The 1903 exhibition dedicated to the painter Josef Mánes, the patron of the Mánes Fine Arts Association, was organized as the Association’s eighth show in the Mánes Pavilion at the foot of the Kinský Garden. This was the first of the Association’s shows to borrow a significant number of artworks from private collectors. Some of the works were exhibited for the first time. After the 1880 exhibition in the Mikuláš Lehmann gallery, which presented “the first and for its time quite sizeable collection of Mánes’s works” [Mádl 1920], the 1903 exhibition was the first to showcase Mánes' oeuvre on a large scale, directly preceding the great jubilee exhibition of 1920.
The opening ceremony took place on June 6, 1903 at 11 a.m. in the presence of numerous prominent representatives of social life at the time. The show was open for the public every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; the entrance fee was 1 Crown. According to the reviews, the collection of artworks showcased here offered a dignified summary of Mánes’s oeuvre. In line with the growing Mánes cult and the ethos associated with the gradual discovery of Mánes’s oeuvre from the 1880s onward, the exhibition emphasized the Czech spirit of his art and its importance in the creation of a strong national tradition. This is also accentuated in Artuš Scheiner’s introduction to the catalogue.
The catalogue contains a list of private lenders including Mánes’s supporters, patrons, clients, friends and collectors (Count Silva Tarouca, Knight Vojtěch Lanna, Knight Doubek, Jindřiška Slavínská, Rudolf Kronbauer, physician Emerich Maixner, lawyer Albín Bráf, Ms. Venduláková, architects Quido Bělský and František Václavík, painter Zdenka Braunerová, collectors and gallery owners František Topič and František Šimáček). Some of the artworks came from the art historian Karel B. Mádl who was researching Mánes’s oeuvre in this period, while simultaneously preparing Mánes’s first comprehensive monograph. His contribution was also reflected in the methodological and scholarly approach to the exhibition.
The Silva Tarouca family lent almost all of the artworks which Mánes had painted during his stay at the family’s chateau in Čechy pod Kosířem and which the family “reverently cherished” [Mádl 1920, p. 6]. Silva Taroucas regularly lent their artworks to Josef Mánes exhibitions. The 1903 exhibition showcased a comprehensive body of work including the series Life at the Manor House but also small works such as letterheads, occasional drawings and watercolours dedicated to the family on various occasions (e.g. the watercolour Lullaby).
The exhibition showcased all of Mánes’s pivotal series, with a representative selection reproduced in the catalogue. The show’s most dominant artwork – the original paintings for the Prague Astronomical Clock – was borrowed from Prague’s Museum of the Kingdom of Bohemia, which also lent the flag of the Říp Union in Roudnice and a set of small drawings purchased by the museum in the 1880s. Further loans came from the collection of the Society of Patriotic Friends of Fine Arts (Společnost vlasteneckých přátel umění, SVPU), namely the series of drawings for the Manuscript of Dvůr Králové including the original wood engravings. Here, the authors of the exhibition aimed to present not only the illustrations themselves, but also the way they were composed and created. The SVPU purchased this valuable collection from the estate of Amálie Mánesová and first showed it at the exhibition of Umělecká beseda (Artistic Forum) in 1881. A number of paintings associated with the consecration of the Basilica of St. Cyril and Methodius came from the private collection of the Karlín City Council. This collection also included the original designs for the bronze doors, paintings of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, as well as scenes from the life of St. Wenceslas.
Most of the oil paintings at the exhibition were portraits and figural scenes. Visitors had an opportunity to see the Portrait of Anna Náprstková from the collection of Richard Šantrůček and paintings Morning and Bust of a Woman, along with genre scenes such as Seamstress, In the Moonlight and In Summer. The double portraits of the Venduláks and Václavíks, along with the Portrait of Louisa Bělská, also on display at the exhibition, were entirely new to the Czech public.
Although we have no photographs or documents that would reveal the exhibition’s layout, the catalogue does contain a simple sketch of the exhibition building, which shows that the exhibition was laid out in two wings of the Pavilion connected by an entrance vestibule. In addition to the oeuvre of Josef Mánes, there were also two works paying tribute to the painter: a drawing of Mánes' likeness by Max Švabinský, who also designed the poster for the exhibition, and Mánes' bust by sculptor Bohumil Kafka, situated in the exhibition’s main hall.
The contemporary press closely followed the show. Although Mánes' work was popular with the public at the time and he was considered a reformer and founder of modern Czech and national art, contemporary reviews lament the low attendance at this exhibition. According to the magazine Máj, the attendance figures were "embarrassing." The exhibition of Josef Mánes’s most complete body of work to date, says the reviewer in Máj, was visited by only 477 people over the course of fourteen days and a large number of these visitors were German [R. 1903]. Reviewers also criticized the lack of promotion abroad, expressing their concern about the Association’s financial situation – in order to recoup the costs, the exhibition would have needed around 3000 visitors. By the time Karel B. Mádl’s article “Konec výstav?” (The End of Exhibitions?) appeared in Národní listy on the final date of the Josef Mánes exhibition, it was already quite obvious that this show was not a success for the Mánes Association. Yet, Mádl believed that it was still worthwhile; in a broader context, he regarded the eight shows the Association had organized as “the most beautiful and interesting in the last five years” [Mádl 1903]. However, he did not refrain from mentioning that the financial loss speaks clearly of the exhibition's failure, although he did not consider it a professional failure of the Association. Rather, he attributed it to the Prague society's laziness and lack of interest in exhibition activities, felt by other organizations such as Jednota výtvarných umělců (Fine Arts Union) and Krasoumná Jednota (Fine Arts Association), but also the Ruch Gallery and František Topič's exhibition space. The reviews suggest that the admission fee was a contributing factor: one crown was too much for the lower classes and obtaining a discount was administratively difficult.
