Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Paintings by National Artists of the USSR

Date:12 April 1947 – 2 Mai 1947

Place: Prague, Žofín Palace

Organizer:Society for Economic and Cultural Relations with the USSR, Artistic Forum

Conception:Alexandr Zamoškin


The exhibition Paintings by National Artists of the USSR was the first opportunity for the Czechoslovak public to become acquainted with Soviet Socialist Realism. It was one of the most visited and discussed exhibitions of the postwar period. The exhibition first took place in Vienna, and then, on the initiative of Soviet political representatives, the Artistic Forum and the Society for Economic and Cultural Relations with the USSR moved it to Prague, where it was held under the auspices of the Czechoslovak government. At the time of the new geopolitical organization of Europe, it was meant as a counterbalance to the Art of Modern America, organized by the Art Society and presented in March 1947 at Žofín on Slovanský Island in Prague. To some extent, it also built on the exhibition of British modern art that had taken place a year earlier. Like Art of Modern America, Paintings by National Artists of the USSR was a traveling exhibition promoting the cultural values of a victorious power.   

The exhibition featured works by four prominent Soviet artists: Alexander Gerasimov, Sergei Gerasimov, Alexander Deyneka, and Arkady Plastov. It was organized to commemorate the eight-hundredth anniversary of the founding of Moscow; Alexander Zamoshkin, the director of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, was the driving force behind the whole enterprise. After Vienna and Prague, the exhibition travelled to Bratislava, where it took place in the foyer of Comenius University, and to Budapest. The exhibition’s official and diplomatic character was evident – it was supported by the prominent representatives of the Czechoslovak government, and the opening speeches expressed gratitude for the liberation of Prague but also the postwar pro-Soviet orientation of Czechoslovak society. The exhibition was opened on April 12, 1947, to the sound of the Czechoslovak and Soviet anthems, followed by speeches from Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Masaryk, representing Prime Minister Klement Gottwald, and Václav Rabas, the first Czechoslovak artist to receive the title of National Artist. Other prominent attendees included Minister of Education Jaroslav Stránský and Vítězslav Nezval, representing Minister of Information Václav Kopecký, Soviet Ambassador Valerian A. Zorin, and Alexander Zamoshkin [ZOU 1947]. The best-represented artist at the exhibition was Alexander Gerasimov, a prominent representative of Soviet official culture and the director of both the Soviet Academy of Fine Arts and the Union of Visual Artists. In addition to numerous state honours, he held the title of National Artist of the USSR. The bio in the catalogue characterized him as the most popular artist in the Soviet Union. Gerasimov was primarily a portrait painter; the Prague show featured his Portrait of J. V. Stalin (1939) and the Portrait of General A. I. Jeremenko (1942). His four-meter painting, The Tehran Conference of the Leaders of the Three Great Powers (1946), was one of the largest canvases in the exhibition. Another artist with the same last name, Sergei Gerasimov, was a professor at the Moscow State Institute of Art at the time of the exhibition and the director of the Moscow Union of Soviet Artists. His works at the exhibition included a series of watercolours from the travel album “Moscow – Samarkand” and approximately ten oil paintings, such as the large canvas Celebration at the Kolkhoz (1935).

Arkady Plastov exhibited only four oil paintings and two watercolours. This esteemed artist primarily focused on capturing rural life and its transformation due to collectivization. During World War II, he turned his attention to scenes depicting the horrors of war in contrast to the idyllic Russian countryside. One of his most significant works is the painting A Fascist Flew By, which was repeatedly published in Czechoslovak art magazines and exhibited at Žofín under the title Here Flew a German (1943). Alexander Deyneka, the most talented and youngest of the exhibiting quartet, was influenced by the Russian avant-garde of the 1920s. In Prague, he exhibited his famous painting Carefree Youth (1944) and watercolour temperas depicting European capitals such as Paris, Rome, and Berlin. 

The exhibition catalogue, designed by Karel Souček, contains a brief general introduction, profiles of the four exhibiting artists accompanied by a series of black-and-white reproductions, and a list of exhibited works. The unsigned introductory text characterizes the principles of Soviet Socialist Realism: a commitment to reality, hence the realistic foundations of art and the suppression of abstraction, an adherence to the 19th-century tradition, and the rejection of the formalism of modern art. Art is seen as a service that reflects the prosperity of society while actively contributing to its development and national education.

