Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Josef Führich at the Prague Annual Exhibition

Date:21. April 1875 – June 1875

Place: Prague, Žofín

Organizer:St. Luke’s Association


In 1875, three exhibitions of Josef Führich's works were held: in Vienna (February/March), Prague (as part of the spring annual exhibition) and Liberec (September/October). The exhibition in Vienna, containing 181 artworks, was held at the Künstlerhaus on the occasion of Führich's 75th birthday that same year. Its organizers included the Viennese Kunstverein and Academy, and probably Führich's son Lucas as well. Thanks to the St. Luke Association, part of the exhibition was moved to Prague, where some of Führich's early works were added to it. The collection was then opened to the public as part of the annual exhibition of Krasoumná jednota (Fine Arts Association) at Žofín. The press at the time welcomed the show as a crucial undertaking allowing Prague’s residents the chance to view the otherwise scattered oeuvre of one of the greatest contemporary painters all in one place. (Führich died later that year.) In the context of local exhibitions, this was among the earliest of the monographic exhibitions organized for artists from the beginning of the 1860s. The Prague exhibition presented 153 artworks, mostly drawings, as well as 7 oils and 14 cartoons for the church in Altlerchenfeld. In line with the habit of the period, the paintings were crowded into several rows, earning criticism for “heaping” the artworks ra-ther than “exhibiting” them; yet, the show not only entertained but also uplifted the soul, making viewers examine the idea and contemplate its artistic execution [anonymous author 1875, no. 145, p. 1]. 

Although Führich's Prague show was not a solo exhibition, the fact that 153 works by one artist were showcased at the Prague salon was seen as a remarkable endeavour and a memorable exhibition that presented works from Führich's mature period. An extensive report in Národní listy refers to Führich as one of our most famous compatriots. Similarly, the German reviewer for Bohemia calls him “a son of our native land” [Ad. B. 1875]. Führich was praised for the seriousness with which he approached his artistic ideas and their execution. Both aforementioned reviews slightly differed in the evaluation of the artworks' form: the critic from Národní listy claimed that Führich's works were characterized by sereni-ty and noble shapes, showing no signs of religious “coquetry” or morbid affectation and displaying “the purest monumental character;” yet, in some of his works, Führich was “emotionally soft, quite indecisive” [anonymous author 1875, no. 145, p. 1] In contrast, the Bohemia reviewer saw Führich's work as confident and strong (kraftvoll), a result of Dürer’s inspiration, which protected Führich from Italian effeminacy. 

Führich was generally valued for his masterful skill in drawing as the bearer of a painting's central idea. He represented one of the two extreme poles of contemporary painting: the approach called conceptual painting, also referred to as “draftsmanship” or “Nazarenism,” as opposed to colourism. With respect to this drawing – colour dichotomy, the [newspaper] Národní listy review pointed out that the exhibition was worth close attention because “the earlier monotony that plagued Prague for so many years has given way to wider, more diverse circles, there is no longer just Munich and Düsseldorf…[it is no longer the case] that each exhibition is simply a copy of the previous year's show” [anonymous author 1875, no. 145, 1]. Hans Makart, who was also represented at the same exhibition (though with only a few paintings), was a prominent representative of the second, colourist tendency. While Makart's illusionist painting enjoyed increasing popularity with young painters, critics debated whether Führich even knew how to paint; his paintings were often seen as flat, hard and unharmonious. On the other hand, Führich was considered proof of the thesis that “drawing and spiritual expression can easily go without colour and they can make a great impression, while colour without the other two components always remains mere ´Stückwerk´,” which pleases the senses but does not satisfy them [Ad. B. 1875]. In the local arts context, it is worth mentioning that Národní listy called Führich a poet, in line with the tendency in art criticism at the time to use “poeticism” as a measure of a painting's conceptual depth. Since approximately the 1860s, this had been required of painters, particularly those belonging to the emerging generation. It is therefore significant that the Národní listy critic took note of then hardly known younger participants in the exhibition – Mikoláš Aleš, Emanuel Krescenc Liška and Antonín Chittussi [anonymous author 1875, no. 159, p. 1].

The show's reception points toward the sources and reasons for Führich's renewed influence in the art world from the 1870s onward. The emphasis on the painting's content and underlying concept, required by art criticism at the time, reflects the new orientation to national values and ideas within the local art scene. Führich's conception and style in religious painting also helped activate the tendency toward Neo-Romanticism and religious-symbolist trends at the end of the 19th century.

Pavla Machalíková

Works Cited

anonymous author 1875: anonymous author, Ze salónů žofínských I and V, Národní listy XV, 1875, no. 145, 29. 5., p. 1; no. 159, p. 1

Ad. B. 1875: Ad. B., Die Kunstausstellung in Prag für 1875., Bohemia (supplement) XLVIII, 1875, no. 113, 24. 4., p. 3

Further Reading

Pavla Machalíková, Josef Führich, andělé v Altlerchenfeldu a první výstava Führichovy sbírky v Liberci, Fontes Nissae XXI, 2020, no. 1, pp. 3–17
Roman Prahl, Umění, naturalismus a zbožnost, in: Roman Musil – Aleš Filip, Neklidem k Bohu. Náboženské výtvarné umění v Čechách a na Moravě v letech 1870–1914, Praha 2006, pp. 137–153

Exhibiting authors

Katalog der Kunst-Ausstellung 1875 im Saalgebäude der Sophien-Insel

Publisher: Prag: Verlag des Kunstvereins

Place and year of publication: Prag 1875

Author/s of the introduction: no introduction; the catalogue only contains a list of artworks


Reviews in the press

Ad. B., Die Kunstausstellung in Prag für 1875 I, Bohemia (supplement) XLVIII, 1875, no. 113, 24. 4., p. 3


anonymous author, Ze salónů žofínských I, Národní listy XV, 1875, no. 145, 29. 5., p. 1

Sauer C. M.

C. M. Sauer, Prager Kunstausstellung V., Führich Austellung, Prager Zeitung [L], 1875, no. 126, 5. 6., pp. 1–2

Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, Umělecká výstava, Národní listy (supplement) XV, 1875, no. 109, 21. 4., p. 3

Anonymous author, Kunstverein für Böhmen, Bohemia XLVIII, 1875, no. 109, 20. 4., p. 5

Anonymous author, Kunstausstellung, Bohemia XLVIII, 1875, no. 127, 8. 5., p. 5

Anonymous author [C. M. Sauer], Prager Kunstausstellung I., Prager Zeitung [L], 1875, no. 112, 19. 5., pp. 1–2

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