Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Exhibition of the Kvart Group

Date:8 May 1935 – 31 May 1935

Place: Prague, Central Library of the City of Prague

Organizer:Revue Kvart

Conception:Exhibiting authors


In Czech art, abstract tendencies first appeared at the end of the 1920s and culminated in the first half of the 1930s. The Czech milieu, dominated by late Cubism and Surrealism, was not particularly supportive of abstraction, so these tendencies never evolved into a movement with a clearly defined agenda. Instead, they took the form of individual experiments stemming from diverse stylistic and philosophical sources. As a marginal trend in the interwar Czechoslovak art scene, abstract art was exhibited only sporadically. A few isolated attempts to form an art group focusing on abstract art came from the circle of artists around the painters František Foltýn and Jiří Jelínek, who became familiar with it in Paris. In 1931, Foltýn and Jelínek, along with Augustin Ságner, Jaroslav Šefl, and Zdeněk Dvořák unsuccessfully attempted to establish cooperation with the Parisian group Abstraction Création and to organize a joint show under the banner of the Association of Artists in Prague. These efforts culminated – and ended – with the exhibition of artists around Kvart: sborník poesie a vědy (Kvart: Journal of Poetry and Science), held in May 1935 in the Central Municipal Library of the City of Prague. Around the mid-1930s, Czechoslovakia saw most of the exhibitions with a significant presence of abstract art, such as the solo shows of Arne Hošek (1934) and Augustin Ságner (1935) in the Topič Salon in Prague, the group exhibition of František Foltýn, Jiří Jelínek and Vojtěch Tittelbach in Brno (1935), and the László Moholy-Nagy exhibitions in Bratislava, Brno (1935) and České Budějovice (1936).

Using the title of a cultural revue founded in 1930 by the architect Vít Obrtel, the painters Jiří Jelínek, Augustin Ságner, Vilém Plocek, Jaroslav Šefl, and the sculptor Zdeněk Dvořák presented their works to the public as the Kvart abstraction group. The Kvart journal was a periodical of much intellectual rigour and diversity of opinions, publishing texts on literature, philosophy, and the theory of art and architecture. In line with this interdisciplinary focus, the exhibition represented artists alongside architects, poets, and philosophers who collaborated with the journal’s editorial board. The second volume of Kvart (1933–1935) was edited by the Purkyně Association of Artists and Scientists, with the association’s members, Jiří Jelínek and the philosopher Václav Navrátil, taking over the editorial board. Thanks to Jelínek, the second, third, and fourth issues of Kvart contained full-page, black-and-white reproductions of works by Vilém Plocek, Augustin Ságner, Jaroslav Šefl, Zdeněk Dvořák and Jelínek himself. However, the images had no commentary or captions with information about the artists and their collective artistic program. There was only one article on abstract art, namely the theoretical study by František Kovárna O malířství nefigurativním (On Non-Figurative Painting) [Kovárna 1935a], in which the author pointed out both its aesthetic errors and its function and perspective.

It was likely Jelínek who initiated the exhibition and organized the artistic group in 1935 [Rousová 2013, p. 34]. As members of Kvart’s art section, the painters Jiří Jelínek, Augustin Ságner, and Jaroslav Šefl exhibited five paintings each and Vilém Plocek four. The sculptor Zdeněk Dvořák had five reliefs at the exhibition. Vít Obrtel, Evžen Linhart, and Jan Sokol showcased their architectural designs, while books and manuscripts in vitrines represented the literary or philosophical works of Václav Černý, František Halas, Jindřich Hořejší, František Hrubín, Jaroslav Janouch, Svatopluk Kadlec, Václav Navrátil, Jan Patočka, Jaroslav Seifert, Jan Zahradníček, and Vilém Závada. Václav Navrátil gave a speech at the opening on May 8, 1935. Even though these artists and poets presented their works together, the only link to connect them was their publishing platform – not their intellectual background. The exhibition catalogue contains only a list of artists and exhibits, often with ambiguous titles. The absence of an accompanying text is particularly striking here, as abstract art was incomprehensible for most viewers. From reproductions in the daily press and archival material, we may identify a few of the artifacts in the exhibition: Jelínek’s painting Scale of Yellow (unavailable), Ságner’s paintings Grey and Brown (now in a private collection) and Contrasts (unavailable), and two reliefs by Zdeněk Dvořák – a missing relief from 1933 and Plastron (around 1935, National Gallery in Prague). Another work by Ságner, The Movement of Greys, is probably identical to the 1934 painting kept under this title in Prague City Gallery. It is very likely that the exhibition also included artworks and architectural designs reproduced in the spring 1935 issue of Kvart.

