Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

1928
The Junge Kunst Group

Date:15. February 1928 – 4. March 1928

Place: Prague, House of Arts (Rudolfinum)

Organizer:Krasoumná jednota (Fine Arts Association)

Conception:Kopf, Maxim

Commentary

The exhibition of Junge Kunst organized under the banner of the Krasoumná jednota (Fine Arts Association) in Rudolfinum at the end of the winter of 1928 presented the latest work of mostly Prague-based, German-speaking artists of the emerging generation who had recently graduated from the Prague Academy. The content of the exhibition differed from the conservative, traditionalist and nationalist course that had characterized most the other groups in the Czechoslovak German-speaking art world up to that time. The Junge Kunst exhibition was dominated by modernist and mainly French-oriented works, which, although not entirely avant-garde, attested to the international orientation of the younger Prague Germans. 

The founding of the Junge Kunst was initiated during the summer of 1927 by the painter Maxim Kopf, who, together with Mary Duras, returned to Prague in the spring of that year after several years in Paris, New York and Tahiti. After a successful monographic exhibition, he set about organizing Prague's German-speaking art scene. Kopf approached his most interesting Prague-based classmates and colleagues from the Academy in Prague and brought them together in the newly founded Junge Kunst association. The main motivation behind the association and the subsequent group exhibition was to open up new possibilities for presenting and selling work, which was a pressing issue for many of the participating young artists. The exhibition was accompanied by a small catalogue without reproductions. It was published in separate Czech and German versions, a common practice with Krasoumná jednota’s exhibitions. The back cover contained the following (and the catalogue’s only) text: “This group was established as a response to the difficulties that today’s young artists encounter when attempting to organize exhibitions, in which an artistic individuality would come into full force. The group has tasked itself with becoming an unbiased mediator between the country’s contemporary living young generation and the public.” 

The Junge Kunst group featured 19 artists who together exhibited 95 works: paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures. The exhibiting artists included five women: Jewish painters Grete Passer and Charlotte Schrötter-Radnitz and young sculptors Mary Duras, Martha Schöpflin and Gabriele Waldert. The Czech, Moravian and Silesian audience had not encountered this group of German speaking artists before and so the neutral title Junge Kunst was quite appropriate. 

While the Junge Kunst show was an undoubtedly progressive venture on the part of Czech Germans, it was not particularly radical compared to, say, the Czech avant-garde group Devětsil. The Junge Kunst was based on ethnic and generational affinity, rather than on shared ideas about formal or conceptual aspects of art. The group had neither a theorist nor a specific program, its members were not socially engaged and, with the exception of ethnic issues, they were largely apolitical – in this sense, the group was non-conflicting and, we may say, democratic and loyal toward the Czechoslovak Republic. The work of the Junge Kunst artists targeted an educated, affluent, predominantly middle-class audience interested in current trends. They did not endorse German nationalism and neither did they want to shock society through avant-garde or otherwise strongly engaged works.

Interestingly, Alfred Justitz was present at the exhibition as a guest. As an established, middle-aged artist, he added significance to the show. Because Justitz was a member of the Mánes Association, he could also function as a link between the German artists and the Czech speaking scene. Justitz’s collaboration with the Junge Kunst was episodic but his presence at the show suggests that there were some contacts between Czech and German artists in Prague. However, these contacts were rather exceptional in the everyday exhibition practice due to the ethnic divide in the Czechoslovak art world at the time. 

While the Czech media blatantly ignored the nationally motivated exhibitions of Czech German speaking artists in Brno in 1921 and 1928, the Junge Kunst show enjoyed their attention despite being shorter and less extensive. The three-week Junge Kunst was predominantly reviewed in centrist and leftist newspapers and magazines. Reports and reviews were mostly positive – comparative rather than confrontational. These texts reflected the actual situation at the time: the French-inspired work of young Prague Germans was quite close to the art created by members of Mánes and Uměcká beseda [Artistic Gathering] , and the liberal, pro-Czechoslovak views of Maxim Kopf and his friends won the sympathy of a part of the Czech public. 

The exhibition was a commercial success. The German board of the Modern Gallery purchased artworks from almost all of the exhibiting artists. The fate of Richard Schrötter’s painting Concert, the show’s most expensive painting, is unknown. The work was reproduced in the daily Prager Presse and all reviewers considered it the highlight of the exhibition. The exhibition’s social resonance led to the founding of Prager Secession several months later. Building on the Junge Kunst platform, this association expanded the existing format to include artists from outside of Prague, deepened its international orientation, particularly towards Berlin, and sought to reach a broader spectrum of Prague's German-speaking intelligentsia and business circles.

