Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

The First Exhibition of SVU Mánes (Mánes Fine Arts Association)

Date:5. February 1898 – 5. March 1898

Place: Prague, Topič Salon

Exhibition design:members of SVU Mánes

Organizer:Mánes Fine Arts Association, Topič Salon

Conception:committee of SVU Mánes


In the second half of the 19th century, the Mánes Association of Fine Arts (Spolek výtvarných umělců Mánes, SVU Mánes), founded in Prague in the spring of 1887, gradually brought together the majority of the younger generation of artists, who turned what was originally a bohemian student group into a modern cultural institution. Its main goal included publishing an art journal – Volné směry (Free Currents), published from the fall of 1896 onward) and organizing members' exhibitions. The first of those exhibitions, prepared from November 1897 and opened in February 1898 in the Topič Salon, show-cased not only works by young artists but also a new approach to exhibitions, the choice of artworks, installation and poster design. 

SVU Mánes organized a competition for the poster, in which 24 artists participated. The jury consisting of Josef Schusser, Stanislav Sucharda and Karel Klusáček awarded the first prize to an original composition by Arnošt Hofbauer, who, using rather provoking imagery, managed to capture contemporary society's indifference to artistic values. In the original version, a sprightly muse tries to awaken a corpulent ignoramus seated in the Buddha position. Upon the jury's request, Hofbauer later exchanged the humorous muse for a serious one, so the comical tone would not make the public underestimate the association's serious intentions. Other competition designs were exhibited between November 28 and December 1, 1897 at SVU Mánes's space in Mikulandská Street 4. 

In connection with the forthcoming exhibition, new artists joined SVU Mánes, either out of their own interest or upon the organizers' invitation (e.g., Sucharda persuaded František Bílek to join). Immediately before the opening, the organizers gathered so many high-quality artworks that they had to send some of them back. These returned works included a painting by Vojtěch Bartoněk, reproduced in Světozor as an enticement for the exhibition; Bartoněk, who had joined SVU Mánes because of the exhibition, left it immediately after this scandal. The organizers aimed to distinguish their approach from the exhibition practices of Krasoumná jednota (Fine Arts Association), which involved crowding the Rudolfinum walls with artworks. For this reason, they chose the artworks with great care, strictly adhering to a doublerow arrangement. Although the installation had no unified architectural design, the artists made some changes to the exhibition space: they dimmed the top lights with a drape, covered the walls with toned textiles and put coconut matting on the floor. The Topič Salon covered most of the expenses associated with the exhibition (printing and distributing posters, advertising, lighting) and in exchange kept the profit from entrance fees [Engelmüller 1897].

Among the exhibited artists, the landscape painters stood out, particularly Slavíček, Hudeček, Jelínek, Kuba, Dvořák, Holub and Braunerová. Engelmüller's Neo-Romanticist triptych and Kaván's mystical landscapes diverged from this group of plein air painters. Of the figuralists at the show, Schusser, an admirer of Hynais, was the most popular; Preisler and Švabinský sent only drawings, and the exhibition also included Karel Špillar, Wiesner and Homoláč. Úprka, Němejc and Jaroslav Špillar represented the ethnographic genre. The moralists – Holárek, Šimůnek and Klusáček – formed a special enclave at the exhibition, as did Panuška's compositions characterized by idiosyncratic fantasticism. Mikoláš Aleš, worshipped by SVU Mánes's founders, was also among the exhibited artists. Bílek, Sucharda, Šaloun and Halman represented young sculptors.

In addition to SVU Mánes's members and supporters, the guests at the opening included numerous writers, journalists and other figures from cultural and political circles (such as T. G. Masaryk). Howev-er, only a few of the invited older artists came, among them Academy professors J. V. Myslbek and Vojtěch Hynais. In his opening address, the SVU Mánes chairman Stanislav Sucharda summarized the ten-year-long history of the association, emphasizing the construction of the association's building and exhibition hall as the main task for the future. A modest catalogue contained a generic, one-page introduction. A more important text, the collective manifesto for the exhibition, was published in the March issue of Volné směry (along with a modified version of Sucharda's speech): it defined the moderately modernist agenda of the association's core, based on “purely pictorial thinking” and on the premise that national art could only be achieved by fully expressing one's individuality [anonymous author 1898b]. Simultaneously, SVU Mánes's bohemian tradition lingered in the special issue of the hand written magazine Špachtle (Spatula) which parodied events associated with the exhibition, including the celebratory banquet at the restaurant U Choděrů. 

