Date:15. February 1928 – 4. March 1928
Place: Prague, House of Arts (Rudolfinum)
Organizer:Krasoumná jednota (Fine Arts Association)
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.
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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 1916–1928pdf
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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 1916–1928pdf
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M. [František Muzika], 1. Výstava skupiny Junge Kunst v Krasoumné jednotě, Rozpravy Aventina XIII, 1928, no. 13, p. 162pdf
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 1916–1928pdf
a. st. [August Ströbel], Junge Deusche Kunst. Im Kunstverein., Deutsche Zeitung Bohemia CI, 1928, no. 40, 16. 2., p. 6pdf
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 1916–1928pdf
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 1916–1928pdf
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
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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
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