Although the exhibition failed to attract the attention of the general public, art-savvy visitors and especially art critics rated the event highly. It was the best and most comprehensive display of Mánes’s works to date, primarily thanks to the private collectors who agreed to lend artworks from their collections. Art critics particularly appreciated the show’s clear and systematic layout contrasting with the previous exhibitions, which were chaotic and fragmented and often presented disparate sets of artworks side by side. By 1903, the organizers were able to make use of Mádl’s relatively detailed overview and analysis of Mánes’s oeuvre (followed, in 1905, by a large monograph). This suggests that Mádl significantly contributed to the exhibition’s systematic and scholarly character.
Over the previous thirty years, the public was only gradually becoming familiar with Mánes’s work. The 1903 exhibition was therefore an important step toward a better understanding of Mánes’s art, but also a step toward the Mánes cult which gained renewed strength in the context of cultural-political rhetoric following the establishment of the First Czechoslovak republic in 1918. This intense interest in Mánes culminated in his jubilee exhibition organized in 1920.
Mádl 1903: Karel Boromejský Mádl, Konec výstav?, Národní listy XLIII, 1903, no. 195, 19. 7., p. 13
Mádl 1920: Karel Boromejský Mádl, introduction for the exhibition catalogue Jubilejní výstavy Josefa Mánesa 1820–1920, Praha 1920
R. 1903: R., Zase jednou zahanbující cifry, Máj I, 1903, no. 40, 26. 6., pp. 612–613
Luboš Hlaváček, Josef Mánes a umělecká rodina Mánesů, Praha 1988, p. 230
Jiří Kotalík, Josef Mánes 1820–1871, Praha 1971
Karel Boromejský Mádl, Josef Mánes, Praha 1903–1905
spolek Mánes, AHMP [Mánes Association, City of Prague Archives] http://katalog.ahmp.cz/pragapublica/permalink?xid=785EA136220E11E0823600166F1163D
VIII. VÝSTAVA SPOLKU VÝTV. UM. „MANES“ V PRAZE. Josef Manes.
Publisher: S.V.U. Mánes (Dr. Ed. Grégr & son Press)
Place and year of publication: Praha 1903
Author/s of the introduction: Artuš Scheiner
anonymous author, K nové výstavě spolku Manes, Čas XVII, 1903, no. 175, 28. 6., pp. 2–3pdf
anonymous author, Drobnosti: Naše Hlasy, Čas XVII, 1903, no. 186, 10. 7., p. 3pdf
anonymous author, VIII. Výstava Mánesa v Paviloně, Volné směry VII, 1903, no. 7, p. 252pdf
anonymous author, Výstava děl Josefa Mánesa, Národní listy XLIII, 1903, no. 154, 7. 6., p. 2, 13pdf
anonymous author, VIII. Výstava Manesa, Přehled I, 1903, no. 29, 20. 6., p. 472pdf
František Xaver Harlas, Die Manesausstellung, Politik XLII, 1903, no. 163, 16. 6., pp. 1–2; no. 176, 30. 6., pp. 1–2pdf
František Xaver Jiřík, Výtvarné umění, Zvon III, 1903, no. 40, pp. 559–560pdf
K. B. Mádl, Konec výstav?, Národní listy XLIII, 1903, no. 195, 19. 7., p. 13pdf
M.S., VIII. Výstava spolku Manes: Josef Manes, Přehled I, 1903, no. 32, 11. 7., pp. 521–522pdf
R., Mánes, Máj I, 1903, no. 38, 12. 6., p. 582pdf
R., Zase jednou zahanbující cifry, Máj I, 1903, no. 40, 26. 6., pp. 612–613pdf
Two views of the exhibition’s main hall
on the top left: Astronomical Clock, bust of J. Mánes by B. Kafka, Consecration of the Church (painting celebrating the consecration of the church in Karlín); bottom: bust of J. Mánes, Portrait of Luisa Bělská, Founding of the Church (painting celebrating the consecration of the church in Karlín).
Reproduction: Volné směry VII, 1903, no. 7, p. 220
Anonymous author, Nová výstava Mánesova otevřena, Čas XVII, 1903, no. 154, 7. 6., p. 6
Anonymous author, Souborná výstava děl Josefa Mánesa, Čas XVII, 1903, no. 155, 8. 6., p. 2
Anonymous author, Denní zprávy, Lidové noviny XI, 1903, no. 129, 7. 6., p. 4
Anonymous author, Umění, Moravská orlice XLI, 1903, no. 130, 9. 6., p. 3
Anonymous author, Výstavy, Národní listy XLIII, 1903, no. 151, 4. 6., p. 3
C. D., Výstava worpswedských v Praze, Čas XVII, 1903, no. 243, 6. 9., p. 5