Although the exhibition was not a significant commercial success (one painting by Hudeček and one by Braunerová were sold, earning the association 200 guldens – 5% of the sale price), the reviews were largely encouraging. K. B. Mádl, K. M. Čapek and Jan Koula agreed that it was not a revolt but a successful continuation in the development of Czech art. Unlike these critics, Karel Hlaváček considered precisely this feature as overcautious and boring, and recommended that young artists be uncompromis-ing in both organizing and art. Radikální listy (Radical News), a periodical close in worldview to SVU Mánes, emphasized Mánes's emancipation from the then-current unsatisfactory institutional system: “Mánes members break away from existing exhibition corporations, promoting artists' independence and calling for a place where – free of lay influence, so necessary elsewhere – they could control the collection of their own creations, made not for sale and for lay public's pleasure, but originating from their inner necessity” [anonymous author 1898a]. In this respect, the first SVU Mánes members' exhibition, which ushered in the young Czech artistic generation, can be regarded as part of the movement of Central-European art-nouveau associations.

Lenka Bydžovská

Works Cited

Engelmüller 1897: Ferdinand Engelmüller Františku Topičovi, transcription of a letter from 15. 11. 1897, City of Prague Archives, Fonds Spolek výtvarných umělců Mánes, Korespondence, Ferdinand Engelmüller, sign. 3.4, inv. no. 771, file 13

anonymous author 1898a: anonymous author, Secesse Mánesa, Radikální listy V, 1898, no. 12, 9. 2., p. 85

anonymous author 1898b: anonymous author, První výstava spolku „Manes“…, Volné směry II, 1897–1898, no. 5, March 1898, col. 231–236 (the text contains a modified version of Sucharda's opening speech, col. 231–232) 

Further Reading

Alena Adlerová, K počátkům českého plakátu. Výstavní plakáty S. V. U. Mánes 1898–1908, Sborník prací Filosofické fakulty brněnské univerzity, řada uměnovědná X, 1961, no. F5, pp. 367–376

Kristýna Brožová (ed.), Topičův salon 94–99, Praha 2015, pp. 52–53

Jiří Kotalík (ed.), Tschechische Kunst 1878–1914 (exh. cat.), Mathildenhöhe, Darmstadt 1985, volume 2, pp. 61–68 

Jiří Kotalík, Čtyři generace SVU Mánes. K 100. výročí založení spolku, in: idem (ed.), SVU Mánes. Výstava k 100. výročí založení (exh. cat.), Svaz českých výtvarných umělců – Národní galerie, Praha 1987, n. p.

Karel Boromejský Mádl, Umění včera a dnes [II]. Pětadvacet výstav „Manesa“, kronika deseti let 1898–1908, Prague 1908, pp. 1–13 

Karel Mašek, Tři leta s „Mánesem“, Prague 1921, pp. 67–86

Roman Prahl, Plakát první výstavy SVU Mánes: Provokace mezi revoltou a utopií, Umění XXXX, 1992, pp. 23–35 

Roman Prahl – Lenka Bydžovská, Volné směry. Časopis pražské secese a moderny, Prague 1993, pp. 11–20, 85–87

Tomáš Vlček, Český plakát 1890–1914, Prague 1971, pp. 24–25

Petr Wittlich, Česká secese, Prague 1982, pp. 7–20 

Aleš Zach (ed.), Topičův dům. Nakladatelské příběhy 1883–1949 (exh. cat.), Výstavní síň České spořitelny, Praha 1993

Archival sources

City of Prague Archives, Fonds Spolek výtvarných umělců Mánes, Výstavní činnost, Složky jed-notlivých výstav [Exhibitions, Files of the Individual Exhibitions] sign. 4.1, inv. no. 3959, file 43 – Soupisy vystavených děl I. – III. výstavy [Lists of exhibited artworks from exhibitions I – III] 1898–1900,


