This retrospective of Miloš Jiránek’s work was his first solo exhibition. Jiránek organized it himself: he selected the artworks and oversaw their installation on the walls and existing panels. He began to work on the show in the Fall of 1909, aiming to present a comprehensive selection from his oeuvre. Jiránek expected that this would bring public appreciation and confirm his position in the world of modern art. He chose the Topič Salon because it was an established art exhibition venue, although neither the spatial arrangement nor its rooms entirely suited him.
The exhibition showcasing over seventy oil paintings, watercolours, pastels and prints opened at the beginning of April in 1910. The earliest works dated to 1898 and included Jiránek’s first important work: the oil painting Raft in Obříství. Other early works at the exhibition included the paintings from Třeboň and Troja, the painting Twilight and the monumental canvas Showers in Prague’s Sokol Gym. Jiránek’s works from Moravia and Slovakia were represented by paintings such as Jožka the Gypsy, At St. Anthony’s, Fair in Velká and nearly two dozen watercolours, pastels and prints. Jiránek later thought the drawings made the exhibition “too crowded” and regretted that he had included them [Jiránek 1910a]. He thought the main wall was the best. It had the painting Reader in the centre, flanked by Garden, Green Farm, On the Sand and Purple Portrait on the one side and In the Field, Old Houses in Labská Týnice and Sand Miners on the other. He did not include any of his works from Trieste and none of his soccer motifs.
The response to Jiránek’s exhibition can be studied from several angles. In terms of sales, one of the paintings sold right at the opening: Vincenc Kramář bought In the Field (1907), which he considered Jiránek’s “most genuine piece” [Jiránek 1910b]. The painter Emil Filla pressured the Modern Gallery to purchase some of the works but the gallery was not interested, as evident from Filla’s account: “I went directly to Preisler and asked him, as a member of the Modern Gallery, to buy something from this exhibition and I was saddened to hear from him that none of the works were valuable enough for the Modern Gallery, that it was all still immature and that he did not see Jiránek as a painter at all. Those who were close to Preisler know that he spoke quite frankly and without any ulterior tendencies” [Filla 1946, p. 8]. The painting In the Field was in the end the only artwork to have been sold from the exhibition.
Karel Boromejský Mádl was the first of the influential critics at the time to comment on the exhibition. In addition to discussing particular artworks, Mádl touched upon the general nature of Jiránek’s work. In his view, Jiránek aimed for mere illusion of reality and made no effort to achieve greater decorative quality and synthesis in his paintings. Mádl found Jiránek's efforts in the last few years insufficient and unconvincing and he also struggled to see any significant trace of the painter's personal temperament. According to Mádl, Jiránek's artistic intellect prevailed over his sensitivity [Mádl 1910].
Jiránek processed this criticism in a letter to his wife. He was disappointed that Mádl did not comment on the paintings that he himself considered essential and regarded as indicators of his future direction: “Yesterday I sent you the Mádl review – he was the first one to go ahead. I don’t know how it seemed to you, but I am quite satisfied, I didn't even expect that much. Despite some hidden spikes and thorns, he took it seriously enough and he's right about many things (also in his criticism of The Balcony and On the Sand, but I already knew all that) – it’s just interesting that he avoids precisely those things that he was supposed to discuss in the first place, that is, Purple Portrait, Green Farm and Sand Miners. And the main criticism – that I have only a visual relationship to my motives – is more of a compliment for me, although he did not mean it that way.” [Jiránek 1910c]
Jiránek was undoubtedly disappointed by the other critics as well, whether it was the sharp reaction of the Čapek brothers or the reviews by Stanislav Kostka Neumann and Václav Vilém Štech. All these authors considered Jiránek’s work unfinished, contentless or even simply amateurish. The general recognition that Jiránek had been seeking did not come. In this sense, the exhibition was not a success. We may only speculate whether the result would have been different if someone else, perhaps one of Jiránek’s artistic colleagues, had prepared the show and chose the artworks.
In 1910, the Friends of Art Club in Hořice and Hradec Králové organized modified versions of the exhibition. Jiránek had no part in the preparations and did not attend their opening. These shows were not very well received and only a few artworks were sold (the watercolour Urban Renewal and two prints from the Hradec Králové show).
Filla 1946: Emil Filla, Naše generace impresionistů, in: Neznámý Miloš Jiránek 1875–1911 (exh. cat.), Topičův salon v Praze 1946, pp. 7–11
Jiránek 1910a: Miloš Jiránek’s letter to Antonína Jiránková, née Zedníková from Prague 1. 4. 1910, transcription from the Archive of the National Gallery (ANG) in Prague, fonds Jiří Kotalík, AA 3719, file VII/81.
Jiránek 1910b: Miloš Jiránek’s letter to Antonína Jiránková, née Zedníková from Prague 9. 4. 1910, transcription from the Archive of the National Gallery (ANG) in Prague, fonds Jiří Kotalík, AA 3719, file. VII/81
Jiránek 1910c: Miloš Jiránek’s letter to Antonína Jiránková, née Zedníková from Prague 11. 4. 1910 transcription from the Archive of the National Gallery (ANG) in Prague, fonds Jiří Kotalík, AA 3719, file. VII/81
Mádl 1910: Karel Boromejský Mádl, Souborná výstava M. Jiránka (1910), in: idem, Výbor z kritických projevů a drobných spisů, ed. Arsen Pohribný, Praha 1959, pp. 320–322
Anonymous author, Souborná výstava prací Mil. Jiránka, pořádaná Podkrkonošským museem v Hořicích, Zlatá Praha XXVII, 1909–1910, no. 50, 2. 9. 1910, s. 603
[Antonín Macek], Výstava obrazů Miloše Jiránka v Hořicích, Besedy lidu XVIII, 1910, no. 24, p. 382
Tomáš Winter, Miloš Jiránek: Zápas o moderní tvorbu 1875–1911, Praha 2012, pp. 121–124
Josef a Karel Čapkové, Z pražských výstav. Výstava obrazů Miloše Jiránka, in: Karel Čapek, O umění a kultuře I, eds. Emanuel Macek, Miloš Pohorský, Praha 1984, pp. 128–129pdf
M. [Karel Boromejský Mádl], Miloš Jiránek, Zlatá Praha XXVII, 1909–1910, no. 31, 22. 4. 1910, pp. 369–370pdf
Karel Boromejský Mádl, Souborná výstava M. Jiránka (1910), in: idem, Výbor z kritických projevů a drobných spisů, ed. Arsen Pohribný, Praha 1959, pp. 320–322pdf
Stanislav Kostka Neumann, Poctivé malování. K výstavě Miloše Jiránka (1910), in: idem, Stati a projevy III, 1908–1911, ed. Milada Chlíbcová, Praha 1969, pp. 264–267pdf
Karel Sezima, Na okraj umělcova skizzáře (1910), in: idem, Podobizny a reliefy. Studie o domácí próse soudobé, Praha 1919, pp. 29–34pdf
The painting The Blacksmith (The Gypsy Blasksmith, Jožka the Gypsy) by Miloš Jiránek from his retrospective exhibition
Zlatá Praha XXVII, 1909–1910, no. 30, 15. 4., p. 360
Anonymous author, Miloš Jiránek (u Topiče), Směr I, 1910, no. 18, 23. 4., p. 5
B. Č., Výstava obrazů Miloše Jiránka, Stopa I, 1910–1911, no. 12, p. 377
[Antonín Macek], Výstava obrazů Miloše Jiránka v Topičově salonu, Besedy lidu XVIII, 1910, no. 13, p. 20