This exhibition was organized by young Czech and German painters Emil Filla, Otakar Kubín, Bohumil Kubišta, Antonín Procházka, Max Horb, Friedrich Feigl and Willi Nowak, all of whom, except for Emil Artur Pittermann (still a student at the time), had already graduated from art schools. They knew one another from the Prague Academy of Fine Arts, namely from the studios of Vlaho Bukovac and Franz Thiele, who worked in the same room, divided only by a partition. The young artists shared an aversion toward the school's academic doctrine and interest in modern art, especially French painting and the work of van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, Manet, Daumier and Munch. As Filla said, they formed a “closeknit group” even before their first group show in 1907 [Filla 1936, pp. 305–306]. Feigl recollects that the artists had been planning for a while to present themselves to the public as a group [Feigl 1933, p. 6]. The idea to organize an exhibition likely matured in 1906 when Filla, Feigl and Procházka travelled abroad together. On their way back, Feigl (probably the initial force behind the exhibition) left Filla and Procházka to visit Kubišta in Florence and inform him about the plan. As Feigl wrote in his memoir, Kubišta immediately “got fired up about the matter,” and was “among the most enthusiastic” after his arrival to Prague. When the artists were declined exhibition space at the Topič gallery, they settled for an empty shop Feigl discovered on the ground floor of a new building at Králodvorská Street 16 behind the Powder Tower. The rent and the funding for the exhibition came for the most part from the personal injury settlement Nowak received after he was shot during a hunt near Všechlapy [Formánek 1977, p. 21; Longen 1958, p. 2; Kubišta 1960, p. 60]. According to Feigl, the exhibition failed to attract visitors even though the artists made every effort to promote it. They created walking advertisements and hired help to carry them around Prague. The dailies Národní listy and Čas published announcements about the exhibition. The unsigned announcement in Čas's section Daily Chronicle says: “The art show of The Eight in Prague. An exhibition of eight painters has been opened at Králodvorská Street 16 around the corner from the Aliance bank. The catalogue contains 73 items, mostly oil paintings presented here for the first time. The exhibition is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm. The entrance fee is 60 haller. The poster was made by V. Brunner.” [anonymous author 1907, p. 5].
It is impossible to identify the exhibited paintings from the poster, as it only cites the artists' name and the numbered artworks; moreover, the number of artworks that figure in the artists' recollections differ from the number on the poster. The announcement in Čas, clearly the most reliable source, lists 73 artworks. This number is consistent with the copy of the poster owned by the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, which contains a pen inscription “Kubišta” with the number 66 and “Kubín” with the numbers 67–73. This poster suggests that Kubín exhibited 12 paintings; Procházka 2; Kubišta 14; Filla 7; Feigl 18; Horb 4 and Nowak 16 artworks in total; Pittermann is not listed on the poster, so it is not clear how many painting he presented (because he was still a student at the Prague Academy, his paintings were on display in a separate corner behind a curtain). We may tentatively identify some of the artworks at the show based on some of the exhibition's reviews, especially those by the artists' German friends: the writer Max Brod and their fellow Academy student, the painter Max Oppenheimer. Their texts were the only signed reviews to take the exhibition seriously and comment positively on the young artists' courage. In contrast, Karel B. Mádl, František X. Harlas and Arnošt Procházka, shocked by the artists' spontaneity and free artistic expression, offered only negative critiques and derogatory remarks. The German reviewers' interest was likely due to the fact that the exhibition represented Prague German artists: Willi Nowak, Friedrich Feigl and Max Horb. The latter was also Max Brod's friend and fellow student from the lyceum and the German law faculty at the university in Prague [Sawicki 2014, pp. 82–83]. It is known that Nowak invited Horb last minute, claiming that his social contacts with Prague German intellectuals would help promote the exhibition [Lamač 1988, p. 41, note 51].
Oppenheimer's review tells us that Nowak, whom Oppenheimer – and Brod, for that matter – consid-ered the group's strongest talent, exhibited the Gauguinesque Self-Portrait with Fruit, a painting of three girls (Washerwomen, 1906, NGP) and works influenced by van Gogh and Cézanne. Brod's review also cites the paintings Vegetable Garden after the Rain (Garden, 1906, NGP), Family Portrait with Mother and Brother, Veranda of the Family House in Mníšek and unspecified landscapes. In Kubín's case, Oppenheimer comments on the “brutal” palette, mentioning Kubín's landscapes from Brindisi (Brindisi, 1907, NGP); of Max Horb's set, Oppenheimer emphasizes the painting A Street in Munich (GASK, Kutná Hora), mentioned in Brod's review along with Lieberman-inspired A Munich Square (1907, NGP); further on, Oppenheimer expresses disappointment that Procházka is only represented by “two small watercolours” and comments on Filla's virtuosity, analyzing his painting of the autumn sun (based on Jan Herben's review, this was a Stromovka landscape [Promenade in Stromovka]); Oppenheimer then notes the greys and browns in Feigl’s paintings and the masterfully executed “coast landscape” [Oppenheimer 1907, p. 9].
