The exhibition organized by the Mánes Association in April 1946 aimed to present Lada as a complex, unique artist, and not just as a caricaturist and illustrator, which was how he had been mainly perceived until then. The vast majority of the 86 exhibited works were paintings in tempera and gouache, to which Lada devoted more of his attention beginning in the 1920s [Pečinková 2007]. Although Mánes also presented a convolute of 36 illustrations to Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk, the show’s focus was on Lada's painting oeuvre, made clear in the exhibition’s overall concept, as well as in Emil Filla’s catalogue introduction and the press reviews.
The subject matter of the exhibited paintings, however, was not much different from Lada’s cartoons and illustrations. Most of the paintings were landscapes, in which Lada captured the atmosphere of the changing seasons in his native Hrusice and its surroundings. Lada's interest in the landscape, its transformations and rural life was also reflected in the other thematic units, featuring depictions of village life and images of fairy-tale creatures.
According to contemporary periodicals and archival documents, Lada's paintings were exhibited on the first floor of the Mánes building in Prague. Unfortunately, the details of the overall installation are not known. It was most likely created by Miloš Malina, Václav Hejna and Josef Novák, who are listed in the catalogue as members of the commission that prepared the exhibition. The catalogue also lists Filla as a member of the committee but Mánes’s archival materials suggest that Filla just wrote the text in the catalogue and was not directly involved in preparing the exhibition.
There are no relevant data concerning attendance, and the exhibition’s resonance among the public, experts and artists is equally hard to judge. Lada’s work and the exhibition were positively reviewed by Zdeněk Hlaváček in the weekly Svět práce, Jiří Kotalík in the daily Práce and other authors in the dailies Lidová demokracie and Rudé právo. Hlaváček writes that “few things speak to us in such an earthy and colourful language” [Hlaváček 1946]. The author of a slightly harsher review in Mladá fronta opines that “works from the last three years show signs of weariness and dryness, forced invention and repetition, lagging behind the original quality” [ŠOL 1946].
No other cultural periodicals reviewed the show, perhaps because at about the same time, Mánes also held retrospective exhibitions of Jindřich Štýrský and Jaroslav Král, which likely attracted more attention. There were no reviews in Mánes’s Volné směry, the periodical Listy edited by Jindřich Chalupecký, or in Obzory. Leftist periodicals were also indifferent – in several of its March and April issues, the weekly Tvorba devoted much attention to the Jaroslav Král exhibition, without even mentioning the Lada show. The overflow of exhibitions characterizing not only Mánes but the entire postwar art world certainly minimized the impact the Lada exhibition could have otherwise had.
Hlaváček 1946: Zdeněk Hlaváček, Čtyři výstavy, Svět práce II, 1946, no. 15, 11. 4., p. 11
Pečinková 2007: Pavla Pečinková, Josef Lada (1887–1957) (exh. cat.), Praha 2007, p. 135
ŠOL 1946: ŠOL, Tři dobré výstavy v Mánesu, Mladá fronta II, 1946, no. 87, 12. 4., p. 4
Prague City Archives, Fonds Spolek výtvarných umělců Mánes, Výstavní činnost, Josef Lada [Mánes Fine Arts Association, Exhibitions, Josef Lada], 1946 (1.–21. 4.)
Publisher: Mánes Fine Arts Association
Place and year of publication: Prague, 1946
hčk, Ladovo radostné vyprávění o Čechách, Rudé právo XXVI, no. 91, 16. 4., p. 4pdf
Š. J., Tři výstavy v Mánesu, Lidová demokracie II, 1946, no. 90, 16. 4., p. 4pdf
ŠOL, Tři dobré výstavy v Mánesu, Mladá fronta II, 1946, no. 87, 12. 4., p. 4pdf
Anonymous author, Výstava Josefa Lady v Mánesu v Praze, Čin II, 1946, no. 80, 4. 4., p. 3
Anonymous author, Výstavy, Hollar XXIII–XXIV, 1947, no. 2, p. 85
Anonymous author, Z výstavy SVU Mánes, Kulturní politika II, 1946, no. 26, 12. 4., p. 6
Anonymous author, Současná výstava Josefa Lady v Mánesu ukazuje nám znovu tohoto umělce..., Svět práce II, 1946, no. 17, 25. 4., p. 11