Date:30. March 1918 – 26. April 1918
Place: Prague, Weinert´s Art and Auction Hall
Organizer:Weinert's Art and Auction Hall
The idea of a collective public show of young artists, later known as Tvrdošíjní (The Obstinate), first began to take shape during an exhibition held in December 1917 in Berlin. The participants included Josef Čapek, Vlastislav Hofman, Rudolf Kremlička, Otakar Marvánek and Václav Špála. This exhibition was organized by the magazine Die Aktion and Czech artists were invited thanks to Friedrich (Bedřich) Feigl, a member of the former Osma (The Eight) group, who had been living in Berlin since 1911. By the beginning of 1918, planning for the public show of the future Tvrdošíjní group was in full swing, initiated primarily by Josef Čapek, Vlastislav Hofman and Václav Špála. These were artists who, in the fall of 1912, had left Skupina výtvarných umělců (Fine Arts Group) following disagreements with Emil Filla and his sympathizers. At the beginning of 1918, the group began to form its membership base and came up with the name Tvrdošíjní, authored either by Josef Čapek, who became the main organizer and the group's leading spirit, or Hofman who discussed the question of the group's name in his correspondence with the writer Jan Bartoš [Nešlehová 2004, pp. 210–211]. In his letter to Josef Florián from the summer of 1917, Hofman mentions one of the concerns that brought the young artists together, namely “that new art needs soul and that it must stand up to the growing formalism.” [Nešlehová 2004, p. 134]. In opposition to it, the group aimed for art rooted in intensive personal experience and a free and personal creative method.
The first exhibition of the newly established group, at this point consisting of Josef Čapek, Vlastislav Hofman, Rudolf Kremlička, Otakar Marvánek, Václav Špála and Jan Zrzavý, opened on March 30, 1918 in Weinert's Art and Auction Hall in Prague's Na Příkopech Street. This exhibition, entitled And Yet! An Exhibition of a few Obstinate Ones, was the group's first public show with the artists exhibiting both older and new works, in which they built on and refined their ideas from the prewar years. Čapek exhibited an extensive set of 31 works, Hofman 20 works, Špála 16, Kremlička 10, Marvánek 9 and Zrzavý 25 works. These were mostly paintings, watercolours, drawings and prints. Stanislav Kostka Neumann, who wrote the catalogue introduction and generally supported the young artists, is considered the author of the defiant slogan used as the exhibition title, “although it is likely that it was coined by Hofman.” [Srp 1986, p. 3] Neumann was aware of the exhibition's importance: it created a “bridge” between the prewar and postwar art and responded to the need for pluralism and creative freedom, transcending prewar intolerance and narrow-mindedness.
The freedom of creative expression also tied together the exhibited artworks. Individualistic and independent of any formality and regulation, these works blended together Cubist morphology with social themes, particularly topical so soon after the war, and a new sensuality. Neumann, who supported the group's creative endeavours from the very beginning, emphasized the essence of the project: art that bears the mark of an idiosyncratic “local language.” He perceived the exhibited artworks as a “strong Czech branch of contemporary modern European art” [Neumann 1918a, p. 6]. By choosing these words, Neumann played up to the postwar wave of heightened patriotism as a way to deflect – albeit unsuccessfully – potential criticism.
The exhibition was sharply criticized in Miloš Klicman's review for Moderní revue. Klicman categorically condemned the show and he even misspelled Rudolf Kremlička's name, calling him “Krupička” in his review, a sign of Klicman's unwillingness to take the group's artistic intentions seriously. Klicman criticized the “heterogeneity of perspectives”, the vague ideas and the inconsistency in delivering the group's “main idea.” The group's work, says Klicman, is characterized by “stiff lifelessness” and “stubborn fanaticism which locks them in a vicious circle” and which inherently “generates fiasco” [Klicman 1918, p. 145 and 146]. Zdeněk Kratochvíl, a former member of Filla's Skupina výtvarných umělců, was also rather reserved in his review of the exhibition, but his final judgment was tentative: "On the whole, despite the above and other reservations, we want to give the new group a friendly welcome, and if further separate exhibitions are necessary, we wish it every success" [Kratochvíl 1918, p. 90]. Karel Čapek's text, published a few days before the exhibition's opening in Národní listy, was entirely different. Like Neumann, Čapek welcomed the artists' demand for freedom and individualism in art. He did not hesitate to write that this was “an exhibition of young individuals brought together not by a school or a trend but by a common fate of being, willy-nilly, the fronde of Czech modern life” [Čapek 1918, p. 1]. Josef Kodíček expressed similar views in his review of the exhibition in the magazine Národ. Appreciating Jan Zrzavý's paintings in particular, Kodíček judged the artworks based on their originality and contribution to seeking out new paths. From this perspective, the exhibiting artists appeared to hold “the most honourable place” in the context of contemporary modern art. Importantly for Kodíček, their attentive and consistent work maintained “the full measure of poetic completeness, purity and grace.” At the end of his review, he summarizes his overall impression from the show, saying that anything equal in quality “can hardly be found in Central Europe” [Kodíček 1918, p. 207]. An extensive article by Gustav Jaroš-Gamma in Česká stráž also expresses admiration for the young artists. However, Jaroš-Gamma criticized Kremlička and Marvánek, whom he did not regard as “obstinate”, and condemned their works for “yesterday's” execution and the “lazy repetition of yesterday's formulas” [Gamma 1918, p. 3]. Neumann also supported the exhibition and present the artworks and exhibiting artists' intentions in an article published in Národní listy. He made every effort to be impartial to avoid criticism for siding with the artists. Pointing out the artworks' disparity in perspective and style, he kept his distance when interpreting the individual artistic approaches; he did not hesitate to draw attention to their strengths and weaknesses and reiterated that it is the common fate rather than artistic worldview that connected the present artists. The article ends with a deft statement: "If the exhibition aims to present the main trends of Czech post-Impressionist art, the picture it offers is not complete." [Neumann 1918b, p. 1]. Václav Nebeský built on Neumann's opinion in his lecture Duch a forma moderního umění (The Spirit and Form of Modern Art), which sought to explain the meaning and essence of the young artists' efforts. The lecture was organized at the end of the exhibition on April 23 by the youth organization of the Czech Constitutional Democracy in Prague's Lucerna Hall; its full text was later published in the magazine Červen which became Tvrdošíjní's platform.