As Jiří Kotalík noted, the exhibition welcomed more than thirty thousand visitors in less than three weeks (Soviet representatives claimed that it was twice as many), undoubtedly making it one of the best-attended cultural events in Prague. The audience’s interest stemmed from gratitude to the liberators but was also likely fuelled by a barrage of critical voices across political newspapers and cultural magazines. The anthology Střetnutí. Sovětské malířství a současné umění (Encounter: Soviet Painting and Contemporary Art), edited by Otakar Mrkvička and published in three thousand copies, contained nearly fifty reviews and critical reflections by figures such as Miroslav Míčko, Bohuslav Brouk, František Kovárna, Jiří Kotalík, Karel Šourek, and Emil Filla. The aptest description of the Soviet exhibition appeared in a note signed with the initial JK in Právu lidufrom April 20, 1947: “To understand the true nature of Soviet painting, we must realize that it is almost entirely official, serving the regime and state ideology. Soviet painters accepted the task of celebrating the successes of government policy with their paintings. Their artistic language must be clear to speak to the millions of the Soviet people. What the West values most in art – the subjective perception of the world, the poetic and original vision, and the artist’s personal style – all of this is considered formalism in the USSR. In this matter, there remains a contradiction between us and our Russian friends.” [JK 1947] 

As implied in many contemporary texts, the Czech artistic community expected models of new art invented by the progressive Soviet people, the future hope of humanity. Instead, they were presented with an outdated model of conservative realism. Jiří Kotalík wrote: “In the field of political theory and practice, in the realm of thought and science, our situation is clear; are the examples of the four Soviet artists whose works we had the opportunity to see equally binding for our visual arts?" He continues: “For, truth be told, much of what appears as realism in the exhibition of the four Soviet painters is often nothing more than shallow naturalism crafted in an embarrassingly inept or sloppy manner. Much of what we would wholeheartedly like to see as the art of the socialist country evokes a taste that raises doubts. Instead of each painting giving us a glimpse into the creative soul of the Soviet nations, we encounter an academism, which, in its colorlessness, cloaks itself in a genderless and internationalist garb.” [Kotalík 1947, p. 386] Czech artists and critics (there was only one woman author among them) were too immersed in modern art and its rejection of idealized academic realism to embrace Soviet painting with enthusiasm implied by Soviet propaganda. The contradiction between the exhibited works and the principles of socialist realism declared in the catalogue text was impossible to overlook. The question of what was genuinely socialist and realistic in the paintings of the four Soviet artists remained unanswered. In one of the many responses to the exhibition, Otakar Mrkvička wrote this: “Our art took a different path than Russia’s, and its current state cannot justify the sappy, cheap, soulless pictures proliferating on the periphery of cultural life. Soviet painting is not on the right path. It needs to be said. Not because it resorts to realism but because it genuinely lacks artistic realism. Judging by the selection exhibited in Prague, Soviet painting settles for a common, mannered routine used by bad painters anywhere else in the world. There is nothing specifically Russian about it, and it lacks socialist content. Simply depicting a scene from socialist society does not automatically create socialist realism!” [Mrkvička 1947] Meanwhile, in the background of this heated debate, the Czechoslovak public openly welcomed the conservative and widely accessible works of the “liberators.” In a short article entitled Výstava, o níž je největší zájem (Exhibition that Attracts the Most Attention), the daily Rudé právo reported on crowds of visitors. Based on the entries in the visitor book, an essential feature of any exhibition at the time, Stanislav Talaváňa noted: “Some are enthusiastic about the exhibition and make disdainful remarks about modern art, while others either do not take the Soviet exhibition seriously or mock it. Neither group is entirely correct.” [Talaváňa 1947, p. 164]

One of the most informed and comprehensive critiques of the Soviet exhibition appeared in installments in the magazine Cíl. The author, Karel Šourek, then published the entire polemic under the title Čtyři rozpravy o malířství českém a sovětském (Four Essays on Czech and Soviet Painting) as one of Umělecká beseda’s publications. In addition to his critical reflections, Šourek included the above-cited Kotalík’s text K výstavě sovětského malířství v Praze (On the Exhibition of soviet Painting in Prague), which Kotalík had originally published as part of the discussion on Soviet painting in the magazine Tvorba. Debates about the Soviet exhibition continued long after its closing. They sprang up in response to Alexander Gerasimov’s ten-day visit in early June and, in particular, to the contentious article by Alexander Zamoshkin in Moskovskaya pravda from June 6, 1947 [Zamoshkin 1947]. In his text, Zamoshkin deliberately misinterpreted the way the exhibition was received in Prague and did not hesitate to accuse the representatives of the Mánes Association and the School of Decorative Arts of formalism. The ensuing outcry was not directly related to the exhibition itself, but rather to its cultural and political impact. Karel Šourek summarized the debate in his article Pravda moskevská a pražská pravda (Moscow Truth and Prague Truth). Although this may appear to be a personal conflict, we should see it as a harbinger of the situation that would soon affect Czechoslovak culture. It is evident that rational counterarguments from Czechoslovak representatives, accustomed to democratic discourse, held little weight in this situation. Soviet representatives were already experienced in manipulating public opinion and spreading disinformation.  

