Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

The First Exhibition of the Fine Arts Association

Date:April – May 1836

Place: Prague, Klementinum

Organizer:Fine Arts Association


In 1836, the Prague Academy’s annual exhibition, held in the Academy's space at the Clementinum, was organized for the first time by the Fine Arts Association (Krasoumná jednota, KJ), a Prague art association founded as an offshoot of the Society of Patriotic Friends of Fine Arts (Společnost vlasteneckých přátel umění, SVPU).  Like similar associations abroad (Kunstverein), it was based on the principle of shareholding.

Krasoumná jednota's founding in 1835 was a reaction to the movement of artists who criticized the SVPU and, since the beginning of the 1830s, had been working to organize a support association inde-pendent of the SVPU. Their efforts intensified in 1835. The SVPU rejected this initiative, as it was afraid that these artists would establish a competing association and exhibition (the establishment of a permanent exhibition in Prague was in fact one of the artists' demands). The SVPU chairman, Kristian Christopher Clam-Gallas, founded the Prag Kunstverein / Krasoumná jednota instead, focusing on organizing exhibitions, art dealership and the dissemination of artworks. Modeled on other European art associations such as the Kunstvereins in Munich and Vienna, Krasoumná jednota aimed to financially support living artists by purchasing their artworks using the funds from member contributions and the sale of shares. By 1835, Krasoumná jednota had approximately 500 members; one share was sold for 5 fl. C. M. [Sternberg 2017, p. 28 and note 135]. During art exhibitions, the union purchased the artworks from the artists and distributed them among the shareholders by way of a lottery. Even those who did not win received an annual bonus – a graphic print. 

The first lottery took place at the Prague exhibition on April 18, 1836 with the emperor's permission, negotiated by the highest Prague burgrave and SVPU's protector, Karel Chotek. [Rittersberg 1836] In this period, Chotek also played the role of mediator between the SVPU and the disgruntled Prague art-ists. [Hojda – Prahl 2004, pp. 19–23] We have no detailed information about the exhibition, as the cata-logue was not published that year. The only mention of the show appears in the report of the SVPU committee for the previous year published in Bohemia, in which the Society's secretary, Jan Ritter of Rittersberg, briefly summarized the event. He wrote that the highly representative selection of art-works for the lottery included some pieces by international artists, as well as local artists' works that were not for sale, all of this doubling the size of the exhibition from previous years. It was allegedly well attended. However, Rittersberg mentioned no exhibiting artists, so we can only assume that the exhibition represented the listed recipients of the year’s academic prizes: Vilém Kandler, Alois Čermák, Franz Neusar, Franz Hollan, Johann Skarda, Anton Volkmer, Ferdinand Dvorzak, Franz Fesenmayer, Joseph Zawadil, Anton Schlager, Eduard Bunzel, Jakob Polz, Wenzel Kurz. We also know that Antonín Mánes had his painting Karlštejn at the exhibition, later purchased by Emperor Ferdinand during his coronation in Prague; this painting is missing, but its lithograph reproduction by Bedřich Anděl has been preserved [Reitharová 2005, p. 18].

This was the first exhibition in Prague to feature a lottery, a common practice in art associations of the period, which linked artists and potential buyers from the public. Although the connection between the association's funding, its artwork purchases and the public's artistic taste may have had a negative influ-ence by prioritizing qualitatively average, yet popular and sought-after works, this practice brought further modernization into Prague's art world. 

Pavla Machalíková

Works Cited

Hojda – Prahl 2004: Zdeněk Hojda – Roman Prahl, Kunstverein nebo/oder Künstlerverein? Hnutí umělců v Praze 1830–1856/Die Künstlerbewegung in Prag 1830–1856, Praha 2004

Reitharová 2005: Eva Reitharová, Josef Mánes. Odkaz malířů Mánesovy rodiny, Praha 2005

Sternberg 2017: Caroline Sternberg, Kunstakademie und Kulturelle Modernisierung. Die Geschichte der Prager Kunstakademie im Zeitraum 1840–1870, Regensburg 2017

Rittersberg 1836: Johann Ritter von Rittersberg, Vortrag in der öffentlichen Sitzung der Gesellschaft patriotischer Kunstfreunde in Prag am 7. Mai 1836, Bohemia (supplement) IX, 1836, 7. 5., n.p.

Further Reading

Vladimír Novotný, Sto let Krasoumné jednoty, Praha 1935

Exhibiting authors
Brief notes about the exhibition

Johann Ritter von Rittersberg, Vortrag in der öffentlichen Sitzung der Gesellschaft patriotischer Kunstfreunde in Prag am 7. Mai 1836, Bohemia (supplement) IX, 1836, 7. 5., n.p.

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