Brod's review offers more details about the works on display. He writes about Kubišta who, according to Brod, exhibited a large Self-Portrait (1906, MG in Brno) in pen, pastels from Florence, works from his military stay in Pula and the “brutal women from Florence”, likely identical with the painting Promenade in a Park in Florence (earlier mistakenly cited as the Promenade along the Arno, Gallery of West Bohemia in Pilsen). Commenting on Filla's set, Brod mentions the painting Villa with Red Brick Stripes (Villa in Bitýška) and several landscapes; he notices Procházka's Country Feast and Company at the Table (?) and Feigl's Prague motifs: “the Vltava River weir, the sad mills, the sullen factories.” In correspondence with Václav Špála's recollection, he mentions Kubín's painting Garden Fence. Further on in the review, he adds that Meier-Graefe would be pleased by these young men, concluding the text with the suggestion that “it would be desirable if a salon in Berlin, such as Cassierer (?), would open its doors to this new and rich art ...” [Brod 1907, pp. 316–317].
Although we know that most of the paintings presented at this exhibition were early, in many cases immature works inspired by influential artists, the show was an important venture and a milestone in the development Czech modern art. Supported by the critic F. X. Šalda, these young, restless artists advocated for the freedom and spontaneity of expression, endorsing the cosmopolitan, supra-national openness and the original ideas of the prominent figures of European art. The Osma's strategy diverged from what was common in Prague’s cultural world, and it is therefore unsurprising that its first public presentation faced prejudices and outrage. The following words by Filla illustrate the young artists' courage and determination: “We did not want to succumb from the very start to the local stagnation we saw in our older colleagues, Jiránek and Preisler, who resigned to it, accepting their fate (...) and who were ready to make certain compromises. This made us angry but it also brought us together. We wanted to introduce pure art that would not simultaneously need to be literary, atmospheric, decorative and lyrical.” [Závada 1931–1932, p. 241] Paradoxically, it was precisely this tension between the conservative milieu and the emerging generation's avantgarde efforts that determined the dynamic and form of Czech modern art.
anonymous author 1907: anonymous author 1907, Denní kronika. Umělecká výstava Osmi. Čas XXI, 1907, no. 112, 24. 4., p. 5
Brod 1907: Max Brod, Frühling in Prag, Die Gegenwart XXXVI, 1907, Volume 71, No. 20, 18. May
1907, pp. 316–317
Feigl 1933: Friedrich Feigl, Die „Osma“, Prager Presse 13, 1933, December 31, p. 6
Filla 1936: Emil Filla, Emil Pittermann–Artur Longen, Volné směry XXXII, 1936, pp. 305–306
Formánek 1977: Václav Formánek, Vilém Nowak, Praha 1977, p. 21
Kubišta 1960: Bohumil Kubišta, Korespondence a úvahy, Praha 1960, p. 60
Lamač 1988: Miroslav Lamač, Osma a Skupina výtvarných umělců 1907–1917, Praha 1988, p. 41, note 51
Longen 1958: Emil Artur Longen, Jak vznikala Osma, Lidová demokracie XIV, 1958, 30. 4., p. 2
Oppenheimer 1907: Max Oppenheimer, Ausstellung der Acht, Prager Tagblatt XXXI, 1907, No. 119, May 1, 1907, p. 9
Sawicki 2014: Nicholas Sawicki, Na cestě k modernosti. Umělecké sdružení Osma a jeho okruh v letech 1900–1910, Praha 2014, pp. 82–83
Závada 1931–1932: Vilém Závada, Rozhovor s Emilem Fillou, Rozpravy Aventina VII, 1931–1932, No. 30, p. 241
Marie Rakušanová, Kubišta – Filla. Plzeňská disputace. Zakladatelé moderního umění v poli kulturní produkce, Gallery of West Bohemia in Pilsen 2019
Tomáš Winter, Zajatec kubismu. Dílo Emila Filly v zrcadle výtvarné kritiky [1907–1953], Praha 2004, pp. 106–109
Miroslav Lamač, Osma a Skupina výtvarných umělců 1907–1917, Praha 1988
anonymous author, Výtvarné umění [výstava Osmi], Čas XXI, 1907, No. 137, 19. 5., pp. 3–4pdf
Max Brod, Frühling in Prag, Die Gegenwart XXXVI, 1907, Vol. 71, No. 20, 18. 5., pp. 316–317pdf
F. X. Harlas, Při výstavě „osmi“ …, Osvěta XXXVII, 1907, No. 6, 25. 6., pp. 562–563pdf
[Karel B. Mádl], Výstava Osmi, Národní listy XLVII, 1907, No. 135, 17. 5., p. 3pdf
Max Oppenheimer, Ausstellung der Acht, Prager Tagblatt XXXI, 1907, No. 119, 1. 5., p. 9pdf
Anonymous author, Národní listy XLVII, 1907, No. 112, 24. 4., p. 2
Anonymous author, Národní listy XLVII, 1907, No. 114, 26. 4., p. 2
Anonymous author, Národní listy XLVII, 1907, No. 116, 28. 4., p. 13
Anonymous author, Čas XXI, 1907, No. 112, 24. 4., p. 5
Anonymous author, Umělecká výstava Osmi, Čas XXI, 1907, No. 112, 24. 4., p. 5
Anonymous author, Umělecké výstavy, Zlatá Praha [II], 1906–1907, No. 34, p. 414