Ivo Habán

Works Cited

Ivo Habán, Junge Kunst: Zwischen Frankreich und der deutschen Neuen Sachlichkeit, in: Anna Habánová (ed.), Junge Löwen im Käfig, Künstlergruppen der deutschsprachigen bildenden Künstler aus Böhmen, Mähren und Schlesien in der Zwischenkriegszeit, Liberec – Řevnice 2013, pp. 104–117

Anna Janištinová, Praha a Čechy, in: Hana Rousová (ed.) Mezery v historii, Polemický duch Střední Evropy – Němci, Židé, Češi (exh. cat.), Praha 1994, pp. 44–53

AJa [Anna JANIŠTINOVÁ], heslo Junge Kunst, in: Anděla Horová (ed.), Nová encyklopedie českého výtvarného umění II, Praha 1995, pp. 329–330

Archival Sources

Prague City Archives, Junge Kunst, 1928, stanovy spolku [association’s regulations], SK IX/0663, file no. 385

 

Exhibiting authors
Catalogue

Die Gruppe Junge Kunst

I. Ausstellung, Kunstverein für Böhmen, Prag I, Künstlerhaus Rudolfinum-Parlament, von 15. Feber bis 4. März 1928

Publisher: Krasoumná jednota (Fine Arts Association) in Bohemia

Place and Year of Publication: Praha, 1928

Reviews in the press

Josef Čapek

jč [Josef Čapek], Výstava skupiny Junge Kunst, Lidové noviny, 1928, 21. 2., Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Krasoumná jednota, sign. no. AA1502/2, newspaper clippings from 1916–1928

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A. F. [Antonín Friedl], Signál XXI(?), 1928, Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Krasoumná jednota, sign. no. AA1502/2, newspaper clippings from 1916–1928

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Otto Kletzl

Otto Kletzl, Ausstellungen sudetendeutscher Kunst in Prag. Von November 1927 bis April 1928, Witiko I, 1928, pp. 169–176

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František Kovárna

-rna. [František Kovárna], Umělecké výstavy. Krasoumná Jednota., Právo lidu, Praha, 1928, 25. 2., Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Krasoumná jednota, sign. no. AA1502/2, newspaper clippings from 1916–1928

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Fritz Lehmann

Fritz Lehmann, »Junge Kunst.« Ausstellung im Rudolfinum, Prager Tagblatt, 1928, no. 43, 16. 2., Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Krasoumná jednota, sign. no. AA1502/2, newspaper clippings from 1916–1928

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Josef Richard Marek

J. R. Marek, Junge Kunst, Národní listy, 1928, 4. 3., Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Krasoumná jednota, sign. no. AA1502/2, newspaper clippings from 1916–1928 

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František Muzika

M. [František Muzika], 1. Výstava skupiny Junge Kunst v Krasoumné jednotě, Rozpravy Aventina XIII, 1928, no. 13, p. 162

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Viktor Nikodem

N. [Viktor Nikodém], Z pražských výstav. Die junge Kunst v Krasoumné jednotě. Národní osvobození, 1928, 3. 3., Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Krasoumná jednota, sign. no. AA1502/2, newspaper clippings from 1916–1928

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August Ströbel

a. st. [August Ströbel], Junge Deusche Kunst. Im Kunstverein., Deutsche Zeitung Bohemia CI, 1928, no. 40, 16. 2., p. 6

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B. S. Urban

B. S. Urban, Co nového ve výtvarném umění, Nedělní list, 1928, 11. 3., Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Krasoumná jednota, sign. no. AA1502/2, newspaper clippings from 1916–1928

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W. T., Junge Kunst, Zur Ausstellung im Kunstverein füt Böhmen (Rudolfinum), Deutsche Presse, 1928, 17. 2., Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Krasoumná jednota, sign. no. AA1502/2, newspaper clippings from 1916–1928

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Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, Ausstellung „Junge Kunst“ im Kunstverein für Böhmen, Deutsche Presse, 1928, 1. 3., Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Krasoumná jednota, sign. no. AA1502/2, newspaper clippings from 1916–1928

Anonymous author, Die Ausstellung „Junge Kunst“, Prager Tagblatt, 1928, 4. 3., Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Krasoumná jednota, sign. no. AA1502/2, newspaper clippings from 1916–1928

Anonymous author, Skupina německých umělců „Junge Kunst“, Rudé právo, 1928, 16. 2., Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Krasoumná jednota, sign. no. AA1502/2, newspaper clippings from 1916–1928

Anonymous author, Skupina „Junge Kunst“ (Krasoumná jednota), Venkov, 1928, 3. 3., Archive of the National Gallery Prague, fonds Krasoumná jednota, sign. no. AA1502/2, newspaper clippings from 1916–1928

J. [Jaromír] Pečírka, Prager Kunstausstellungen. Oldřich Kerhart. – Gruppe Junge Kunst., Prager Presse 8, 1928, 18. 2., p. 7

Johannes Stauda, Zur Sudentendeutschen Kunst (Aus Zeitschriften und Tageszeitungen), Witiko I, 1928, pp. 164–165 

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