Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Exhibition of Paintings by Emil Filla (9th exhibition of the Fine Arts Group)

Date:28. February 1925 – 31. March 1925

Place: Brno, Museum of Applied Arts

Organizer:Skupina výtvarných umělců v Brně (Fine Arts Group in Brno)


In 1925, Skupina výtvarných umělců v Brně (Fine Arts Group in Brno) organized a retrospective of Emil Filla at Brno’s Museum of Applied Arts. Presenting his work from 1907–1924, the show was Filla’s first solo exhibition in Czechoslovakia. 

Filla first exhibited in 1907 along with other members of the group Osma (The Eight) which he co-founded. Later on, he joined the Mánes Fine Arts Association, the Friends of the Arts Club in Brno and he also co-founded the Skupina výtvarných umělců (Fine Arts Group), at whose shows he repeatedly exhibited his newest artworks before the First World War. He appeared as a guest at the Tvrdošíjní (The Obstinate) show in Brno in 1921. In 1924, he presented his works at the Alfred Flechtheim Gallery in Berlin. At the beginning of 1925, Josef Zamazal, a member of the Fine Arts Group committee, criticized the group for conservative attitudes and inactivity in the previous year. He believed that the group shows were old fashioned and passé and that solo exhibitions and collective shows of two or three artists were the best format for the time. [Karkanová – Svobodová 1993, p. 59] The Group wanted Zamazal to apologize but he refused and instead left the Group. Soon after, however, the Group organized the Emil Filla show, perhaps as a response to Zamazal’s criticism.

Filla presented a retrospective overview of his work (paintings, etchings and drawings). He was focusing on still lifes at the time, a tendency that was clearly evident at the exhibition. Some were bothered by such profusion of still lifes. Jaroslav Bohumil Svrček (also the Group’s member) wrote a derogatory review in which he practically ridiculed Filla for the monotony of themes at the exhibition. He also criticized Filla for being overly dependent on Picasso, without whom, in his opinion, Filla would have run out of ideas and imagination for his own work. Filla’s most recent works, too, appeared unoriginal to Svrček – he saw them as products of so-called Cubist decorativism [Svrček 1925, p. 4]. Other reviewers, on the other hand, wrote positively about the show, particularly Eugen Dostál in Lidové noviny and Viktor Oppenheimer in Tagesbote.

Quite surprisingly, Volné směry, where Filla worked as an editor, did not review the show; there is only a mention of it taking place. However, in 1927, Volné směry published attendance numbers for some of the other Group’s exhibitions, which can give us a rough idea about the attendance at Filla’s show: “All exhibitions organized by the Group so far have been passive, despite or perhaps because of the fact that their quality is always above average. Exhibition attendance is incomprehensibly low for a city the size of Brno. For example, the exhibition of cartoons by V. H. Brunner (1926) was visited by 248 persons, the Koníček exhibition (1923) by 367 persons, the "Holar" exhibition (1924) by 283 persons, etc. Although the exhibition of Czechoslovak painters from Paris (1926) had the largest and probably record attendance of 4,122 people, the deficit was more than CZK 3,500” [anonymous author 1927, p. 58]. Based on these low figures, it is likely that Filla’s show was poorly attended and made hardly any profit. In general, the Group’s exhibitions usually ended up losing money.

Filla’s Brno exhibition likely emerged from a personal friendship between Filla and Antonín Procházka, which began during their studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. In 1908 they had an exhibition together in Brno. Later on, Filla became a leading figure in the Czechoslovak art world and often decided which paintings would travel and to which exhibition [Holý 1968]. His diplomatic service in the Netherlands helped him build some cultural influence even outside Czechoslovakia. Procházka and Filla helped each other – Filla would send Procházka’s paintings to various exhibitions and Procházka, as chairman of the Fine Arts Group, arranged Filla’s show in Brno. Their correspondence contains a letter from Filla to Procházka, which begins with the following words: “My dear sir, I thank you kindly for all the attention you have given to my exhibition and please convey my thanks to the other gentlemen of the group.” [Macharáčková – Slavíček 2002, p. 269, letter no. 46]. The exhibition catalogue was very basic and, like most catalogues from this period, contained only elementary information about the exhibition and a list of exhibited works including the year of origin and sale price. The price of the most expensive work at the exhibition – the painting Two Women (CZK 15,000) – shows that the artist valued it highly at that time. Art critics describe this work as a turning point because it opened the door to Filla's Cubist period. The catalogue also includes a black and white reproduction of Filla's simple Cubist drawing.

