Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Today’s Mánes

Date:12 October 1937 – 28 November 1937

Place: Prague, Mánes Association building

Organizer:Mánes Fine Arts Association


Today's Mánes was the third show the Mánes Fine Arts Association organized to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. Compared to the first two exhibitions – retrospectives presenting French modern art and Czech modernism in the Mánes circle during the past five decades – it was dedicated to the latest artistic output of the association’s members and guests. The show took place under the auspices of President Edvard Beneš.

Speakers at the opening held on October 12 included Josef Gočár, the Mánes chairman; Emil Franke, the Minister of Schooling and National Education; and Jaromír Pečírka, the Rector of the School of Applied Arts in Prague, who also authored the brief introduction to the exhibition catalogue. Gočár and Pečírka emphasized the crucial role of the Mánes Association in the development of modern art, which, in their view, was fundamentally humanistic [Gočár 1937, p. 70; Pečírka 1937a, p. 11; Pečírka 1937b, pp. 70–76].

In the 1930s, the Mánes leadership opened the association to various modern and avant-garde trends, an orientation the 1937 show naturally reflected. The scope of trends and styles showcased at the exhibition was impressive. It included avant-garde movements such as Surrealism and the international architectural style represented by works of Czech architects but also designs of Le Corbusier and photographs of houses by Richard Neutra. At the same time, there were works representing various kinds of “tame” modernism, classical and baroque tendencies in sculpture, and the latest forms of Cubist painting. By including satirical, biting cartoons by František Bidlo, Adolf Hoffmeister, Antonín Pec, and anti-Nazi photomontages by John Heartfield, the association demonstrated its members’ opinion of fascism, which was beginning to pose a real threat to the freedom of sovereign European states, including Czechoslovakia. This way, Mánes followed up on its famous International Exhibition of Caricature and Humour held in 1934. 


The Czech press highly appreciated the presence of anti-Nazi and anti-fascist cartoons. Josef Rybák, a reporter for Rudé právo, also highlighted the general function of caricature as a powerful weapon relentlessly exposing the political and social ills of the time. He stressed that other works in the exhibition fulfilled a similar role, in particular, Vladimír Sychra’s canvas reacting to the bombing of Almería, a port city in Spain, during the Spanish Civil War, which also provoked a hostile reaction from the German newspaper Die Zeit, the most influential platform of the Sudeten German Party [Rybák 1937, p. 4]. 

As in the case of the 1934 show, the caricatures were subject to censorship. According to newspaper reports, the cartoons The Glory and Fall of a Dictator and The Dictator Cares for the Welfare of the People by František Bidlo, the collage Wilson's Peace by Antonín Pelc, and probably also four photomontages by John Heartfield were removed the very next day after the opening based on protests from the German ambassador. The right-wing and nationalist-leaning press welcomed this intervention. Interestingly, the anti-German cartoons in the Mánes exhibition disturbed even the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, as a short entry in his diary attests [Krejsa 1991, p. 375]. The German newspapers took advantage of the scandalous event to launch an intense, hateful denunciation campaign against Czechoslovakia.

In addition to censorship, there was a stormy debate around the review by Stanislav Kostka Neumann, aptly subtitled Zásadní poznámky (Fundamental Remarks) [Neumann 1937, 530–547]. Neumann based his criticism on his specific interpretation of Marxism and the situation in the Soviet Union, where the regime promoted socialist realism as the only style suitable for its official culture. Neumann wanted to convince the readers that he viewed the show from the perspective of the working class, whose members perceived the exhibited artworks as offensive because they represented rampant subjectivism and petty-bourgeois snobbery. According to Neumann, the artworks had distorted content and a form completely divorced from objective reality.

Neumann believed that in its emphasis on formal qualities at the expense of content and ideological position, formalism was a logical manifestation of the decline in bourgeois society and perhaps even a sign of its inclination to fascism. To ensure future “healthy” development, he recommended that art take a sharp turn towards content expressing social reality. This content, says Neumann, should be in dialectical unity with form. Art should find inspiration in a coherent, positive, and truthful relationship with objective reality, leading to socialist realism.

