Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

First Exhibition of Czechoslovak Industrial Design

Date:17 December 1921 – 19 March 1922

Place: Prague, Museum of Decorative Arts

Exhibition design:Otakar Novotný

Organizer:Czechoslovak Arts and Crafts Association

Conception:Pavel Janák, Otakar Novotný


The organizer of this exhibition, Svaz československého díla (Czechoslovak Arts and Crafts Association, SČSD), was not a production cooperative like the concurrently operating Artěl but a nationwide platform supporting the revival of Czech industrial design. The Association had already been active in Prague before the First World War under its original title, the Czech Arts and Crafts Association. It was founded during the preparation of the German Werkbund exhibition in Cologne in the summer of 1914, which included designers from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Because Czech artists wanted to exhibit their works in a separate exhibition within the Austrian pavilion, Jan Kotěra initiated the founding of the Czech Arts and Crafts Association, modelled on Deutscher Werkbund [Vlčková 2016, p. 119].

The Association’s plans for the revival of Czech design and its unique identity within the Austrian artistic milieu were soon interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. The Association did not fully resume its activities until 1920 when the war was over and the situation in the newly created Czechoslovakia had calmed down. It changed its name to the Czechoslovak Arts and Crafts Association, but its mission remained the same, i. e. to connect artists, artisans, and vocational schools with factories producing arts and crafts objects and to support the development of modern Czechoslovak design at the institutional level [Adlerová 1983, p. 212]. Under the leadership of the new chairman, Josef Gočár, and the executive director Pavel Janák, it became one of the centres for the promotion of the national style, of which Janák is considered the creator.

In keeping with its goals set out in its 1920 program, the Association organized public competitions (e.g. for printed fabrics for women’s walking dresses in 1921, sports prizes in 1922, a poster for the Paris exhibition in 1924, etc.) and lectures, published the magazine Výtvarná práce, and held exhibitions in Czechoslovakia and abroad. The exhibitions were planned to take place every two years, and their purpose was to follow and map the developments in the local design world.

The first references to the planned exhibition date back to 1919 when the Association considered building its own exhibition pavilion in the centre of Prague. However, the Museum of Decorative Arts, whose director, František Xaver Jiřík, was also a member of the Association’s board of directors, eventually provided exhibition space free of charge [Knobloch 2019, p. 23]. The show was planned to begin in the spring of 1921 [anonymous author 1921, p. 2] to coincide with the Prague Sample Fair, but it did not open until December. According to the exhibition plan published in Výtvarná práce, the show aimed to “... give an overview of all existing achievements and show what Czech craftsmanship and Czech industry are capable of in cooperation with the visual artist” [Novotný, p. 23].

The organizers divided the exhibition into four parts and 25 sections. The first part featured 16 separate, fully furnished interiors, including home accessories (textiles, graphics, ceramics, etc.). The entrance area had a long corridor (I) with a row of display cases containing small artworks. From the corridor, visitors could enter the first seven rooms (II-VIII). The following section (X), designed by architect Otakar Novotný, was dedicated to folk art. In addition to representing the art of Detva and Lipa, Slovakia, it showcased the work of independent lace makers, complete with the collection of folk art from Trstené and Zakarpattia. 

The following general section (IX) consisted of ten large display cases placed along the walls and in the center of the room, containing small objects made of ceramics, metal, glass, wood, and textiles. These were made in both independent artist workshops and large factories. Since all objects in the exhibition were for sale, the contents of the display cases changed constantly. Judging by the surviving photographs, the showcases were quite full, probably because the artists wanted to make the most of the space they rented from the Association [Knobloch 2019, p. 30]. Some artists delivered their work later, adding to the rotation of artifacts in the exhibition. For example, ceramic sculptures by Ferdiš Kostka arrived in Prague in early January 1922 [anonymous author 1922, p. 4].

The graphic department (XI) presented the products of Czech publishing houses (Grafia, Prague Stock Printing House, Melantrich, and others), the works of students from the typography school in Prague, and those of individual artists (Jaroslav Benda, Vlastislav Hofman, Karel Mrázek, Max Švabinský, and others). The graphic department was followed by nine interiors and rooms containing a separate exhibition of selected artists and associations (XII – Artěl, XVI and XVII – Společnost umeleckého priemyslu [Association of Industrial Design] in Bratislava, XVIII – art studios of Helena Michalcová, XXI – Jan Štenc Printworks, XXV – exhibition bureau of SČSD). All rooms except the interiors were designed by architect Otakar Novotný and painted in the national style according to the designs by Vratislav Hugo Bruner and František Kysela.

The exhibition was an ambitious undertaking bringing together 217 subjects (individuals, schools, cooperatives, factories, workshops, craftspeople), most from Prague and its surroundings. However, artists and organizations also came from other parts of Bohemia, as well as Moravia, Silesia, and Zakarpattia (State Administration of Zakarpattia in Uzhhorod, Institute for the Deaf-Mute in Uzhhorod and State Carving Workshop in Yasinia). In addition to individual artists, the participants included art clubs and associations, such as the Folk Painting Workshop in Velké Všelisy, Lipa, and the Production Cooperative of Glass Cutters and Glass Makers. State vocational schools were represented by artworks from the Provincial Tapestry School in Valašské Meziříčí, the State Graphic School, and the State Educational Institute for Domestic Industry, both in Prague.