The intense polemical reflection on the exhibition attests to its unprecedented importance. As already mentioned, it is summarized in the anthology Střetnutí (Encounter), which remains a testament to the last free and public debate on the nature of Czechoslovak visual art and its direction for the coming years. This discussion, which had unpleasant consequences for some participants after the February coup, shows the naivety of Czechoslovak cultural figures who defended artistic freedom and the true values of modern culture in the face of Soviet ideologues. But it also demonstrated the self-confidence of Czechoslovak artists and critics who hoped for a better future in the postwar situation. 

Pavlína Morganová

Works Cited

JK 1947: jk, K výstavě sovětského malířství, Právo lidu L, 1947, no. 93, 20. 4., p. 3 

Kotalík 1947: Jiří Kotalík, K výstavě sovětského malířství v Praze, Tvorba XVI, 1947, no. 21, pp. 385–386

Mrkvička 1947: Otakar Mrkvička, Sovětští malíři, Svobodné noviny III, 1947, 4. 5., no. 104, p. 7

Šourek 1947: Karel Šourek, Pravda moskevská a pražská pravda, in: Otakar Mrkvička (ed.), Střetnutí. Sovětské malířství a současné umění, Praha 1947, pp. 217–229

Talaváňa 1947: Stanislav Talaváňa, Obrazy národních umělců SSSR, in: Otakar Mrkvička (ed.), Střetnutí. Sovětské malířství a současné umění, Praha 1947, pp. 164–168

Zamoškin 1947: Alexandr Zamoškin, Výstava sovětského malířství v Praze, in: Otakar Mrkvička (ed.), Střetnutí. Sovětské malířství a současné umění, Praha 1947, pp. 186–190

ZOU 1947: ZOU, Vernisáž sovětské výstavy, in: Otakar Mrkvička (ed.), Střetnutí. Sovětské malířství a současné umění, Praha 1947, pp. 15–16

Further Reading

Alexandra Kusá, Prerušená pieseň. Výtvarné umenie v časoch stalinskej kultúrnej praxe 1948–1956, Bratislava 2019, pp. 80–86

Rudolf Matys, V umění volnost. Kapitoly z dějin Umělecké besedy, Praha 2003, pp. 250–254

Rudolf Matys, Jen letmo o výstavách se značkou UB, o jedné však podrobněji, Prostor Zlín XX, 2013, no. 4, pp. 51–55

Otakar Mrkvička (ed.), Střetnutí. Sovětské malířství a současné umění, Praha 1947

Milan Pech, Obrazy národních umělců SSSR, in: Hana Rousová – Lenka Bydžovská – Vojtěch Lahoda – Milan Pech – Anna Pravdová – Lucie Zadražilová, Konec avantgardy? Od mnichovské dohody ke komunistickému převratu, Praha 2011, p. 328

Eva Petrová (ed.), Umělecká beseda 18632003 (exh. cat.), Galerie hlavního města Prahy 2003, p. 50

Karel Šourek – Jiří Kotalík, Čtyři rozpravy o malířství českém a sovětském. Příspěvek k diskusi o úkolech nového českého umění, Praha 1947

Exhibiting authors

Paintings by National Artists of the USSR


Publisher: Fine Arts Section of the Artistic Forum

Place and year of publication: Prague 1947

Reviews in the press
Doležal František

František Doležal, K výstavě sovětského malířství, Národní osvobození XVIII, 1947, no. 91, 18. 4., p. 4; no. 92, 19. 4., p. 5 

Hlaváček Zdeněk

Zdeněk Hlaváček, Obrazy národních umělců SSSR, Svět práce III, 1947, no. 17, 24. 4., p. 14 

Hodr Karel

Karel Hodr, Okolo výstavy oficiálního ruského umění, Lidová demokracie III, 1947, no. 91, 18. 4., p. 3 

Chlupáč Miloslav

M Chlupáč, Sovětská výstava, Kulturní politika II, 1947, no. 32, 25. 4., p. 2 


jk, K výstavě sovětského malířství, Právo lidu L, 1947, č. 93, 20. 4., s. 3

Kotalík Jiří

Jiří Kotalík, K výstavě sovětského malířství v Praze, Tvorba XVI, 1947, no. 21, 21. 5., pp. 385–386

