Date:23. June 1908 – 19. July 1908
Place: Prague, Topič Salon
Exhibition design:Exhibiting artists
The second exhibition of the loose group Osma (The Eight) featured only seven artists. Max Horb died at the end of 1907, Otakar Kubín was in Paris at the time and Emil Pittermann, newly active under the pseudonym Artur Longen, became a theatre and cabaret artist. The exhibition included two new artists, Linka Procházková-Scheithauerová and Vincenc Beneš. Filla's correspondence with Procházka suggests that it was Kubišta who successfully negotiated the exhibition with the Topič Salon and it also reveals that Kubín was not invited to exhibit with Osma because he broke the group's rule by participating in the spring exhibition of the Mánes Association [Macharáčková – Slavíček 2002, pp. 247–248; Rakušanová 2019, p. 91 and 94]. The catalogue of Osma's second show, opened according to the announcements on June 23 (24), was less austere than the first exhibition’s catalogue and was published only in Czech. In addition to the artists' names, rather generic titles of paintings, such as Study, Portrait, Landscape, and prices, the catalogue listed several artworks with more informative titles. Of the eight works Filla exhibited at the show, five can be identified: Child (Child by the Forest, 1907), The Dubrovnik Marina (Gruž I, NGP), On the Veranda (Veranda, NGP), Portrait of J. U. (Portrait of Josef Uhr) and, based on the recollection of Vincenc Kramář, a painting depicting a cabaret scene (Cabaret, Museum of Art Olomouc). Vincenc Beneš's set at the exhibition consisted of four paintings and one of his recollections suggests that the Portrait of Leo Pavelec was among them [Beneš 1957, p. 4; Beneš 1970, p. 232]. Friedrich Feigl only exhibited two paintings this time: The Dubrovnik Marine and Road. Willi Nowak was represented by one artwork, the Landscape Around the Elbe (National Gallery Prague) listed under the name Study [Formánek 1977, p. 22]. Bohumil Kubišta's set was larger. It included six works, of which the following paintings can be identified: Portrait (Portrait of Josef Pospíšil, National Gallery Prague) – based on the recollection of Josef Pospíšil, A Room (Interior, National Gallery Prague), At Home (probably Woman with a Baby Carriage) and Young Man (probably Portrait of Václav Rejchl, Gallery of Modern Art in Hradec Králové). Antonín Procházka exhibited five artworks including the painting Circus owned by the National Gallery Prague and paintings identified by Miroslav Lamač as Landscape near Važany, Paris Square in Berlin and Still Life (Fruit on a Plate) [Lamač 1988, p. 46, note 67]. Linka Procházková-Scheithauerová was represented by three unidentified paintings: Flowers, Portrait and Landscape.
Although Osma’s second exhibition was artistically more convincing than the first one, most of the reactions in the press were negative. A positive mention was published on June 26, 1908 in the magazine Rozvoj; here, the text entitled “The Highly Interesting Osma Exhibition in the Topič Salon” says: “Last year's exhibition of this group enjoyed great success in Prague, which this year's new, glorious paintings will certainly emulate.” [Sawicki 2014, p. 99, note 88]. The announcement about the exhibition in České slovo from June 25, 1908 is also favourable, suggesting that “the exhibition will become the event of the season” [anonymous author 1908, p. 3].
This time, the artworks had a unified motto: “Based on the recent findings of the Impressionists and Synthetists, [we aim to] make colour the only dominant artistic element” [Pacovský 1921, p. 36; Teige 1947, p. 146, note 1]. Albeit with misunderstanding, all the reviewers noticed the exhibited artworks' focus on the expressive and modelling ability of colour. As with the first exhibition, sharp criticism prevailed. In Přehled, Ferdinad Kratina comments on the dominant role of colour in the young artists' works: “What they want the most is colour unbridled by shape, which would inebriate our eyes with its existence alone, evoking emotional tremors without the dose of pleasure that shapes can bring. Here, they offer true experiments. (...) they are only interested in colour. They devote all their efforts to colour, achieving nuances which, in their subtlety, draw on works by Gogh and Munch (with which they have so much in common). Mr. Filla in particular is strongly oriented to colour” [Kratina 1907-1908, p. 714]. In his review of the exhibition, Karel B. Mádl compared the show's focus on colour to a “wild horse team,” a tendency “handily supported by interpretations mixing scientific terminology with lay misconceptions.” Mádl also touched upon an interesting phenomenon, namely the hypocrisy in the local cultural milieu: “Not long ago, something like this would go entirely unnoticed, they would not even call it amateurism, and behold, now we discuss it with all sincerity that resembles the earnestness with which Osma 'creates its art,' demanding recognition and celebration. And they may in fact get them from one party or other, because our days are marked by the fear of coming across as a fogey and reactionary if one does not regard the latest absurdities as outbursts of pure genius.” [Mádl 1908, p. 15] The Čapek brothers did not spare the show either. They did not grasp the colour theory behind the exhibited artworks and, in reaction to them, advocated for Impressionist art and its inherent ability to see and abstract the essence or “soul” of the outside world. In contrast with this “synthesis,” Osma's artworks belong to the world of “chimeras and fantastic illusions” (...), the world of “hollow, inanimate shadows, forms without volume and form.” As a result, say the Čapeks, “Osma's exhibition gives such an awful impression. (...) instead of a clear synthetic language, they utter dark and ghastly words, a murky speech (...) forgetting that [art] should also bring harmony and beauty.” In their view, these works had a “curiosity value” [Čapkové 1908, pp. 1–2; Čapkové 1908–1909, pp. 41–42]. The review by Ladislav Quis in the section From the Czech Life of the magazine Máj was even harsher. Quis called the exhibited artworks “twenty seven monstrosities” and his final verdict was that “they are not even authentic and so they have no right to exist.” [Quis 1908, p. 608]. The visitors' reactions were no less hostile. As Zdeněk Kratochvíl recounts, “the audience (...) pounded the ground with their sticks, spat in front of the paintings, complained loudly and demanded the return of their entrance fees” [Kratochvíl 1917–1918, p. 2]. According to Pospíšil, the only critic to stand up for Osma was Šalda. As a token of their appreciation, the artists then gave Šalda “one of the show's most beautiful paintings,” Filla's Veranda. [Čeřovský 1949, p. 43].
