Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

International Art Exhibition in Karlovy Vary 1930

Date:18 June 1930 – September 1930

Place: Karlovy Vary,

Exhibition design:[Oswald Richter]

Organizer:Metznerbund, Karlsbad

Conception:Josef Gassler, Wilhelm Klier, Adolf Riedl, Ernst Riedl, Oswald Richter, Wilhelm Srb-Schloßbauer, Max Struppe


“In June 1930, a remarkable exhibition opened in Karlovy Vary, featuring members of the Metznerbund, the Prager Sezession, the Prague Mánes Association, and the Vienna Hagenbund. Its title – Internationale Kunstausstellung – was rather prosaic but clear. The show’s elegant German-language catalogue with Constructivism-influenced typography spoke of the purpose and importance of the event, which aimed, perhaps for the first time since the 1928 Exhibition of Contemporary Culture in Brno, to bring together Czech and German associations active in Czechoslovakia and enrich them with significant international participation.” [Lahoda 2012, p. 109]

This is how Vojtěch Lahoda summarized the positive features of this extraordinary exhibition, organized by the Karlovy Vary branch of the Metznerbund art association. Although the show represented 79 artists from at least four different countries, it is now difficult to track down the details about its preparation and goings-on behind the scenes. The authors Zdenka Čepeláková, Anna Habánová, and Maximilian Kaiser were well aware of the exhibition’s importance – each of them dedicated several paragraphs to it in their respective texts on the exhibition activity in the region, the shows of the Metznerbund, and the interwar networks of artistic contacts of the Viennese Hagenbund. 

The catalogue featuring an introductory text by Wilhelm Srb-Schloßbauer presents the essential source of information about the exhibition. It lists the artists alphabetically, specifying their place of residence and association membership. There are 219 artworks listed in the catalogue, 12 of which are reproduced in black and white images; some of the entries lack information about the work’s technique. For the most part, the exhibition featured oil paintings, but there were also sculptures (26), tempera paintings, watercolours, and several prints. In addition to the catalogue, researchers can only rely on newspaper reviews by local German-speaking art critics for further information. Although this was an international exhibition that represented not only Czech Germans from the Metznerbund, Prager Secession, and the Liberec Oktobergruppe but also Czechs (members of the Mánes Association), Austrians (members of the Hagenbund and Wiener Secession), Frenchmen and several Germans, Czech-language media completely ignored it. The show represented 11 Czech-speaking artists (including Justitz, Kubín, and Kars). Each of these painters had four to five paintings there, and the sculptor Bohumil Kafka showcased two sculptures, amounting to 44 artworks altogether.

The exhibition was likely prepared by a committee consisting (by the degree of involvement) of painter Max Struppe, architect Oswald Richter, painters Wilhelm Klier, Ernst Riedl, sculptor Wilhelm Srb-Scholßbauer, painters Adolf Riedl, Josef Gassler and (unnamed) representative of the Ministry of Schooling and National Education. Existing sources do not reveal who arranged the participation of Czech artists and how; the circumstances around the French artworks are equally unclear. The Viennese artists were likely contacted through the Karlovy Vary painter Wilhelm Klier, a member of the Hagenbund (its members had 21 works at the exhibition), and Josef Dobrowsky, who had ties to the Wiener Secession.

The organizers managed to gain the support of the city, which provided the exhibition hall on the Goethe Trail (the show took place under the auspices of the Mayor of Karlovy Vary, Hermann Jakob), and the financial support of the Ministry of Schooling and National Education. Wilhelm Srb-Schloßbauer summed up the motivation of the organizers in the catalogue: “Some Metznerbund artists living in Karlovy Vary … are trying to introduce themselves to the general public through this international art exhibition, presenting our contemporary artistic output to the local and international audiences in the spa city.” [Srb-Schloßbauer 1930, p. 211] The Prager Tagblatt reviewer Fritz Lehmann praised the organizers for being able to “use jury to pull the weaker members of the association out of the show, dump the ‘local artists,’ and invite the Czechs and Frenchmen...” [Lehmann 1930]  

In his review for Deutsche Zeitung Bohemia, Oskar Schürer offered a more critical perspective on the exhibition. He first commented on the price of the entrance fee (5 crowns) and then went on to discuss the exhibition’s scope and the degree of its international dimension: “No storm, no exciting matter, but a collection of, on average, quite good and mostly subtle (refined?) paintings, which bring together a piece of Europe. ‘International Art Exhibition Karlsbad 1930’ sounds too serious for this friendly presentation, to which the various available artists sent whatever they could spare. ‘Today’s Art’ would have sufficed as a title. But in Karlovy Vary, you want to be international in everything.” [Schürer 1930]  

Schürer was also the only reviewer to mention the silent rivalry between Metznerbund and Prager Secession – one could perceive the exhibition as an internal struggle between these associations for primacy on the domestic scene. Although the show’s organizers did invite Prager Secession artists, they primarily aimed to attract the attention of visitors and art patrons through international guests, a strategy that Prager Secession was also using, along with efforts to engage the most talented regional artists. But the show in Karlovy Vary presented a more extensive and certainly more internationally diverse set of artworks than any exhibition these associations had held so far, even though famous French artists such as Amedée Ozenfant, André Lhote or Maurice Utrillo were each represented by only one painting, as were most others (Zadkine, le Fauconnier, Lotiron, Masereel). It would be interesting to explore the backstage of the exhibition and find out whether the French section was a reused part of an earlier show or an original curatorial selection. 

