Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Drawings and Prints of František Kupka

Date:17 September 1946 – 12 January 1947

Place: Prague, Kramář Villa


This exhibition in the Kramář Villa was organized by the National Gallery’s Collection of Prints on the occasion of František Kupka’s 75th birthday. Soon after, the Mánes Fine Arts Association opened another show celebrating Kupka's anniversary – a large retrospective entitled František Kupka: Exhibition of His Life's Work 1880–1946 (November 14 – December 8, 1946). The exhibition Drawings and Prints of František Kupka was the fourth post-war exhibition held by the Collection of Prints, all at the Kramář Villa. The Collection of Prints at the National Gallery (then the Czech-Moravian Provincial Gallery) was created in 1942 by merging the collections of the National and Modern Galleries and the National Museum [Zelenková 2019, p. 10]. Immediately after the war, it was moved to the Kramář Villa. Kupka came to Prague in the autumn of 1946, and his program there included a meeting with members of the Hollar art association [Fiala 1947, p. 131]. 

The exhibition at the Kramář Villa showcased 77 of Kupka’s works, most of them illustrations [Loriš 1946, p.]. These were drawings and aquatints for the drama Les Érinnyes by Leconte de Lisle, Aristophanes’s Lysistrata, and the treatise L´Homme et la Terre by the French geographer Élisée Reclus. Kupka's illustrations were quite popular among rare book collectors in France, but the artist did not value these works much after he turned to abstraction. He even began to sign his illustrations with the pseudonym Paul Regnard [Matějček 1932, pp. 241-242]. The exhibition included drawings from the series entitled Peace, Religion, Money and three studies for the famous painting Joys of Life. There were also three purely abstract wood engravings from the album Four Stories of Black and White dating to 1926. The exhibited works came mainly from the Waldes collection [Meissner 1999, pp. 380-395], which was deposited in the National Gallery during the Second World War. After the war, the Waldes family never received their artworks back, and the collection was nationalized. Two of the exhibited series, the illustrations from Lysistrata and the series Stories of Black and White, were later showcased at the National Gallery’s exhibitions Stories of Black and White (Hommage à Aurelie Nemours) (1997) and František Kupka – Lysistrata (2008–2009). 

The 1946 exhibition was curated by Jan Loriš (1893–1953), an art historian, critic, and pedagogue, who worked as the director of the Collection of Prints at the National Gallery from 1945 until his death [Slavíček 2016, p. 838]. The show had a small catalogue featuring the same graphic design as the other catalogues of the National Gallery from this period. In his short introductory text for the catalogue, Loriš aimed to introduce the viewers to Kupka’s illustrations from before the First World War, as they “remained almost unknown to the Czech public” [Loriš 1946, p. 5]. Following Loriš's text is the “List of Exhibited Works”, whose author is not specified. 

Based on preserved archival documents, the opening took place on September 17 at 4 p.m., but there is no further information about it. We do not know whether Kupka visited the show when he was in Prague; his name does not appear on the sheets of visitors’ signatures included in the documentation on the show. No photographs of the exhibition have survived. According to the visitors’ book, the artist visited the exhibition on November 1, 1946. He added a comment to his signature: “How beautiful our Prague is!”

The exhibition did not receive a great response in contemporary periodicals. Reviewers perceived it as a mere “complement” to the retrospective organized by the Mánes Association, which enjoyed much more attention from the press. One of the reviewers, publishing under the mark Zmz, considered Kupka’s method of illustration “outdated”: “Although his position appears outdated to our contemporary modern sensibility, it remains overall artistically valid” [Zmz 1946]. Loriš, too, mentions in his catalogue text that even Kupka himself considered the illustrations “out of date”: “And although the artist himself considers them to be a minor part of his oeuvre, outdated in their artistic position, they nevertheless remain for us a proof of his masterful drawing and printmaking and his rich inventiveness.” [Loriš, 1946, p. 6]. It is unclear why Loriš chose these strongly symbolist-oriented illustrations as an exhibition theme at a time when symbolism had already lost its appeal for most critics and visitors. Other reviewers focused on the exhibition space in the Kramář villa rather than Kupka’s artworks. Anna Mastná-Kahligová perceived the Prague panorama the visitors could see from the exhibition halls as an inseparable part of the show: “And the second exhibition appears before the visitor’s eye, open to everyone for free: the exhibition of the royal Prague, unfurling its panorama beneath the villa and its lavish park” [Mastná-Kahligová 1946].