The timing of Neumann's feuilleton and Nebeský's lecture was probably deliberate. This way, Tvrdošíjní's first public show, albeit ideologically and artistically heterogeneous, received theoretical backing from leading personalities of public cultural life, who stood on their side. It stimulated the group's future activities and also inspired solo exhibitions of the group’s members.
Čapek 1918: Karel Čapek, Výstava několika tvrdošíjných s heslem A přece!, Národní listy LVIII, no. 71, 28. 3., p. 1
Gamma 1918: Gamma [Gustav Jaroš], Revolucionáři praví i nepraví I, Česká stráž I, 1918, no. 6, 19. 4., pp. 2–4
Klicman 1918: Miloš Klicman, Výstavy, Moderní revue XXXIII, 1918, pp. 143–146
Kodíček 1918: Josef Kodíček, K výstavě několika tvrdošíjných, Národ II, 1918, no. 16, p. 207
Kratochvíl 1918: Zdeněk Kratochvíl, Výstava několika tvrdošíjných, Kmen II, 1918, no. 11, 9. 5., p. 90
Nešlehová 2004: Mahulena Nešlehová (ed.), Vlastislav Hofman, Prague 2005, pp. 210–211 and p. 134
Neumann 1918a: Stanislav Kostka Neumann, [introduction], in: A přece! Výstava několika tvrdošíjných (ex. cat.), Praha 1918, p. 6
Neumann 1918b: Stanislav Kostka Neumann, Tvrdošíjní (Feuilleton rubric), Národní listy LVIII, no. 81, 10. 4., p. 1
Srp 1986: Karel Srp, Tvrdošíjní, (kat. výst.), Galerie hlavního města Prahy, Praha 1986, p. 3
Jaroslav Slavík, Skupina Tvrdošíjných, Umění XXX, 1982, pp. 193–213
Jaroslav Slavík, Tvrdošíjní, in: Vojtěch Lahoda – Mahulena Nešlehová – Marie Platovská – Rostislav Švácha – Lenka Bydžovská (edd.), Dějiny českého výtvarného umění 1890/1938 IV/1, Praha 1998, pp. 205–311
A přece! Výstava několika tvrdošíjných [And Yet! An Exhibition of a Few Obstinate Ones]
layout Vlastislav Hofman (Library of the National Gallery Prague, sign. VX 4175), also Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Šámal, file 3
Publisher: Grafia, Prague
Place and year of Publication: Praha 1918
Author/s of the Introduction: Stanislav Kostka Neumann
Karel Čapek, Výstava několika tvrdošíjných s heslem A přece!, Národní listy LVIII, 1918, no. 71, 28. 3. 1918, p. 1. Reprinted in: Karel Čapek, Spisy o umění a kultuře I, Praha 1984, pp. 500–501pdf
Gamma (Gustav Jaroš), Revolucionáři praví i nepraví I, Česká stráž I, 1918, no. 6, 19. 4. 1918, pp. 2–4; continued in Česká stráž I, 1918, no. 7, 26. 4. 1918, pp. 2–3pdf
Miloš Klicman, Výstavy, Moderní revue XXXIII, 1918, pp. 143–146pdf
Josef Kodíček, K výstavě několika tvrdošíjných, Národ II, 1918, no. 16, p. 207pdf
Zdeněk Kratochvíl, Výstava několika tvrdošíjných, Kmen II, 1918, no. 11, 9. 5., p. 90pdf
Stanislav Kostka Neumann, Tvrdošíjní (rubric Feuilleton), Národní listy LVIII, 1918, no. 81, 10. 4., p. 1
František Žákavec, „Umění“, Naše doba XXVII, 1919–1920, pp. 629–630pdf
Anonymous author, Národní listy LVIII, 1918, no. 70, 27. 3., p. 4; no. 79, 7. 4., p. 5; no. 85, 14. 4., p. 6; no. 91, 21. 4., p. 4
Anonymous author, Národní politika XXXVI, 1918, no. 72, 28. 3., rubric Umění a věda, p. 6.; no. 74, 30. 3., p. 6.; no. 75, 31. 3., p. 9.; no. 86, 14. 4., p. 9