Because of its combative tone, the review by Neumann sparked a far-reaching debate, with contributions published in the magazine Tvorba, just like Neumann’s original text. Authors involved in the discussion included writers Laco Novomeský, Vladislav Vančura, Pavel Reiman, the visual artist Adolf Hoffmeister, and the politician Viliam Široký. Volné směry published a polemic by Emil Filla and other reactions, such as texts by Karel Teige and Jiří Krejčí [Volné směry 1937-1938, pp. 207-211]. Milada Chlíbcová, who summarized the whole debate [Chlíbcová 1988, pp. 547-550], showed that for some authors, it was not easy to dismiss Neumann’s conclusions, because they were aware of the high quality and significance of his earlier literary work. Neumann’s call for a positive and truthful relation of the modern artist to objective reality naturally became one of the central points of the debate. The authors thought it was rather vague and, therefore, unconvincing. Based on this argumentation flaw, they eventually debunked other Neumann’s conclusions, including the claim that formalism and distortion of reality are essential features of the avant-garde. 

Tomáš Winter

Works Cited

Gočár 1937: Proslov předsedy Mánesa Josefa Gočára při zahájení III. jubilejní výstavy Dnešní Mánes, Volné směry XXXIV, 1937–1938, p. 70

Chlíbcová 1988: Milada Chlíbcová, [Ediční poznámka], in: Stanislav Kostka Neumann, Dnešní Mánes. Zásadní poznámky, in: idem, Konfese a konfrontace II. Stati o umění a kultuře, ed. eadem, Praha 1988, pp. 547–550

Krejsa 1991: Michael Krejsa, NS-Reaktionen auf Heartfields Arbeit 1933–1939, in: Peter Pachnicke – Klaus Honnef (edd.), John Heartfield (exh. cat.), Köln 1991, pp. 368–378

Neumann 1937: S. K. N. [Stanislav K. Neumann], Dnešní Mánes. Zásadní poznámky (I–III), Tvorba XII, 1937, no. 48, 26. 11. p. 765; no. 49, 3. 12., p. 780; no. 50, 10. 12., pp. 795–796; no. 51, 17. 12, pp. 812–813, in: idem, Konfese a konfrontace II. Stati o umění a kultuře, ed. Milada Chlíbcová, Praha 1988, pp. 530–547

Pečírka 1937a: Jaromír Pečírka, Dnešní Mánes. (Řeč, proslovená při zahájení III. jubilejní výstavy Mánesa 12. října 1937), Národní osvobození XIV, 1937, no. 245, 17. 10., p. 11

Pečírka 1937b: Proslov dr. Jaromíra Pečírky při zahájení výstavy Dnešní Mánes, Volné směry XXXIV, 1937–1938, pp. 70–76

Rybák 1937: -á- [Josef Rybák], Třetí výstava Mánesa, Rudé právo [XVIII], 1937, no. 246, 20. 10., p. 4

Volné směry 1937–1938: Volné směry XXXIV, 1937–1938, no. 5–6, 1. 3. 1938, pp. 207–211

Further Reading

Ivan Pfaff, S. K. Neumann a česká výtvarná avantgarda, Umění LV, 2007, pp. 409–414

Anna Pravdová, Padesát let Mánesa, in: Anna Pravdová – Tomáš Winter (edd.), Seňorita Franco a Krvavý pes. Malíř, karikaturista a ilustrátor Antonín Pelc (1895 – 1967), Praha 2015, pp. 140–142

Jindřich Toman, Émigré Traces: John Heartfield in Prague, History of Photography XXXII, 2008, pp. 232–246

Tomáš Winter, Podoby, in: Ondřej Chrobák – Tomáš Winter (edd.), V okovech smíchu. Karikatura a české umění 1900–1950, Praha 2006, pp. 55–57

Archival Sources

Prague City Archives, Fonds Spolek výtvarných umělců Mánes, Výstavní činnost, 4232, Oslavy 50. let Mánesa III. Dnešní Mánes [Mánes Fine Arts Association, Exhibitions, 4232, Celebrations of Mánes’s Fiftieth Anniversary III Today’s Mánes, 12. 10. - 28. 11. 1937

Exhibiting authors
Today’s Mánes
Author:Novák Josef
Technique: offset print, paper
Owner: National Gallery Prague
Today’s Mánes
Author:Novák Josef
Technique: offset print, paper
Owner: National Gallery Prague