Kovárna František

František Kovárna, Sovětští umělci mezi námi, Kritický měsíčník VIII, 1947, no. 9–10, pp. 211–216 

Kovárna František

František Kovárna, Zvítězí a povládne pan Kdokoliv?, Svobodný zítřek III, 1947, no. 17, 24. 4., p. 5 

Marek Josef Richard

Josef Richard Marek, Výstava čtyř sovětských malířů, Praha-Moskva II, no. 4–5, pp. 130–132 


MAT, Čí myšlence dává výstava za pravdu, Svobodné noviny III, 1947, no. 89, 17. 4., p. 5

Míčko Miroslav

M Míčko, K diskusi o sovětském malířství, Práce III, 1947, no. 93, 20. 4., p. 4 

Mrkvička Otakar

Otakar Mrkvička, K výstavě sovětských malířů, Svobodné noviny III, 1947, no. 97, 25. 4., p. 5

Mrkvička Otakar

Otakar Mrkvička, Sovětští malíři, Svobodné noviny III, 1947, 4. 5., no. 104, p. 5 


Pchč, Obrazy národních umělců SSSR, Obrana lidu I, 1947, no. 91, 18. 4., p. 5 

Richter Stanislav

Stanislav Richter, Obrazy národních umělců Sovětského svazu, Lidová demokracie III, 1947, no. 90, 17. 4., p. 4 


RNA, Výstava sovětského malířství v Praze, Svobodné slovo III, 1947, no. 93, 20. 4., p. 3 

Stanovský Vladislav

V Stanovský, Několik poznámek k výstavě sovětského malířství, Tvorba XVI, 1947, no. 21, 21. 5., p. 387 

Šolta Vladimír

Vladimír Šolta, Obrazy ze sovětského svazu, Mladá fronta III, 1947, no. 94, 22. 4., p. 4 

Šourek Karel

Karel Šourek, Jaké je poučení ze sovětského malířství?, Cíl III, 1947, no. 16, 2. 5., pp. 249–251; no. 17, 9. 5., pp. 267–268; no. 18, 16. 5., pp. 280–281; no. 19, 23. 5., pp. 298–300 

Štech Václav Vilém

V. V. Štech, Zmatek kolem výstavy, Dnešek II, 1947, no. 4, 24. 4., pp. 59–60 

Štolovský Ctibor

Ctibor Štolovský, Obrazy národních a zasloužilých umělců SSSR, Rudé právo XXVII, 1947, no. 91, 18. 4., p. 2 

Talaváňa Stanislav

Stanislav Talaváňa, Obrazy národních umělců SSSR, My 47, 1947, no. 17, 26. 4., p. 4 


ZH, Výstava sovětského umění, Zemědělské listy, 1947, 23. 4. 

Views of the exhibition

Opening of the exhibition Paintings by National Artists of the USSR


photo: ČTK

View of Alexander Gerasimov’s The Tehran Conference of the Leaders of the Three Great Powers (1946)


 photo: ČTK

President Edvard Beneš and his wife Hana Benešová at the exhbition Paintings by National Artists of the USSR


Reproduction: Alexandra Kusá (ed.), Prerušená pieseň, Bratislava 2019 

Author:Jonda H.

The Kitsch Lover’s Dream or the Aftermath of one Exhibition


Reproduction: Cíl III, 1947

Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, Otevřený dopis posluchačů vysoké školy uměleckoprůmyslové moskevské Pravdě, Mladá fronta III, 1947, no. 139, 15. 6., p. 6

čt, Moskevská „Pravda“ o českém formalistickém malířství, Mladá fronta III, 1947, no. 134, 10. 6., p. 4

Věra Hasalová, České umění a pan Zamoškin, My 47, 1947, no. 25, p. 4

Miloš Chlupáč, Sovětská výstava, Kulturní politika ročník?, 1947, no. 32, p. 2

od, Výstava sovětského malířství v Praze, Svobodné noviny III, 1947, no. 86, p. 5

Arnošt Paderlík, Odpoví Mánes, Mladá fronta III, 1947, no. 139, 15. 6., p. 6

r, Gerasimov o našem a sovětském malířství, Mladá fronta III, 1947, no. 141, 18. 6., p. 4

-, Výstava, o niž je největší zájem, Rudé právo XXVII, 1947, no. 93, 20. 4., p. 7

-, Výstava sovětského malířství – další sblížení sovětské a naší kultury, Rudé právo XXVII, 1947, no. 92, 19. 4., p. 3

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