Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Emil Pirchan

Date:19. April 1906 – 20. May 1906

Place: Brno, Gerstbauer Foundation House

Organizer:Mährischer Kunstverein

Conception:Camillo Palleta


In 1903, the Mährischer Kunstverein began holding its exhibitions in the Gerstbauer Foundation House (Gerstbauersches Stiftungshaus). Because it now rented its own exhibition halls, the Kunstverein was able to organize shows all year round and replace its previous system of annual exhibitions with alternating shows focusing on art associations and individual artists. Although it also represented international artists, Kunstverein placed emphasis on Moravians. But as most of the prominent local artists lived in nearby Vienna, finding quality Brno-based artists was difficult. The first solo show dedicated to Brno-based artists took place in 1906, when the Kunstverien organized an exhibition of paintings by Emil Pirchan (1844–1928). Along with Franz Felbinger (1844–1906), Pirchan was the only painter in late-nineteenth-century Brno working at a level that would meet Central-European standards. His exhibitions in Vienna and other cities in German-speaking countries were sporadic but successful. Pirchan’s best-known painting, the Madonna, was exhibited in Vienna in 1888 and 1889 and later also in several cities in Germany. At the end of its exhibition tour, the painting was purchased by Edward H. Litchfield, an American industrialist who was collecting examples of new European painting for his collection in New York. Pirchan’s position in the Brno art world at the end of the 19th century resembled, on a smaller scale, the dominance of Hans Makart in Vienna. Pirchan painted portraits of the Brno elite and designed the monumental figural stained-glass panel for the stairway of the Museum of Applied Arts in Brno, while also being the most sought-after altar painter in South Moravia. He designed allegorical processions and tableaux vivants for Brno's festive events and held important positions in cultural institutions and commissions.

Beginning around 1900, Pirchan gradually retreated into artistic seclusion and stopped sending his works to exhibitions. In 1912, he moved to live with his daughter in Vienna, leaving public life altogether. The 1906 Brno exhibition was Pirchan’s final retrospective. By this time, Pirchan had left a significant mark on the Brno art scene, but his work was coming to close. His painterly style corresponded with Viennese painting of the 1870, shaped by Carl Rahl and Hans Makart. At the turn of the century, Pirchan incorporated new artistic trends in his works, leaning toward realist and symbolist tendencies, but his works from this period still betray his rootedness in 1870s sensibility.

According to the catalogue, Pirchan exhibited 46 paintings and drawings. The show’s highlight, the symbolist-leaning Dying Saviour, was offered for sale for 12,000 Crowns. This more modern, symbolist type of religious painting was also represented by the canvas entitled Gratia mundi. But a considerable number of paintings, such as the Siesta, correspond in style with the Makart-dominated Viennese painting of the 1870s. To underline its retrospective character, the exhibition also included drawings and prints of Pirchan’s famous paintings that were no longer in the artist’s possession. The drawing Foreign Girl represented Pirchan’s eponymous painting that enjoyed great success at an 1881 exhibition in Vienna. Pirchan’s most famous painting, the Madonna, appeared in the form of a collotype.

The exhibition was photographed and the surviving images are quite revealing. They show that the Mährischer Kunstverein exhibited more artworks than were listed in the catalogue, suggesting that the catalogues at the time may not have been entirely reliable. The photographs also inform us that Pirchan’s most ambitious figural paintings are now missing. This is consistent with the present state of Pirchan’s work in museums and galleries. Their collections mostly contain portraits of important persons and ordinary townspeople, while Pirchan’s religious and allegorical paintings are much less known today. In contrast, the most prominent artworks by Vienna-based Moravian painters represented at Brno exhibitions do appear in Viennese and Moravian museum collections, perhaps because these German speaking Moravians living in Vienna or Munich became a part of Austrian and German art history. In postwar Czechoslovakia, German-Moravian artists were forgotten and never made it in the official canon. The fate of Pirchan’s Madonna is illustrative of this amnesia. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was on display in New York along with the classics of European nineteenth-century painting, but it is now missing. It may be in storage in an American museum, where it was perhaps shelved during later inventories, as no one had any information about its author.

The 1906 Emil Pirchan exhibition was the first solo show organized by Mährischer Kunstverein for an artist living permanently in Brno. It was a retrospective – the organizers aimed to present the full scope of Pirchan’s oeuvre, using works they were able to gather. Rather than offering a selection of works, the Kunstverein aimed for breadth. Because its exhibition halls were limited in capacity, another Pirchan exhibition was organized in 1907. Like the 1906 show, the aim was to present a collection of Pirchan’s work with no emphasis on a particular period or theme. The exhibition was an important event in Brno, as evidenced by a number of reviews and announcements in the local press.