The organizers offered guided tours of the exhibition; during the Prague Sample Fair, the tour was free for the visitors of the fair. The Association regularly advertised the exhibition in the press to attract more visitors. At the end of January 1922, less than a month after its opening, the exhibition welcomed its ten-thousandth visitor, who received a large painted jug from the Modrá workshops in Slovakia. The total number of visitors reached twenty-two thousand, including an unspecified number of students from 133 schools [Knobloch 2019, p. 31].  

All the exhibition rooms were lavishly decorated with paintings of prancing foals, singing birds, and colourful flowers designed by František Kysela and Vratislav Hugo Brunner. As the Association’s board of directors later acknowledged [Novotný 1921–1922, p. 34], the “intensity” of the installation was intentional – it was meant to create a suitable background for the first presentation of Czechoslovak industrial design. In its scope, the exhibition was the first major showcase of the Czechoslovak art industry since the end of the First World War, and it also launched a series of exhibitions that the Association held regularly throughout the 1920s. The exhibition also showed that the Association was a suitable guarantor of Czechoslovak Industrial Design. In the following years, it cooperated with the state administration to facilitate the participation of the Czechoslovak Republic in international industrial design exhibitions.

Jana Pokorná Kalousková

Works Cited

Anonymous author 1921: Anonymous author, Uměleckoprůmyslová výstava Svazu českosl. díla, Čas XXXI, 1921, 24. 1., no. 18, p.2

Anonymous author 1922: Anonymous author, I. Výstava Svazu československého díla, ČasXXXII, 1922, 5. 1., no. 4, p.4

Adlerová 1983: Alena Adlerová, České užité umění 1918–1938, p.212, p.75

Knobloch 2019: Iva Knobloch, Svaz československého díla: První a druhá výstava, in: eadem, Odvaha a risk. Století designu v UPM, Praha 2019, pp. 20–33 

Novotný 1921–1922a: Otakar Novotný, Výstavní řád I. výstavy Svazu československého díla, Výtvarná práce I, 1921–1922, no. 3–4, pp. 23–24

Novotný 1921–1922b: Otakar Novotný, Příští výstava „Svazu čs. díla“, Výtvarná práce I, 1921–1922, no. 3–4, p.33

Vlčková 2016: Lucie Vlčková, Kubismus, in: Iva Knobloch – Radim Vondráček (eds.), Design v českých zemích 1900–2000, Praha, 2016, pp. 103–126

Further Reading

Pavel Janák, K první výstavě Svazu československého díla, Výtvarná práce I, 1921–1922, no. 7–9, p.33

Otakar Novotný, První výstava Svazu československého díla, Výtvarná práce I, 1921–1922, no. 3–4, p.23

Exhibiting authors

The First Exhibition of Czechoslovak Industrial Design


Publisher: Czechoslovak Arts and Crafts Association

Place and year of publication: Prague 1921

Graphic design: Method Kaláb

Author/s of the introduction:Janák Pavel
Reviews in the press

Anonymous author, Z pražské výstavy našeho uměleckého průmyslu, Český svět XVIII, 1921–1922, no. 17, 19. 1. 1922, pp. 265–267


Anonymous author, Svaz československého díla, Umění I, 1918–1921, no. 4, s. 464–465

Janák Pavel

Pavel Janák, K první výstavě svazu čs. Díla (z předmluvy výstavního katalogu), Výtvarná práce I, 1921–1922, no. 7–9, p. 33

Novotný Otakar

Otakar Novotný, První výstava Svazu československého díla, Výtvarná práce I, 1921–1922, no. 1, pp. 133 and 168

Novotný Otakar

Otakar Novotný, Příští výstava „Svazu čsl. díla“, Výtvarná práce I, 1921–1922, no. 3–4, p. 34

Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, Svaz českého díla, Čas XXX, 1920, 22. 10., no. 113, p.5

Anonymous author, Umělecko-průmyslová výstava Svazu československého díla, Drobné umění II, 1921, no. 1, 15. 1., p.24

Anonymous author, Uměleckoprůmyslová výstava Svazu českosl. díla, Čas XXXI, 1921, 24. 1., no. 18, p.2

Anonymous author, Výstava umělecko-průmyslových návrhů a modelů Svazu československého díla, Čas XXXI, 1921, 25. 1., no. 20, p.5

Anonymous author, I. Výstava Svazu československého díla, Čas XXXII, 1922, 5. 1., no. 4, p.4; 10. 1., no. 8, p. 3; 13. 1., no. 11, p.4; 31. 1., no. 26, p. 4; 5. 2., no. 31, p. 7; 26. 2., no. 49, p.9

Anonymous author, Odborný výklad v I. Umělecko-průmyslové výstavě Svazu československého Díla, Čas XXXII, 1922, 6. 1., no. 5, p. 4

Anonymous author, Výstavy, Světozor XXII, 1922, 2. 2., no. 9, p.235

Anonymous author, Z pražské výstavy našeho uměleckého průmyslu, Český svět XVIII, 1921–1922, no. 17, 19. 1., pp. 265–267

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