Despite this critical response, the exhibition strengthened the young artists' resolve to express them-selves freely and spontaneously – to follow the inner creative necessity and choose the means of expression that could convey feelings of youthful restlessness and a new relationship to perceived reality. The Osma artists demonstrated the strength of the emerging generation, and as Kratochvíl pertinently remarks, they left another important trace in the Czech milieu: “In addition to a new painterly practice, Osma introduced another, equally effective element that has been absent here: art theory. (...) Before, critical theories were only created post hoc, but now it was meant to be the other way round. Surpris-ingly, it worked well. (...) the painters themselves seized their pens and provided critics with new mod-els in their programmatic texts.” [Kratochvíl 1917–1918, p. 2]. When evaluating Osma's legacy, this significant contribution must not be omitted.
anonymous author 1908: anonymous author, Topičův salon, České slovo, II, 1908, no. 144, 25. 6., p. 3
Beneš 1957: Vincenc Beneš, Počátky Osmy, Výtvarná práce 1957, no. 15, p. 4
Beneš 1970: Vincenc Beneš, Úryvky z pamětí, Výtvarné umění XX, 1970, p. 232
Čapkové 1908: Bratří Čapkové, Syntéza a výstava Osmi, Snaha III, 1908, no. 56, 21. 7. [pp. 1–2], in: Emanuel Macek – Miloš Pohorský (eds), O umění a kultuře I, Praha 1984, pp. 42–46
Čapkové 1908–1909: Bratří Čapkové, Z pražských výstav, Moravsko-slezská revue V, 1908–1909, no. 1, pp. 41–42, in.: Emanuel Macek – Miloš Pohorský (eds), O umění a kultuře I, Praha 1984, pp. 57–58
Čeřovský 1949: František Čeřovský (ed.), Život a osobnost B. Kubišty ve vzpomínkách současníků, Praha 1949, p. 43
Formánek 1977: Václav Formánek, Vilém Nowak, Praha 1977, p. 22
Kratochvíl 1917–1918: Zdeněk Kratochvíl, Mánes a Skupina, Kmen I, 1917–1918, no. 21, p. 2
Lamač 1988: Miroslav Lamač, Osma a Skupina výtvarných umělců 1907–1917, Praha 1988, p. 46, note 67
Macharáčková – Slavíček 2002: Marcela Macharáčková – Luboš Slavíček (eds), Antonín Procházka 1882–1945, Praha 2002, pp. 247–248
Pacovský 1921: Emil Pacovský, poznámka k článku Václava Špály Jak to bylo, Veraikon VII, 1921, no. 3–4, p. 36
Quis 1908: Q. [Ladislav Quis], Výstava Osmi, Máj VI, 1907–1908, no. 40, 3. 7. 1908, p. 608
Rakušanová 2019: Marie Rakušanová, Kubišta – Filla. Plzeňská disputace. Zakladatelé moderního umění v poli kulturní produkce, Plzeň 2019, p. 91 and 94
Sawicki 2014: Nicholas Sawicki, Na cestě k modernosti. Umělecké sdružení Osma a jeho okruh v letech 1900–1910, Praha 2014, p. 99, note 88
Teige 1947: Karel Teige, Estetické úvahy Bohumila Kubišty in: Bohumil Kubišta, Předpoklady slohu, Praha 1947, p. 146, note 1
Tomáš Winter, Zajatec kubismu. Dílo Emila Filly v zrcadle výtvarné kritiky [1907–1953], Praha 2004, pp. 110–114.
Anonym, Topičův salon, České slovo, 1908, no. 144, 25. 6., p. 3pdf
Bratří Čapkové, Syntéza a výstava Osmi, Snaha III, 1908, no. 56, 21. 7. [pp. 1–2], in.: Emanuel Macek – Miloš Pohorský (edd.), O umění a kultuře I, Praha 1984, pp. 42–46pdf
Bratří Čapkové, Z pražských výstav, Moravsko-slezská revue V, 1908–1909, no. 1, pp. 41–42, in.: Emanuel Macek – Miloš Pohorský (edd.), O umění a kultuře I, Praha 1984, pp. 57–58pdf
–ol– [Karel Kolman], Topičův salon XIX, Výstava „Osmi“, Večerní list Hlasu národa, 1908, 18. 7. příloha, [pp. 1–2]pdf
Ferd. Kratina, Topičův salon, Přehled VI, 1907–1908, Nr 42, 10. 7., p. 714pdf
M. [Karel Boromejský Mádl], Z výstav a museí, Zlatá Praha XXV, 1907–1908, no. 42, 10. 7., p. 466pdf
Karel B. Mádl, Výtvarné umění - Různé, Národní listy XLVIII, 1908, no. 190, 12. 7., p. 15pdf
Hubert Cyriak [Arnošt Procházka], Poznámky výstavní a jiné, Moderní revue X, 1908, 8. 7., pp. 529–532pdf
Q. [Ladislav Quis], Výstava Osmi, Máj VI, 1907–1908, no. 40, 3. 7., p. 608pdf
FŽC [František Žákavec], Výtvarný přehled, Novina I, 1908, no. 15, 14. 8., p. 472pdf