By a fortunate coincidence, Filla's Brno exhibition took place at a time when the Moravian Museum was beginning to assemble its collection of contemporary Czech art. With hindsight, we have to admire the far-sightedness of the museum’s director at the time, Jaroslav Helfert. The Moravian Museum’s Picture Gallery purchased three paintings from Filla’s exhibition: in addition to the aforementioned Two Women, 1912, cat. no. 7, it acquired the Portrait of the Writer Uher, 1908, cat. no. 8 and Still Life with a Sugar Shaker 1924, cat. no. 26 [Lahoda 2007, p. 673]. Filla’s and Procházka’s correspondence informs us about the prices for which the artworks were sold: “My dear sir, your letter made me very happy, especially if I could sell something to the Provincial Committee. First of all, I want to tell you that I agree: I am asking that they pay me 20,000 CZK for 3 paintings, two of which would be the numbers 7 and 8 (Uher and Two Women) and the third a Cubist still life” [Macharáčková – Slavíček 2002, p. 269, letter no. 47]. It must have been encouraging for Filla to sell his most valuable painting to an important Moravian institution and spread awareness of his work.

Magdaléna Bergerová

Works Cited

Holý 1968: Miloslav Holý, Nepublikované vzpomínky na současníky a spolek Mánes, manuscript, 1968, Berger family archive

Macharáčková – Slavíček 2002: Marcela Macharáčková – Lubomír Slavíček (edd.), Antonín Procházka 1882–1945, Brno 2002

Karkanová – Svobodová 1993: Hana Karkanová – Kateřina Svobodová, Skupina výtvarných umělců v Brně, Bulletin Moravské galerie v Brně IL, Brno 1993, pp. 57–72

Lahoda 2007: Vojtěch Lahoda, Emil Filla, Praha 2007

Svrček 1925: jbs. [Jaroslav Bohumil Svrček], Souborná výstava Emila Filly, Rovnost XXXI, 1925, no. 89, 31. 3., p. 4

anonymous author 1927: anonymous author, Zprávy, Volné směry XXV, 1927, no. 1, p. 58

Further Reading

Jiří Hlušička, Emil Filla 1882–1953, Brno 2003

Lucie Nováková, Skupina výtvarných umělců v Brně, diplomová práce, Filozofická fakulta Masarykovy university v Brně, Brno 2014

 Archival Sources

Brno City Archives, fonds R 39 – Brněnské umělecké spolky [Brno Art Associations

Exhibiting authors

Catalogue: Výstava obrazů Emila Filly


Publisher: Museum of Applied Arts, Brno

Place and year of publication: Brno 1925

Reviews in the press
Dostál Eugen

E. D. [Eugen Dostál], Brněnské výstavy. Emil Filla, Lidové noviny XXXIII, 1925, no. 127, 12. 3., p. 7

Oppenheimer Viktor

V. Opp. [Viktor Oppenheimer], Ausstellung Emil Filla, Prag, Tagesbote LXXV, 1925, no. 116, 11. 3., p. 3

Svrček Jaroslav Bohumil

jbs. [Jaroslav Bohumil Svrček], Souborná výstava Emila Filly, Rovnost XXXXI, 1925, no. 89, 31. 3., p. 4

Brief notes about the exhibition

E. D. [Eugen Dostál], Fillova výstava v Brně, Lidové noviny XXXIII, 1925, no. 105, 28. 2., p. 7

anonymous author, Skupina výtvarných umělců v Brně, Moravská orlice LXIII, 1925, no. 48, 28. 2., p. 2

anonymous author, Výstavy v Brně, Národní listy LXV, 1925, no. 73, 15. 3., p. 10

anonymous author, Zprávy, Volné směry XXIII, 1925, no. 1, p. 252


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