Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Annual Exhibition of the Fine Arts Association in Bohemia

Date:3 April 1939 – 24 April 1939

Place: Prague, Clementinum

Organizer:Fine Arts Association in Bohemia


This exhibition, organized by the Fine Arts Association in Bohemia, resulted from many years of negotiations and disputes. On the one side were local artists, while the other represented the predominantly aristocratic Society of Patriotic Friends of Fine Arts (Gesellschaft patriotischer Kunstfreunde). The artists aimed to establish a permanent annual exhibition where they could present their works to the public. The Society of Patriotic Friends of Fine Arts, which had been active since 1796 and had founded the first public gallery in Prague (1796) and an art academy (1800), wanted to maintain its dominant position in exhibition activities. As a compromise, a new association called Krasoumná jednota pro Čechy (Fine Arts Association in Bohemia) was established to organize annual art exhibitions presenting works by both local and European artists. Modeled after similar associations that were widespread throughout Central Europe, these exhibitions provided an opportunity for artists to sell their work and reach a wider audience. Art collectors or members of higher social strata could gain knowledge of contemporary art and enrich their private collections or display areas in their residences with artworks that suited their tastes and demonstrated their cultural ambitions.

The 1839 exhibition presented 178 works by 63 artists to Prague audiences. The selected genres suggest that the organizers heeded the Enlightenment educational traditions, aiming to entertain and educate the viewers while strengthening their moral sense. Religious painting was the best-represented genre at the exhibition (approximately 31 %), followed by portraits, landscapes, and history paintings. 

The Prague public and art critics received the exhibition positively. In keeping with the patriotic efforts at the time, the Czech critic František Doucha particularly appreciated the paintings Mourning Jews by Josef Führich and St. Rosalie by František Tkadlík, expressing hope that in the future, domestic artists would draw inspiration from “Czech nationality and Slavic life” [Doucha 1839]. Anton Müller, a reviewer for the German-language periodical Bohemia also praised the exhibition, though of course without the Czech and Slavic accents: “I consider the exhibition of 1839 [a reflection of] a most delightful epoch in the history and activity of our patriotic friends of fine arts.” [Müller 1839].

Although the genre representation quickly changed in favour of landscape and genre painting in the following years, this exhibition established the format of the Prague salons (as these exhibitions were called after the Parisian model), which operated in Prague with varying degrees of success until the First World War. 

Tomáš Sekyrka

Works Cited

Doucha 1839: František Doucha, Wýstawa uměleckých děl w Praze 1839, Květy VI, 1839, no. 10 (Supplement), 16. 5., pp. 37–38 and no. 11 (Supplement), 30. 5., p. 43

Müller 1839: Anton Müller, Vorbericht über die Kunstausstellung der prager Akademie bildender Künste, Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt XII, 1839, no. 4, 5. 4., p. 4

Further Reading

York Langenstein, Der Münchner Kunstverein im 19. Jahrhundert. Ein Beitrag zur Entwicklung des Kunstmarkts und des Ausstellungswesens, München 1983

Roman Prahl – Zdeněk Hojda, Kunstverein nebo / oder Künstlerverein. Hnutí umělců v Praze 18301853, Praha 2004

Tomáš Sekyrka, Zrod uměleckých výstav v Praze v první polovině 19. století, Documenta Pragensia XL, 2021, pp. 195–202

Vít Vlnas, Obrazárna v Čechách 17961918, Praha 1996

Archival Sources

Archive of the National Gallery in Prague, fonds Společnost vlasteneckých přátel umění [Society of Patriotic Friends of Fine Arts], acc. no. AA 1259, AK 284/309; fonds Krasoumná jednota [Fine Arts Association], acc. no. AA 1260.

Exhibiting authors
Reviews in the press

Anonymous author, Über die akademische Kunstausstellung, Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt XII 1839, no. 4, 16. 4., p.4; no. 47, 19. 4., p.4; no. 49, 23. 4., p.4

Doucha František

František Doucha, Wýstawa uměleckých děl w Praze 1839, Květy VI, 1839, no. 10 (Supplement), 16. 5., pp. 37–38 and no. 11 (Supplement), 30. 5., pp. 42–43

Brief notes about the exhibition

Anton Müller, Vorbericht über die Kunstausstellung der prager Akademie bildender Künste, Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt XII, 1839, no. 4, 5. 4., pp. 3–4

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