Date:26. September 1945 – 14. October 1945
Place: Prague, Topič Salon
Although the reviews suggest that the second Confrontation was expected and planned in 1944, it did not take place on this date. The Protectorate put a stop to it; “the German censor only needed one glance over the list of painters to ban it” [fč 1945]. The show was instead held after the war, in the fall of 1945. Organized by the Topič Salon, a prestigious private gallery, it was again prepared by Lev Nerad who also wrote the catalogue introduction. Confrontation II presented twenty-one young artists and compared to the previous Confrontation, it was much more diverse in terms of both worldview and style. There were only paintings on display. In addition to individual artists (Karel Černý, Bedřich Hoffstädter, Ota Janeček, Evžen Nevan, Zdeněk Seydl, Václav Sivek, Zdeněk Sklenář and Jan Želibský), it represented artists from three groups: Skupina 42 (Group 42) (František Gross, František Hudeček, Jan Kotík, Kamil Lhoták, Jan Smetana and Karel Souček), Sedm v říjnu (Seven in October) (Václav Hejna, Josef Liesler, František Jiroudek and Arnošt Paderlík) and the newly established Skupina Ra (Group Ra) bringing together young surrealists (Josef Istler, Bohdan Lacina and Václav Zykmund). The show featured 62 oil and tempera paintings. Each of the artists exhibited three paintings from 1944–1945, but Zdeněk Seydl showed only two works. Like the previous Confrontation, this was a sales exhibition. The opening took place on September 25 at 5 p.m. with a speech by Jiří Kotalík, the theorist of Group 42, whose members were all represented at the show (with the exception of Bohumír Matal).
As we can read in Nerad’s introduction, the exhibition posed a number of questions concerning the war generation’s painting. Nerad placed the exhibited paintings next to one another with the intention to open a mutual dialogue and show the scope of tendencies. As he writes in the catalogue, the stylistic positions ranged “from the Romantic wing to Surrealists, in addition to objective painting, Cubism, Civilism and several individuals whose work is based on personal uniqueness” [Nerad 1945, p. 1]. Nerad’s intention was ambitious: Confrontation II was meant to showcase the freedom, plurality of opinion and creative potential of contemporary Czech art. As he writes in the conclusion to his text, he saw the exhibition as a “prelude” to further development.
The reviewers – and there were quite a few of them – had diverse opinions of the show. Many praised it, attentively discussing the artists’ stylistic and intellectual focus and trying to find common features in the exhibited artworks. Some, on the other hand, pointed out various stylistic shortcomings of the artists.
The Group 42 painters – namely Hudeček and Gross – were perceived positively, while the imaginative works by Istler, Lacina and Zykmund largely met with unease and misunderstanding; Karel Černý and Zdeněk Sklenář were the only individual artists to receive the critics’ praise. Some reviewers criticized Nerad for choosing only a few paintings by each of the artists, a conception that, in their view, did not allow for deeper insight into contemporary Czech art. Many others, however, did not see it as a problem. Jan Maria Tomeš, for example, regarded the exhibition as “truly important” because “it sheds light on the actual situation of young Czech painting in its main features. The relatively sweeping approach is certainly due to the fact that it is now possible to freely exhibit art which was suppressed during the occupation” [Tomeš 1945]. That, says Tomeš, was the main significance of this exhibition. He appreciated that almost all of the exhibiting artists were “part of groups despite their different individualities, which were respected and even encouraged in these groups. Such groups can be considered as individual wholes following a more or less well-defined program. The exhibition was thus an encounter of different perspectives rather than a confrontation of individuals. It provided an opportunity for comparison, which is all the more valuable because each of the views is always supported and illuminated by several examples” [ibid.]. But the young artists’ situation was still complicated. Tomeš concludes that although we can find true values and have stimulating intellectual encounters with the different artistic approaches the exhibition lacks paintings “that would be brilliant painting, brilliant in invention, form and technique” [ibid.].
The painter and art critic Otakar Mrkvička also praised the exhibition. He though it was interesting that it offered the viewer “two communities, two affinities of opinion (…). Above all, there is the "Group 42," which aspires to new subject matter and whose artists are “bound by a common sense of life,” and the “creations of Surrealist fantasy” that contrast sharply with “the not exactly positive features” and diverse efforts of the Seven in October painters and some of the artists’ academic tendencies [om 1945]. Mrkvička saw the exhibition as “a mix, in which hope and interest alternate with disappointment, but still a mix from which one can sense where the next development, by no means clear-cut, is likely to go.” [ibid]. In his concluding words, he aptly captures the situation: “But when one looks at painting after painting in the Confrontation exhibition, one must necessarily notice how these painters … and ultimately all of us, are missing a different and more essential confrontation. One constantly feels that ... it is not possible to confront one's own work with the most perfect works of international art, or with the highlights of the true visual culture at home. ... Czech art is not lacking in talent, but in cultural milieu. That is all that matters if we want Czech art to achieve European importance” [ibid].