Fifty Years of  Mánes: Third Exhibition

Publisher: Mánes Fine Arts Association

Place and year of publication: Praha 1937

Author/s of the introduction:Pečírka Jaromír

Paintings and Sculptures in the Exhibition Today’s Mánes


Prager Presse 1937

Reviews in the press
Čapek Josef

Josef Čapek, Dnešní Mánes, Lidové noviny XLV, 1937, no. 536, 24. 10., p. 9, in: idem, Méně výstav a více umění!, ed. Pavla Pečinková. Praha 1999, pp. 213–215 

Felix Adolf

Adolf Felix, Na okraj výstavy dnešního Mánesa, Národní politika LV, 1937, no. 310, 12. 11., p. 7

Friedl Antonín

Fdl. [Antonín Friedl], Třetí jubilejní výstava SVU Mánes. Současníci – malíři, Pestrý týden XII, 1937, no. 46, 13. 11., p. 5

Krejčí Jiří

Jiří Krejčí, Dnešní Mánes vystavuje, Právo lidu XLVI, 1937, no. 252, 26. 10., p. 4

Malý Pavel F.

Efpem. [Pavel F. Malý], Dnešní Mánes. Samostatnost XXXII, 1937, no. 46, 25. 11., p. 4

Neumann Stanislav Kostka

S. K. N. [Stanislav K. Neumann], Dnešní Mánes. Zásadní poznámky (I–III), Tvorba XII, 1937, no. 48, 26. 11. p. 765; no. 49, 3. 12., p. 780; no. 50, 10. 12., pp. 795–796; no. 51, 17. 12, pp. 812–813, in: idem, Konfese a konfrontace II. Stati o umění a kultuře, ed. Milada Chlíbcová, Praha 1988, pp. 530–547 

Nikodem Viktor

N. [Viktor Nikodem], Dnešní Mánes, Národní osvobození XIV, 1937, no. 280, 28. 11., p. 12

Pečírka Jaromír

Jaromír Pečírka, Dritte Jubiläumsausstellung des SVU Mánes, Prager Presse XVII, 1937, no. 297, 28. 10., p. 10

Rouček Rudolf

Rk [Rudolf Rouček], Dnešní Mánes (I–II), Národní střed XIX, 1937, no. 262, 7. 11., [p. 7]; no. 268, 14. 11., [p. 7]

Rouček Rudolf

Rk [Rudolf Rouček], Sochaři v SVU Mánes, Národní střed XIX, 1937, no. 280, 28. 11., [p. 7]

Rybák Josef

-á- [Josef Rybák], Třetí výstava Mánesa, Rudé právo [XVIII], 1937, no. 246, 20. 10., p. 4

Štech Václav Vilém

V. V. Š. [Václav V. Štech], Dnešní Mánes. Výtvarnická vůle k modernosti, České slovo XXIX, 1937, no. 261, 5. 11., p. 8 

Views of the exhibition

View of the exhibition Today’s Mánes

The sculpture Iveta by Břetislav Benda and paintings of Edvard Much Wrestler, Winter Landscape and Lady in a Landscape


Světozor XXXVII, 1937

View of the exhibition Today’s Mánes

Paitnings by Emila Filla (After the Bath /Three Bathing Girls/, Death of Orpheus), a relief by Vincent Makovský (Reclining Woman) and a sculpture by Karel Dvořák (Tragedy)


Světozor XXXVII, 1937

View of the exhibition Today’s Mánes

The sculpture Naked Youth by Karel Dvořák and paintings of Václav Špála (Bouquet, From the Sliače Spa, Fruit, Peonies, Polyanthas)


Světozor XXXVII, 1937

View of the exhibition Today’s Mánes

The sculpture by Marta Jirásková (Female Half-Nude) and paintings by Toyen (Dream, Yellow Spectre, In the Fog)


Světozor XXXVII, 1937

View of the exhibition Today’s Mánes

Painting by Jindřich Štyrský (In memoriam of Federico Garcia Lorca), a sculpture by Hana Wichterlová (Dead Bird) and a painting by Antonín Procházka (Vichor)


