Date:8. February 1920 – 9. March 1920
Place: Prague, Rudolfinum
Exhibition design:Jan Zrzavý
Organizer:Fine Arts Association
Painter Jan Zrzavý decided to organize an exhibition for his friend, Bohumil Kubišta, as soon as possible after Kubišta's untimely death (November 27, 1918). However, Zrzavý faced unexpected obstacles for more than a year before he was able to implement his plan. As evident from his letter to Kubišta's uncle Oldřich from December 15, 1918, he first turned to the Mánes Fine Arts Association, of which Kubišta was a member, but Mánes dismissed his request due to Kubišta's involvement with the Austro-Hungarian army and his alleged “Austrian inclinations.” Zrzavý was equally unsuccessful in his effort to connect Kubišta's exhibition to the Tvrdošíjní (The Obstinate) show planned for the spring of 1919 at the House of Artists, despite the fact that Zrzavý himself was a member of the group. In his letter to Oldřich Kubišta, he writes: “The course of events sickens and crushes me.” When examining the exhibition contract, Zrzavý and Antonín Dolenský (an archivist in the Provincial Museum who helped prepare the Kubišta exhibition) found out that Kubišta's name was not in the contract and that the show was exclusively for the Tvrdošíjní. “I cannot prove that they have acted knowingly,” writes Zrzavý, ...I will not participate in this exhibition, ... I am not going to associate my name and art with people of such character.” Further on, the letter suggests that Dolenský immediately sent a request to “rent half of the Representation House for an exhibition of the Veraikon contributors.” Zrzavý asks Oldřich Kubišta to keep this a secret because if “the Tvrdošíjní or the Mánes members found out – it is certain to fail. ... I would be overjoyed if it worked out in the end because 1) his solo exhibition would be preferable and 2) justice and honour would prevail over violence, falsehood and deception.” [Archive of NGP, inv. no. AA 2875] This plan, however, also failed, and it was not until the end of the year that the Fine Arts Association signed a contract with Zrzavý and Dolenský for Kubišta's posthumous exhibition, to be held from February 8 to March 9, 1920.
Zrzavý then carefully chose the works for the exhibition from private collections and Kubišta's estate, stored in Oldřich Kubišta's house in Kukleny. This was a revelatory collection, because Kubišta had only presented his work at two Osma shows (1907, 1908) and a few Mánes members' exhibitions (1911, 1913 and 1914). Zrzavý designed the poster featuring Kubišta's painting St. Sebastian, which Zrzavý perceived as the symbol and analogy of Kubišta's artistic fate. He also created the cover for the catalogue and wrote an insightful introduction. The resulting set, most of which was for sale, comprised the whole width and development of Kubišta's oeuvre. The catalogue lists 90 works in total: 56 oil paintings of which 14 were from private collections, 2 pastels, 19 prints and 12 pencil drawings (not for sale). The exhibition was opened on Sunday February 8 by Kubišta's contemporary Josef Richard Marek, a print maker and art critic. His opening speech is probably identical to the article published in Venkov, in which Marek evaluates Kubišta's work with great appreciation and understanding, emphasizing its spiritual and painterly qualities as well as Kubišta's qualities as an artist and a human being.
Although attendance at the beginning was minimal and only began to grow after the first reviews were published, most period texts about the exhibition were serious, appreciative evaluations of the works' artistic quality. Ladislav Süss even called the exhibition “the most beautiful show of the season” and Kubišta “John the Baptist of Czech modern art” [Süss 1920, p. 28]. Vladislav Vančura, who saw Kubišta's legacy as a promise for the future, said that his work “encompassed its time, embodying its struggle and desire for new things ... the broader audience now shows that he was right in many matters.” [Vančura 1920, pp. 2–3] Karel Teige, a member of the emerging artistic generation, assessed Kubišta's work through its creative transcendence toward “the blending of life and reality with spirit [and] order,” while also examining its legacy. He particularly appreciated Kubišta's large classicist paintings and lino cuts from the later years, regarding them as “the most beautiful to have ever been created in this medium in Bohemia” and he also wrote: “These distinctive works also place his oeuvre most precisely and intimately within the nexus of our artistic work, making it a steady foundation for the new development which is now moving in two directions: the path toward classicism and the path toward folk art.” [Teige 1920, pp. 78–79] The future proved Teige right – the works of the emerging Devětsil generation found inspiration in Kubišta's oeuvre, namely in the spirituality of his final works with their mesmerizing inner light.