Confrontation II was a trailblazer in not only its broadly conceived dialogue between diverse artistic tendencies but also in its freedom of expression, which gave a much-needed dose of creative tension to the Czech postwar art world. This was the show’s main purpose. But this freedom was short lived – at the end of the 1940s, it was stifled by communist ideology and the doctrine of socialist realism.
fč 1945: fč [František Čihák], Společné vystoupení jednadvaceti malířů, Svobodné Československo I (II), 1945, no. 92 (235), 25. 9., p. 3
om 1945: om [Otakar Mrkvička], Konfrontace, Svobodné noviny I,1945, no. 116, 9. 10., p. 3
Nerad 1945: Lev Nerad, Konfrontace 2, exh. cat., 1945, p. 1
Tomeš 1945: Jan Maria Tomeš, Konfrontace 2, Rovnost rono.1945, no. 133, 14. 10, p. 4
Rostislav Švácha – Marie Platovská (edd.), Dějiny českého výtvarného umění V (1939/1958), Praha 2005, p. 164 and 192
Place and year of publication: Prague, 1940
Karel Černý, Svědectví duchovní práce, Svět práce I, 1945, 27. 10., Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Moderní galerie (1902–1942), Výstřižkové knihy k výstavám, umělcům a činnosti MG i jiných galerií [Books of clippings for exhibitions, artists and activities of the Modern Gallery and other galleries], acq. no. 939, no.17, 1944–1946pdf
František Čihák, Jednadvacet malířů vystavuje, Svobodné Československo I (II), 1945, no. 104 (247), 9. 10., p. 3pdf
fč [František Čihák], Společné vystoupení jednadvaceti malířů, Svobodné Československo I (II), 1945, no. 92 (235), 25. 9., p. 3pdf
fd, Pražské defilé nejmladšího a dozrávajícího výtvarného umění. K výstavě Konfrontace 2, Lidová kultura I, 1945, no. 20, 13. 10., p. 3pdf
Věra Halasová, Konfrontace. K výstavě 21 malířů v Topičově salonu v Praze, MY XLV, 1945, no. 4, 6. 10., p. 4pdf
Zdeněk Hlaváček, Mladé české umění, Svět práce I, 1945, no. 13, 4. 10., p. 11pdf
Š. J. [Štěpán Jež], Z pražských výstav, Lidová demokracie I, 1945, no. 131, 14. 10., p. 5pdf
-rna [František Kovárna], Hledání nejmladších, Svobodné slovo I, 1945, no. 133, 17. 10., p. 2pdf
om [Otakar Mrkvička], Konfrontace, Svobodné noviny I, 1945, no .116, 9. 10. p. 3pdf
Pchč [Jaroslav Pecháček], Konfrontace II, Národní osvobození XVI, 1945, no. 136, 24. 10., p. 3pdf
Pchč [Jaroslav Pecháček], Na okraj kulturních událostí. Pražské výstavy, Umění dneška III, 1945–1946, no. 3, May 1946, p. 178pdf
Rudolf Rouček, Výstavy, Dílo XXXIV, 1945–1946, no. 3, 28. 12. 1945, p. 31pdf
Vladimír Šolta, Konfrontace mladých malířů, Mladá fronta I, 1945, no. 128, 7. 10., p. 3pdf
t, Konfrontace nebo zastavení?, Rudé právo XXV, 1945, no. 138, 19. 10., p. 3pdf
J. M. Tomeš, Konfrontace 2, Rovnost, 1945, no. 133, 14. 10, p. 4pdf
vo (Václav Vodák), Procházka po pražských výstavách, Pravda I, 1945, no. 142, 27. 10., p. 2pdf
zd, Z pražských výstav, Svět sovětů, 1945, 5. 10, Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Moderní galerie (1902–1942), Výstřižkové knihy k výstavám, umělcům a činnosti MG i jiných galerií [Books of clippings for exhibitions, artists and activities of the Modern Gallery and other galleries], acq. no. 939, no. 17, 1944–1946pdf
Anonymous author, Malířská konfrontace..., Národní osvobození II, 1945, 2. 10., Archive of the National Gallery Prague, Výstřižková kniha [Book of Clippings] no. 17, 1944–1946