The Prague exhibition of Kupka’s drawings and prints can be considered a marginal event due to its small scale and weak response in the press, but it is worth mentioning. It helps illustrate the overall picture of the postwar exhibition scene in Prague and reveals facets of Kupka’s work to researchers focusing on his oeuvre.

Markéta Kudláčová

Works Cited

Loriš 1946: Jan Loriš, Kresby a grafika Františka Kupky, 4. výstava, Grafická sbírka, Praha, Národní galerie v Praze 1946

Fiala 1947: Václav Fiala, František Kupka v Hollaru, Hollar. Čtvrtletní sborník grafické práce, 1946–1947, no. 3 (1947), pp. 131–132

Mastná-Kahligová 1946: Anna Mastná-Kahligová, Kupka – ilustrátor nad podzimní Prahou, Čin II, 1946, no. 241, 20. 10., p. 4

Matějček 1932: Antonín Matějček, Neznámé ilustrační dílo Františka Kupky, Umění V, 1932, p. 241–245

Meissner 1999: Petr Meissner, Kupka – Waldes. Malíř a jeho sběratel, Praha 1999

Slavíček 2016: Lubomír Slavíček (ed.), Slovník historiků umění, výtvarných kritiků, teoretiků a publicistů v českých zemích a jejích spolupracovníků z příbuzných oborů (asi 1800–2008), Praha 2016

Zelenková 2019: Petra Zelenková, Sbírka staré kresby a grafiky v Národní galerii Praha, in: Petra Zelenková (ed.), Linie světlo stín. Výběr z mistrovských děl evropské grafiky a kresby 16. – 18. století, Praha, Národní galerie v Praze 2019, pp. 9–13

Zmz 1946: Zmz, Kresby a grafika Františka Kupky, Hlas II, 1946, no. 261, p. 6

Further Reading

Kupka. Výstava životního díla 1880–1946 (exh. cat.), SVU Mánes, Praha 1946

Jan Konůpek, Život v umění, Praha 1947, pp. 28–31

Ludmila Vachtová – Jan Kříž: Kupka. Malby – Kresby – Grafika z let 1899–1946 (exh. cat.), Alšova jihočeská galerie, Hluboká nad Vltavou 1961

Příběhy bílé a černé (Hommage à Aurelie Nemours) (exh. cat.), Národní galerie v Praze 1997

Anna Pravdová, František Kupka – Lysistrata (Cabinet of Prints, exh. cat.), Národní galerie v Praze 2008–2009

Archival Sources

Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Dokumentace výstav NG [Documentation of NG Exhibitions], 1945–1958

Archive of the National Gallery Prague fonds Návštěvních knih výstav NG, Pamětní kniha Grafické sbírky Národní galerie v Praze [NG Visitor Books, Print Collection of the National Gallery in Prague], without

Exhibiting authors

Drawings and Prints of František Kupka


Publisher: National Gallery

Place and year of publication: Praha 1946

Author/s of the introduction:Loryš Jan
Reviews in the press
Mastná-Kahligová Anna

Anna Mastná-Kahligová, Kupka – ilustrátor nad podzimní Prahou, Čin II, 1946, no. 241, 20. 10., p. 4


Zmz, Kresby a grafika Františka Kupky, Hlas II, 1946, no. 261, 14. 11., p. 6

Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, Kresby a grafika Františka Kupky, Knižní značka VI, 1946, nos. 4–6, 1. 12., p. 78

Anonymous author, František Kupka hovoří o svém umění, Hollar. Čtvrtletní sborník grafické práce, 1946–1947, no. 3 (1947), pp. 130–131

Anonymous author, František Kupka. Výstavka Národní galerie na Letné, Skutečnost, časopis lidové výtvarné kultury I, 1946–1947, no. 4, 1. 12., p. 12

Jarmila Kubíčková, František Kupka, Umění XVII, 1945–1949, nos. 7–8, pp. 305–306 

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