Art historian Václav Nebeský devoted an insightful review to the exhibition, published in the weekly Tribuna. Here, Nebeský described Kubišta's artistic development and captured the characteristic features of his oeuvre: the tendency toward plasticity and the effort to “emancipate” the individual plastic agents (colour, shape, line, light and space) all of which equally co-create the painting's expression and content. Nebeský therefore examined the phases of Kubišta's oeuvre, following their mutual relations and changes in ideas behind them. He was the first to shed light on Kubišta's logical path to proto-Cubism and geometrical shapes. Although Nebeský's analysis of Kubišta's work focused mainly on the question of form creation, it became the foundation for further inquiry. Nebeský himself later elaborated upon and enriched this first study in his text published in the spring 1921 in the second volume of Musaion, and in a memoir published in the book Život a osobnost B. Kubišty ve vzpomínkách současníků [Čeřovský 1949, pp. 164–172].
The exhibition was received positively and led to Kubišta's recognition as the founder of Czech modern art, further confirmed by the interest on the part of the emerging generation of artists. Yet the state Modern Gallery purchased none of the works slated for acquisition, namely the paintings Circus (1911) and Concert (1910), 12 drawn studies and 11 etchings. The Modern Gallery's advisory board also declined the painting Spring (Bathing Women, 1911), offered to the gallery as a gift. According to the archival records of the Union of Fine Arts, the Čapek brothers purchased three paintings from the exhibition: Karel bought the Landscape near Prague and Josef Still Life with a Basket and Still Life from a Cow Shed. The show then travelled to the Museum of Applied Arts in Hradec Králové where it was held from May 1 to May 18, and extended to May 26. It was opened again by Josef Richard Marek. The attendance in Hradec Králové was higher than in Prague.
Čeřovský 1949: František Čeřovský (ed,), Život a osobnost B. Kubišty ve vzpomínkách současníků, Prague 1949, pp. 164–172
Süss 1920: Ladislav Süss, Jarní výstavy, Umělecký měsíčník Orfeus I, 1920, no. 1, July, pp. 28–29
Teige 1920: Karel Teige, Posmrtná výstava Bohumila Kubišty v Domě umělců (Krasoumná jednota), Musaion I, 1920, pp. 78–79
Vančura 1920: Vladislav Vančura, Posmrtná výstava Bohumila Kubišty, České slovo XII, 1920, no. 40, 17. 2., pp. 2–3
Marie Rakušanová, Kubišta–Filla. Plzeňská disputace. Zakladatelé moderního českého umění v poli kulturní produkce, Plzeň 2019
Gabriela Pelikánová – Karel Srp, Život a odkaz Bohumila Kubišty v datech, in: Karel Srp, Bohumil Kubišta: Zářivý krystal, Ostrava 2014, pp. 419–421
Václav Nebeský, Bohumil Kubišta, Musaion II, 1921, pp. 17–24
Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Krasoumná jednota, inv. no. AA 1431 and inv. no. AA 14 19
Archive of the National Gallery Prague, Fonds Bohumil Kubišta – Korespondence cizí [Received Correspondence] (1918–1919), inv. no. AA 2875
Posmrtná výstava BOH. KUBIŠTY
Publisher: Krasoumná jednota
Place and date of publishing: Praha 1920
J. R. M. [Josef Richard Marek], Bohumil Kubišta. Venkov XV, 1920, no. 39, 15. 2., p. 2pdf
Václav Nebeský, Posmrtná výstava B. Kubišty v domě umělců, Tribuna 1920, no. 40, 15. 2., pp. 1–3pdf
Ladislav Süss, Jarní výstavy, Umělecký měsíčník Orfeus I, 1920, no. 1, July, pp. 28–29pdf
Karel Teige, Posmrtná výstava Bohumila Kubišty v Domě umělců (Krasoumná jednota), Musaion I, 1920, s. 78–79pdf
Vladislav Vančura, Posmrtná výstava Bohumila Kubišty, České slovo XII, 1920, no. 40, 17. 2., pp. 2–3pdf
Jan Zrzavý, Bohumil Kubišta (1884–1918), Veraikon VI, 1920, February, March, April, pp. 17–18
Anonymous author, Národní listy LX, 1920, no. 37, 7. 2., p. 4
Anonymous author, Posmrtná výstava Bohumila Kubišty, Krasoumná Jednota (Rudolfinum), Národní listy LX, 1920, no. 42, 12. 2., p. 4