City of Prague Archives, Fonds Spolek výtvarných umělců Mánes, Výstavní činnost, Složky jed-notlivých výstav [Exhibitions, Files of the Individual Exhibitions], sign. 4.1,  inv. no. 3960, file 43 – Členská výstava no. 1,


Exhibiting authors
The First Exhibition of SVU Mánes (Mánes Fine Arts Association)
Technique: colour lithograph, paper, 110 x 83 cm
Owner: Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, inv. no. GP 9490

Výstava spolku “Mánes” [Exhibition of the “Mánes” Association]


Publisher: Topič Salon

Place and year of publication: Praha 1898

Reviews in the press

Anonymous author, Zahájení výstavy spolku „Manes“, Národní listy XXXVIII, 1898, no. 37, 6. 2., p. 2


Anonymous author, Z výstavy Manesa, Radikální listy V, 1898, no. 13, 12. 2., p. 93; no. 16, 23. 2., p. 111; no. 18, 2. 3., pp. 125–126 


Anonym, „Manes“, Česká stráž IX, 1898, no. 8, 23. 2., pp. 1–3


Anonym, Pelmel, Česká stráž IX, 1898, no. 10, 9. 3., pp. 1–2

Čapek-Chod Karel Matěj

Karel Matěj Čapek, Výstava spolku „Manes“. II, Světozor XXXII, 1897–1898, no. 14, 11. 2., p. 166; no. 16, 25. 2., p. 190; no. 17, 4. 3., p. 197; no. 18, 11. 3., pp. 208–209

Harlas František Xaver

František Xaver Harlas, Ausstellung des Vereins „Manes“, Politik XXXVII, 1898, č. 56, 25. 2., s. 1–3

Hladík Václav

V. H. [Václav Hladík], Výstava spolku „Manes“, Lumír XXVI, 1897–1898, no. 17, 10. 3., pp. 203–204; no. 18, 20. 3., p. 215–216 

Hlaváček Karel

Zyx. [Karel Hlaváček], Výstava spolku „Manes“, Rozhledy VII, 1897–1898, no. 10, 15. 2., pp. 464–466


JJS., České umění. Výstava spolku „Manes“, Pražské noviny, 1898, no. 40, 19. 2., p. 2

Jiránek Miloš

K. [Miloš Jiránek], Výstava spolku „Manes“, Lumír XXVI, 1897–1898, no. 15, 20. 2., p. 180 

Koula Jan

J. K. [Jan Koula], Výstava spolku „Manes“. I, Národní listy XXXVIII, 1898, no. 51, 20. 2., p. 13; no. 65, 6. 3., p. 13

Mádl Karel Boromejský

M. [Karel Boromejský Mádl], Z Topičova Salonu, Zlatá Praha XV, 1897–1898, no. 14, 11. 2., p. 165, 167; no. 16, 4. 3., pp. 189–190

Novák Josef

Josef Novák, Za meze idylly, Národní listy XXXVIII, 1898, no. 126, 7. 5., p. 1 

Táborský František

Fra Lorenzo [František Táborský], Výtvarné umění, Naše doba V, 1897–1898, no. 5, 20. 2., pp. 444–446

Prachař František

H. M. [František Prachař], Výtvarné umění. Výstava spolku „Mánes“, Čas XII, 1898, no. 8, 19. 2., pp. 115–117

Tyršová Renáta

Renáta Tyršová, Rozhledy v umění výtvarném, Osvěta XXVIII, 1898, no. 3, pp. 259–264


x., Topičův salon, Ženský svět II, 1897–1898, no. 5, 20. 2., pp. 72–73


Zdeslav, Výstava spolku „Manes“, Samostatnost II, 1897–1898, no. 7, 12. 2., p. 54; no. 8, 19. 2., p. 61

Views of the exhibition

View of the first Mánes members' exhibition in the Topič Salon

the end wall features the triptych Pastorale by Ferdinand Engelmüller and Birch Mood by Antonín Slavíček

in the corner stands the sculpture Moment of Rest by Ladislav Šaloun


Volné směry II, 1897–1898

Brief notes about the exhibition

Im., Výstavy, Volné směry II, 1897–1898, no. 4, February, pp. 189–191

-Is-, Po výstavě „Mánesově“, Volné směry II, 1897–1898, no. 6, April, p. 292

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