then continued to send works to the annual exhibitions). 

As in previous years, the main exhibition received two additions – 85 works were added at the end of May and 10 more arrived in mid-June, bringing the total number of exhibited works to 563. The collection consisted of 424 oil paintings, 120 drawings (watercolours, pastels, etc.), and 19 sculptures [An. 1890, p. 372]. 182 works were by Czech artists, 73 by "other Austrians", 195 by "Reich Germans", 40 by Italians, 23 by Belgians, 18 by French, 17 by Poles and Russians, 13 by Scandinavians, and 2 by Englishmen [ibid.]. A total of 312 artists took part in the 51st annual exhibition, most of them from Munich, according to the places listed in the exhibition catalogue (60 artists, or 19.2%, came from there). Munich was followed by other art centers: Vienna (37), Düsseldorf (21), Berlin (19), Paris (17), Venice (9), Rome (7), Brussels, Antwerp and nearby Eikevliet, Dresden, Karlsruhe, and Stuttgart (6 each), Warsaw (5), Milan (4), and Trieste (3). Seven works were sent from other Italian cities (Turin, Bologna, Florence, etc.), and 14 from other German cities (Frankfurt, Hamburg, Weimar, Baden-Baden, etc.). 55 of the artists were based in Prague and 9 in other places in Bohemia and Moravia. (See Appendix.) The first addition to the show included its largest painting, Grand Duke Constantine Overseeing the Army Parade on Saxon Square in Warsaw in 1824 by Jan Rosen, as well as works by such renowned masters as Louis Gallait, Carl Theodor von Piloty, Eduard Kurzbauer, and Hans von Bartels. The number of sculptures also increased: the original 11 pieces installed in the courtyard were joined by 8 others. A total of 9,247 people visited the exhibition.

Reviewers generally noted a decline in history and religious paintings, along with a preference for smaller formats that sold better. With landscapes and humorous genre paintings dominating the exhibition, the Barbizon-style plein-air painting was hailed by critics as the height of formal innovation. In figurative painting, naturalism was considered the most progressive tendency. K. B. Mádl praised Ludwig Dill’s Giudecca in Venice for its “truthful, free, and bold” composition, Frithjof Smith-Hald’s Fisherman's Children for its “bold, broad brushwork,” and E. J. Schindler’s Cemetery in Dubrovnik for its “deep, poetic atmosphere” [Mádl 1890, p. 336]. Among the genre painters, critics highlighted the Venetians Ettore Tito and Cesare Laurenti, as well as the Belgian painter Frans van Leemputten. Although history painting was clearly in decline, the list of exhibited artworks shows one exception: “In Poland, perhaps more than elsewhere, history painting is still alive.” [Tyršová 1890, p. 553] Another great history painting came from Paris – Paul Richemont’s Legend of St. Mary of Brabant. Anders Zorn, a virtuoso Swedish watercolourist, sent two of his drawings (In the Garden and Algerian Woman) – also from Paris.    

Krasoumná jednota purchased 35 artworks for 4,321.46 guldens for its traditional raffle, including Jenewein’s drawing St. Adalbert Leaving Bohemia and Praying for His Homeland and K. V. Mašek’s painting Courting in the Pasture. The Picture Gallery of the Society of Patriotic Friends of Fine Arts bought 12 paintings, including two canvases from the second addition, namely Marietta by Ettore Tito and Combat by G. B. Quadrone, the most expensive paintings in the exhibition (2,100 and 2,940 guldens). The Society’s other acquisitions included the painting Old Woman with a Spinning Wheel from the collection of the late Viennese painter August von Pettenkofen (+1889), Beneš Knüpfer's Spring on the Seashore (acquired by August Řehoř), and Rolletschek’s genre scene Art and Nature, purchased with funds from the Ministry of Culture and Education. Private collectors acquired paintings such as Augustin Němejec’s Hopeless Love, Wilhelm Velten’s Abduction, and several others. Including public acquisitions and raffle items, a total of 76 works were purchased at the exhibition for 26,123.46 guldens. All four exhibited paintings by Hanuš Schwaiger found their owners even before the beginning of the annual exhibition.  

Aleš Filip

Works Cited

An. 1890: An., (Letošní výroční výstava Krasoumné jednoty v Rudolfinu…), Zlatá Praha [VII], 1889–1890, no. 31, p. 372

Filip – Musil 2021: Aleš Filip – Roman Musil, Proměny salonního umění na výročních výstavách Krasoumné jednoty v Praze, in: iidem (edd.), Epocha salonů. České salonní umění a mezinárodní výtvarná scéna 1870–1914, Brno – Plzeň 2021, pp. 199–310

Mádl 1890: B. K. (Karel B. Mádl), Výstava Krasoumné jednoty v Rudolfině, Světozor [XXIV], 1889-1890, p. 287, 298, 312, 323–324, 336, 347–348, 359–360, 371–372

Tyršová 1890: Renáta Tyršová, Výstava krasoumné jednoty, Osvěta [XX], 1890, pp. 547–554

Weitenweber 1890: V. W. (Vilém Weitenweber), Výroční výstava Krasoumné jednoty v Rudolfinu, Zlatá Praha [VII], 1890, p. 276, 288, 300, 312, 324, 335–336, 347–348, 372, 383–384

Further Reading 

Jakub Bachtík – Lukáš Duchek – Jakub Jareš (edd.), Chrám umění: Rudolfinum, Praha 2020

Anna Masaryková, Cizí umělci na výstavách Krasoumné jednoty v Praze, in: Jaroslav Pešina (ed.), Sborník k sedmdesátinám Jana Květa (Acta Universitatis Carolinae. Philosophica et historica), Praha 1965, p. 199-205

Vladimír Novotný, Sto let Krasoumné jednoty, Praha 1935.

Roman Prahl, Z malířských salonů v Praze před sto lety (exh. cat.), Národní galerie v Praze, 1980

Lucie Vlčková, Krajinomalba v Praze 1840–1890. Prezentace krajinomalby a její reflexe na výstavách Krasoumné jednoty, Praha 2009

Vít Vlnas (ed.), Obrazárna v Čechách 1796–1918. Katalog výstavy uspořádané Národní galerií v Praze u příležitosti dvoustého výročí založení Obrazárny Společnosti vlasteneckých přátel umění, Praha 1996

Archival Sources

Archive of the National Gallery in Prague, fonds SVPU, sign. AA 1014, Seznamy soukromých nákupů na výstavách, 1259, Zpráva Krasoumné jednoty o činnosti za rok 1890 [Lists of private purchases from exhibitions, 1259, Report on Krasoumná jednota’s activities in 1890.

Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, Láce a drahota v letošní umělecké výstavě v Rudolfinu, Humoristické listy XXXII, 1890, no. 18, p. 2

Anonymous author, Z umělecké výstavy v Rudolfině, Humoristické listy XXXII, 1890, no. 18, p. 2; no. 19, p. 2

Anonymous author, Letošní roční umělecká výstava v pražském Rudolfině…, rubrika Výtvarné umění, Světozor XXIV, 1889–1890, p. 264

Anonymous author, Letošní výroční výstava Krasoumné jednoty v Rudolfinu…, Zlatá Praha VII, 1889–1890, no. 31, p. 372

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