Světozor XXXVII, 1937

View of the exhibition Today’s Mánes

The sculpture by Josef Wagner (Bedřich Smetana, detail from the memorial in Karlovy Vary) and paintings by Jan Bauch (Christ on the Mount of Olives, Girl with Grapes, Siesta)


Světozor XXXVII, 1937

View of the exhibition Today’s Mánes

The sculpture by Karel Dvořák (Dream) and paintings by  František Muzika (Nude, Struggle, Wounded)


Světozor XXXVII, 1937

View of the exhibition Today’s Mánes

Paintings by Emil Filla (After the Bath /Three Bathing Girls/, Death of OrpheusSctulptor, Painter) and a relief by Vincent Makovský (Relief /Reclining Woman)


Volné směry XXXIV, 1937–1938

View of the exhibition Today’s Mánes

Paintings by Jindřich Štyrský (Man Carried in the Wind, Homage to Karl Marx, In memoriam of Federico Garcia Lorca), Antonín Procházka (Wind, Mother), a sculpture by Hana Wichterlová(Dead Bird) and two portrait busts


Volné směry XXXIV, 1937–1938

View of the exhibition Today’s Mánes

The sculpture by Karel Dvořák (Tragedy), a painting by Alois Wachsman (Oedipus/From the Oedipus series/) and other works


Volné směry XXXIV, 1937–1938

Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, III. jubilejní výstava Mánesa otevřena, A-Zet X, 1937, 12. 10.

Schz., Dnešní Mánes, Národní politika LV, 1937, venkovské vyd., 13. 10.

Anonymous author, Dnešní Mánes vystavuje, Večerní České slovo XIX, 1937, 13. 10.

Kr., Až oči přecházejí, Polední list XXI, 1937, 13. 10

Anonymous author, „Der heutige Mánes“, Prager Presse XVII, 1937, 13. 10.

O. Sch-z., „Der heutige Mánes“, Prager Abendblatt LXXI, 1937, 13. 10.

Anonymous author, Jubilejní výstava „Mánesa“, Slovenský deník XX, 1937, 13. 10.

N. [Viktor Nikodem], Jubilejní výstava „Mánesa“ otevřena, Národní osvobození XIV, 1937, 13. 10.

Anonymous author, Neuer Mánes-Skandal in Prag, Die Zeit III, 1937, 13. 10.

B., Mánes potřetí, Lidové noviny XLV, 1937, 13. 10.

Anonymous author, „Mánes“ oslavuje padesátileté jubileum. Třetí výstava „Mánesa“, Haló noviny V, 1937, 13. 10.

-fvm- [František Viktor Mokrý], Dnešní „Mánes“, Venkov XXXII, 1937, 13. 10.

N., Dnešní „Mánes“, Rudé právo XVIII, 1937, 14. 10.

Anonymous author, Berlin empört über „Mánes“, Die Zeit III, 1937, 14. 10.

Anonymous author, To bylo třeba teprve připomínat?, Nový večerník XVI, 1937, 14. 10.

Anonymous author, Extratura Mánesa do politiky včasně odstraněna, Národ XIII, 1937, 15. 10.

Anonymous author, Nový útok na stát pro tři obrázky, Večerní České slovo XIX, 1937, 15. 10.

Anonymous author, Kunstbabel Prag, Die Zeit III, 1937, 15. 10.

Anonymous author, Kdo chce porušit…, Lidové noviny XLV, 1937, 19. 10.

Miroslav Macháček, Dnešní „Mánes“, Mladé proudy 1937, 19. 10.

Anonymous author, Dnešní Mánes, Telegraf 1937, 22. 10.

eh., Der heutige Mánes, Sozialdemokrat XVII, 1937, 22. 10.

Anonymous author, Dnešní „Mánes“ bolševicky politizuje a provokuje, Obrana národa 1937, 22. 10.

řk., Dnešní Mánes, Ranní noviny 1937, 26. 10.

Ad. Veselý, Výtvarné umění, Zvon XXXVII, 1937, 10. 11.

Chal., Jubilejní výstava spolku Mánes, A-Zet X, 1937, 12. 11.

lp., Dnešní Mánes, Obnova 1937, 20. 11.

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