The exhibition of modern Prague artists was the first to take place at Dr. Feigl Gallery, the private gallery of Hugo Feigl (1889–1961), newly opened in the luxurious Riunione Adriatica di Sicurtá building in Prague. During the same period, Feigl also opened Galerie Evropa, located in the Prague residence of the Dunaj Insurance Company, which was intended as a venue for modern European art. However, after six months and three exhibitions, Galerie Evropa discontinued its activities. Both galleries followed on from the successful international Exhibition of Jewish Artists of the 19th and 20th Centuries prepared by Feigl in 1930, which was a test of his abilities as a curator and gallery owner.
The group exhibition of fifteen modern Prague artists was the first of 63 shows of diverse themes organized by Feigl over the following eight years. In 1936, Dr. Feigl Gallery moved to Masarykovo (today's Rašínovo) Embankment 8, now the seat of Galerie Hollar. As in the case of Galerie Evropa, exhibitions focused on contemporary Czech, French and German art. The most important exhibitions held at Dr. Feigl Gallery included Contemporary French Watercolour (1931), Artists of Die Brücke Group (1932), The Barbizon Masters (1933), Marc Chagall (1934), Contemporary French Drawing (1936), Camille Pissaro (1936), Hundred Years of French Drawing (1936), German Expressionists (1937) and Contemporary French Landscape Painters (1938). The last exhibition took place in 1939. Soon after the occupation, Feigl escaped to Paris and then left for New York, where he again opened a gallery. Feigl had already been on friendly terms with important artists, collectors, gallery owners (Gertrude Stein), museum directors (Vincenc Kramář) and art historians (Antonín Matějček) throughout the 1930s. This way, he built a network of important contacts which helped him keep the gallery running in the long term.
The first exhibition included Czech, German and Jewish artists. Prague critics took note of this unique artistic mix and meticulously compared the individual artists’ works. However, it should be noted that the Jewish artists were not considered a separate group and the critics largely focused on comparing two groups: Czech and German. Viktor Nikodým from Národní osvobození wrote that “the Czech side shows more courage for radicalism, innovation, experiment ... there is more feeling for plasticity and colour” [N. 1931]. In Prager Presse, art historian Jaromír Pečírka also agrees that “ the comparison of modern artists from both nations was highly interesting. There are strong individuals among the Czechs, their art is more raw and simultaneously more abstract, more poetic and free” [Pečírka 1931]. Vladimír Novotný was more critical in his review for Volné směry: “On the other hand, we might ask whether it was a good idea to gather artists from two nations in one exhibition and in one place. Of all the Germans, only Willy Nowak, with his subtle execution, fits in with the Czechs—yet still not completely. Vogl, Kausek, Schrötter on the other hand, betray a different race which starkly contrasts with the Czech lyricism...” [Novotný 1931]. Further on, Novotný mentions that unlike artists' associations, commercial gallery owners are free to choose artworks, thus the exhibition features paintings that would not normally be seen together at shows organized by art associations. In this period, most Czech artists were members of Czech art associations, while German speaking artists had their own, German organizations.
Viktor Nikodým noticed that the exhibition of modern Prague artists lacked the most important Czech “figures such as Čapek, Zrzavý, Šíma, Štefan, Štyrský” [N. 1931]. The reasons for their absence are unclear and we can only assume that these artists were not part of Feigl's circle of friends and acquaintances. Their names also do not appear at any of Feigl’s group exhibitions in the following years.
It is worth noting that in the group of fifteen exhibiting artists (which naturally included Feigl's brother, the Expressionist painter Bedřich Feigl) there were two women: sculptress Mary Duras (Max Kopf’s wife) and the painter Charlotte Radnitz (married to Richard Schrötter).
The exhibition of modern Prague painters was key to the beginnings of the new Dr. Feigl Gallery. It directed it toward modern art and showed that it was possible to exhibit works by Czech and German artists together and, at least for a moment, set aside the art associations’ rigid rules.
N. 1931: N. [Viktor Nikodým], Z pražských výstav, Národní osvobození VIII, 1931, 10. 1.
Novotný 1931: Vladimír Novotný, Galerie Dr. Feigla, Volné směry XXVIII, 1930/31, p. 146
Pečírka 1931: Jaromír Pečírka, Die Galerie Dr. Feigl, Prager Presse XI, 1931, 22. 1.
Arno Pařík, Výstavní činnost Galerie Hugo Feigl, manuscript, Praha 2010
a. st., Austellung moderner Prager, 1931, Bohemia CIV, 8. 1.pdf
l., Ein neuer Kunstsalon, Prager Tagblatt LVI, 1931, 20. 1.pdf
anonymous author, Nová galerie v Praze, Lidové noviny IXXXX, 1931, 8. 1.
anonymous author, Nové umělecké podniky pražské, Lidové noviny IXXXX, 1931, 21. 1.
N. [Viktor Nikodem], Nové výstavy, Národní osvobození VIII, 1931, 4. 1.