Robert Janás

Further reading

Robert Janás, Emil Pirchan – „Malerfürst“ brněnské Ringstrasse, in: Marcel Fišer (ed.), Mezery v historii/Lücken in der Geschichte, Umělecko-historické sympozium věnované tvorbě německých a německy hovořících výtvarníků a architektů, působících na území Čech, Moravy a Slezska před rokem 1945. Cheb 2018, pp. 7–13

Robert Janás, Emil Pirchan, „Malerfürst“ brněnské okružní třídy. Brno 2019

Exhibiting authors

Mährischer Kunstverein. Kollektion Emil Pirchan.


Publisher: Mährischer Kunstverein

Place and year of publication: Brno 1906

Reviews in the press

-h., Kollektivausstellung Emil Pirchan, Tagesbote LVI, 1906, no. 199, Abendblatt, 28. 4., pp. 1–3

Views of the exhibition

View of the exhibition

The first painting from the left: Anna Pirchan (mother of Emil Pirchan), lithograph, perhaps in a private collection, this is probably a graphic reproduction of the painting Old Woman Reading the Bible, which Pirchan exhibited at the exhibition of Osterreichischer Kunstverein in Vienna in 1881, the second painting from the left: The Dying Saviour (now missing), the first painting from the left in the entrance to the exhibition halls: a collotype reproduction of the now missing painting Madonna, the second picture from the left in the entrance to the exhibition halls: a collotype reproduction of the now missing painting Joseph II Ploughs the Field near Slavíkovice.


Photo: Rudolf Sandalo, private collection

View of the Exhibition

on the left: the missing painting Girl with Goats, in the middle: missing triptych Echo, on the right: missing painting The Forest Idyll.


Photo: Rudolf Sandalo, private collection

View of the Exhibition

left wall: missing painting Proper Fasting, middle wall, top row: missing painting Hansel and Gretel, middle wall, bottom row: now missing drawings Bull Rock in the Josefov Valley, Wine Festival, Bull Rock in the Josefov Valley, right wall, top row: drawing of the missing painting Foreign Girl, right wall, top row: tempera Church in St. Catherine, now in private ownership (the church stands near the house where Emil Pirchan was born), right wall, bottom row: ink drawing Christmas Eve, now missing.


Photo: Rudolf Sandalo, private collection

View of the Exhibition

left: Elsa Pirchan (daughter of Emil Pirchan), 1906 (now in private ownership), top right: Mazeppa (now missing), bottom left: Gratia mundi (now missing)


Photo: Rudolf Sandalo, private collection

View of the Exhibition

left: Orange Seller (missing, Pirchan exhibited this painting at the 1883Osterreichischer Kunstverein exhibition in Vienna), on the stand in the doorway: lithograph Anna Pirchan (see fig. 1), right wall in the middle: In Autumn (missing), surrounded by now missing floral still lifes.


Photo: Rudolf Sandalo, private collection

View of the Exhibition

From the left: Siesta (now in a private collection), Grandmother, Orange Seller and Flower Still Life (all three are now missing).


Photo: Rudolf Sandalo, private collection

View of the Exhibition

left: Dying Christ (now missing).


Photo: Rudolf Sandalo, private collection

Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, Theater und Kunst, Tagesbote LVI, 1906, no. 168, Abendblatt, 10. 4., p. 4; no. 176, Abendblatt, 14. 4., p. 4; no. 182, Morgenblatt, 19. 4., p. 4; no. 183, Abendblatt, 19. 4., p. 4; no. 185, Abendblatt, 20. 4., p. 4; no. 195, Abendblatt, 26. 4., p. 4; no. 199, Abendblatt, 28. 4., p. 5; no. 201, Abendblatt, 30. 4., p. 4; no. 206, Abendblatt, 3. 5., p. 4; no. 210, Abendblatt, 5. 5., p. 4; no. 216, Abendblatt, 9. 5., p. 4; no. 222, Abendblatt, 12. 5., p. 4; no. 230, Abendblatt, 17. 5., p. 4; no. 233, Morgenblatt, 19. 5., p. 4; no. 234, Abendblatt, 19. 5., p. 4

Anonymous author, (Kunstausstellung), Brünner Zeitung, 1906, no. 90, 19. 4., p. 2; no. 91, 20. 4., p. 3; no. 96, 26. 4., p. 3; no. 98, 28. 4., p. 3; no. 99, 30. 4., p. 3; no. 102, 3. 5., p. 3; no. 104, 5. 5., p. 3; no. 110, 12. 5., p. 3; no. 114, 17. 5., p. 3; no. 116, 19. 5., p. 3

Anonymous author, (Kunstausstellung), Brünner Morgenpost, 1906, no. 98, 29. 4., p. 4; no. 104, 6. 5., p. 4; no. 110, 13. 5., p. 4; no. 116, 20. 5., p. 4

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