Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Franz Felbinger

Date:30. August 1906 – 16. September 1906

Place: Brno, Gerstbauer Foundation House

Exhibition design:Camillo Palleta

Organizer:Mährischer Kunstverein

Conception:Camillo Palleta


In 1903, Mährischer Kunstverein began holding it exhibitions at the Gerstbauer Foundation House (Gerstbauersches Stiftungshaus). Instead of one annual exhibition, it now organized monthly shows presenting art associations and individual artists. Although it showcased international artists as well, the main focus was on local, Moravian painters. The first to exhibit with the Kunstverein were elite Moravian painters who lived in Vienna and occasionally visited their native region. The number of local artists whose work kept up with the latest developments in Central-Europe was significantly smaller. The most prominent among these artists were Emil Pirchan (1844–1928) and Franz Felbinger (1844–1906). In the terminology of art criticism at the time, Pirchan represented the idealist and Felbinger the naturalist end of the contemporary stylistic spectrum. In 1906, Pirchan became the first Brno artist to exhibit with Mährischer Kunstverein in Gerstbauer Foundation House; Felbinger’s show followed at the end of the summer that same year. Considering the quality and importance of both artists, the choice was logical, although it seems that the timing of Felbinger’s exhibition was a result of circumstances. Felbinger died in July 1906 and the show, albeit not advertised as a posthumous retrospective, was in all likelihood precisely that. Unlike the usual, month-long exhibition, it was open for less than three weeks and instead of September, it started at the end of August when Mährischer Kunstverein usually took its summer break. The subsequent exhibition of works by Willy Hamacher was also shortened to eighteen days. It was not until October that the exhibitions resumed their original duration, starting with the show of Eduard Veith and Munich printmaking. It appears that the Kunstverein squeezed the Felbinger exhibition into its already fixed exhibition plan.

The set of exhibited artworks also suggests that Felbinger’s exhibition was a hastily-prepared project, characterized by improvisation rather than deeper curatorial insight. Kunstverein clearly exhibited works that it could gather in a short period of time. A detailed review listing the exhibited artworks contains no mention of the painting Beggar which Felbinger created during his studies in Munich and which became one of the first examples of naturalism in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. In 1884, this painting was presented at the Mährischer Kunstverein’s annual exhibition, introducing naturalism to Moravia and securing Felbinger a prominent position on Brno’s art scene. The work’s absence from the 1906 exhibition somewhat lowered the show’s value as a retrospective. On the other hand, there were important paintings such as Poor Children, now in a private collection, Girl with a Goose, now in the collection of the Moravian Gallery in Brno, and the now-missing Players and Autumn. The organizers included The School in Želešice (Moravian Gallery), an unfinished painting that may come across as a lower-quality work to an uninformed viewer, as it lacks the final glaze finish. The exhibition also contained other paintings owned by the Moravian Gallery in Brno, namely Interior of a Jesuit Church and Self-Portrait. In addition to these works, there were other larger paintings and a few portrait studies.

One of the exhibition halls was designed as the artist’s studio, featuring a few pieces of furniture and canvases by other painters, which Felbinger kept in his house in the village of Želešice near Brno. These artists included contemporary Munich Art-Nouveau painters Hugo Habermann, Josef Huber, Max Kuschel, the Moravian painter Louise Stupka-Eisenlohr and Heinrich Friedrich Füger, four generations older than Felbinger and his contemporaries. These painters were Felbinger’s friends from Munich who would come to see him in Želešice. Their paintings in this hall were accompanied by small studies by Felbinger. This way, Mährischer Kunstverein was able to recreate the artist’s creative environment, drawing the viewer into Felbinger’s world. But it was also a practical solution to the lack of representative artworks at an exhibition designed as Felbinger’s retrospective. This situation was a result of Felbinger’s personality. Primarily an engineer and entrepreneur, he designed a pneumatic tube system, owned the Brno Grandhotel which was the first building in the city to receive electricity, and he also operated a vegetable canning factory in Želešice, based on his own patent. He did not start painting intensively until he was forty and although he did enjoy success at exhibitions, art was a hobby for him, rather then a source of livelihood. His paintings were not distributed through standard channels, making it difficult to trace their owners.

Mährischer Kunstverein began to organize solo exhibitions from 1903 onward with the intention to introduce Brno audiences to the most prominent Moravian painters of the period. Most of these artists lived in Vienna. The Kunstverein first focused on those who had achieved considerable success internationally, such as Eduard Veith and Hans Temple, and so it took some time before Brno-based painters got their turn. Of these local artists, the Kunstverein prioritized Emil Pirchan and Franz Felbinger, who dominated the Brno art scene in the last two decades of the 19th century. By 1906, however, Pirchan was already retreating from public life and Felbinger was dead. The conception of his show was therefore somewhat improvised. Yet despite the time constraints, the exhibition was a major achievement as the organizers managed to collect just enough material to document the oeuvre of an artist who had played an important role in Moravian painting of the late 19th century. Later on, tracing Felbinger's paintings became even more difficult.  

Robert Janás

Further reading

Robert Janás, Felbingerův Žebrák ze sbírek Moravské galerie. K počátkům moravského naturalismu, Bulletin Moravské galerie v Brně LVII, 2001, pp. 32–36

Radek Ryšánek, Franz Ritter von Felbinger, Brněnský naturalistický malíř, thesis, FF MU Brno 2006

Exhibiting authors
Reviews in the press

-h., Kunstausstellung Franz Ritter von Felbinger +, Tagesbote LVI, 1906, no. 419, Abendblatt, 6. 9., pp. 1–2

Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, Theater und Kunst, Tagesbote LVI, 1906, no. 406, Abendblatt, 31. 8., p. 4; no. 410, Abendblatt, 3. 9., p. 4; no. 418, Abendblatt, 7. 9., p. 4; no. 421, Abendblatt, 10. 9., p. 4; no. 427, Abendblatt, 13. 9., p. 4; no. 429, Abendblatt, 14. 9., p. 4

Anonymous author, (Mährischer Kunstverein), Brünner Morgenpost, 1906, no. 200, 2. 9., p. 4

Anonymous author, (Mährischer Kunstverein), Brünner Zeitung, 1906, no. 209, 13. 9., p. 3; no. 210, 14. 9., p. 3 

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