To evaluate the exhibition objectively, we need to accept both its dimensions – the organizers’ utilitarian motivation to add lustre to their art association by placing its members’ works in a particular context and the generosity of execution. Any such exhibition, especially in the period of the emerging economic crisis, required considerable organizational effort, and few interwar exhibitions of cross-sectional character (and there were not many in Czechoslovakia) have escaped criticism for being imbalanced in one way or another. As an intersection of nationalities and art worlds, the Karlovy Vary show was an extraordinary occurrence. By organizing it, the local branch of the Metznerbund reached far beyond the horizon of regional, ethnically German nationalism, creating a unique event that could easily compete with any Prager Secession show in Prague. In the summer of the following year, the association managed to organize a follow-up exhibition, again including members of the Mánes Association, Prager Secession, and Hagenbund, but without French participation [Anonymous author 1931]. This, however, brought the free international activity of the Karlovy Vary branch of the Metznerbund to a close. The next event to step beyond the regional boundaries – the tendentious exhibition of 1937 – was a reflection of an entirely different spirit and political circumstances.

Ivo Habán

Works Cited

Anonymous author 1931: Kunstausstellung in Karlsbad, Westböhmische Tageszeitung XXXII, 1931, no. 203, 31. 7., p. 6

Lahoda 2012: Vojtěch Lahoda, Výstavy: Internationale Kunstausstellung, Karlsbad, 1930, in: Lenka Bydžovská – Vojtěch Lahoda – Karel Srp (edd.), Černá slunce: Odvrácená strana modernity, (exh. cat.) Galerie moderního umění v Ostravě, Řevnice – Ostrava 2012

Lehmann 1930: Fritz Lehmann, Internationale Kunstausstellung Karlsbad, Prager Tagblatt 55, 1930, no. 147, 24. 6., p. 5

Schürer 1930: O. S. [Oskar Schürer], Internationale Kunstausstellung Karlsbad 1930, Deutsche Zeitung Bohemia 103, 1930, no. 149, 26. 6., p. 5

Wilhelm Srb-Schloßbauer, úvodní slovo katalogu Internationale Kunstausstellung Karlsbad 1930, překlad citován podle Zdenka Čepeláková, Výtvarné umění na Karlovarsku mezi dvěma válkami, in: Anna Habánová (ed.), Mladí lvi v kleci : Umělecké skupiny německy hovořících výtvarníků z Čech, Moravy a Slezska v meziválečném období (exh. cat.), Oblastní galerie v Liberci, Liberec 2013, pp. 202–219

Further Reading

Zdenka Čepeláková, Výtvarné umění na Karlovarsku mezi dvěma válkami, in: Anna Habánová (ed.), Mladí lvi v kleci : Umělecké skupiny německy hovořících výtvarníků z Čech, Moravy a Slezska v meziválečném období (exh. cat.), Oblastní galerie v Liberci, Liberec 2013, pp. 202–219

Anna Habánová, Celorepublikové přehlídky Metznerbundu v meziválečném období, in: Anna Habánová,Metznerbund: Dějiny uměleckého spolku Metznerbund, Liberec 2016, pp. 210–245

MK [Maximilian Kaiser], heslo Internationale Kunstausstellung Karlsbad 1930, in: Agnes Husslein-Arco – Matthias Boeckl – Harald Krejci (edd.), Hagenbund: ein europäisches Netzwerk der Moderne; 1900 bis 1938(exh. cat.), Wien 2014, p. 222 

Exhibiting authors

Internationale Kunstausstellung Karlsbad 1930


Publisher: unspecified, the back cover says that the catalogue was designed by the architect Oswald Richter and printed by “Urania” 

Place and year of publication: Karlovy Vary 1930

Author/s of the introduction:Srb-Schloßbauer Wilhelm
Reviews in the press
Hora Engelbert

Engelbert Hora, Die erste internationale Kunstausstellung des Metznerbundes in Karlsbad, Deutsche Tageszeitung LXXI, 1930, no. 157, 9. 7., pp. 4–5

Lehmann Fritz

Fritz Lehmann, Internationale Kunstausstellung Karlsbad, Prager Tagblatt LV, 1930, no. 147, 24. 6., p. 5

Schürer Oskar

O. S. [Oskar Schürer], Internationale Kunstausstellung Karlsbad 1930, Deutsche Zeitung Bohemia CIII, 1930, no. 149, 26. 6., p. 5

Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, Internationale Kunstausstellung Karlsbad, Prager Tagblatt LV, 1930, no. 139, 14. 6., p. 7

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