In their reviews, critics voiced the usual objections against abstract art. They criticized it for purposelessness and lack of connection to life which, in their opinion, made such artworks irrelevant to society. While some reviewers admitted that abstract compositions do have an aesthetic appeal, they generally questioned their artistic value, referring to them as products of hollow artificiality, aesthetic puns, ornaments, and artisanal decorations. František Kovárna, on the other hand, pointed out that one should not underestimate the ornamental design, as it is not an inferior form of artistic expression. He appreciated the abstraction of the Kvart members as a “path toward a new ornament,” suggesting that their designs be used in future architecture, even though he knew that the artists would almost certainly reject his suggestions [Kovárna 1935b]. Because the public was not interested in the exhibition and the artists’ attempts to popularize abstraction failed, the group disbanded. The persistent negative response to abstract art made Jelínek, Ságner, Plocek, and Šefl abandon their efforts. Dvořák continued to create abstract works, namely drawings and reliefs, until the late 1930s.

Lenka Pastýříková

Works Cited

Kovárna 1935a: František Kovárna, O malířství nefigurativním, Kvart 2, 1933–1935, no. 4, spring 1935, pp. 11–16

Kovárna 1935b: František Kovárna, Za novým ornamentem, Pražské noviny 256, 1935, no. 116, 18. 5., p. 4

Rousová 2013: Hana Rousová, Zdeněk Dvořák 1897–1943: sochař abstrakcionista, Řevnice – Praha 2013

Further Reading

Kvart 2, 1933–1935, no. 4, spring 1935

František Kovárna, O malířství nefigurativním, Kvart 2, 1933–1935, no. 4, spring 1935, pp. 11–16

Jindřich Chalupecký, Umění abstraktní, Čin VII, 1935, no. 13, pp. 194–196

Hana Rousová (ed.), Linie / barva / tvar v českém výtvarném umění třicátých let (exh. cat.), Galerie hlavního města Prahy, 1988

Hana Rousová, Abstrakce třicátých let, in: Vojtěch Lahoda – Mahulena Nešlehová – Marie Platovská – Rostislav Švácha – Lenka Bydžovská (edd.), Dějiny českého výtvarného umění IV/2, 1890–1938, Praha 1998, pp. 300–321

Hana Rousová, Zdeněk Dvořák 1897–1943: sochař abstrakcionista, Řevnice – Praha 2013, pp. 23–52 

Kamil Nábělek, Kvart – sborník poesie a vědy, Umění XLIV, 1996, no. 1, pp. 74–92  

Archival Sources

Archive of the National Gallery in Prague, fonds Zdeněk Dvořák

Exhibiting authors
Exhibition of the Kvart Group

Invitation for the Exhibition of the Kvart Group

Owner: Archive of the National Gallery in Prague, fonds Zdeněk Dvořák, inv. no. AA 2998

Exhibition of the Kvart Group


Publisher: Kvart

Place and year of publication: Prague 1935

Reviews in the press
Kovárna František

František Kovárna, Za novým ornamentem, Pražské noviny CCLVI, 1935, no. 116, 18. 5., p. 4

Mokrý František Viktor

fvm. [František Viktor Mokrý], Skupina „Kvart“, Venkov XXX, 1935, no. 128, 30. 5., p. 7

Nikodem Viktor

N. [Viktor Nikodem], Spolupracovníci revue Kvart, Národní osvobození XII, 1935, no. 111, 12. 5., pp. 5–6

Pečírka Jaromír

Jaromír Pečírka, Die „Kvart“-Ausstellung, Prager Presse XV, 1935, no. 132, 16. 5., p. 8


Rk., Malíři Kvartu, Národní střed 17, 1935, no. 153, 2. 6., p. 7


řk., Výstava „Kvartu“, Ranní noviny III, 1935, no. 118, 22. 5., p. 4

Urban Bohumil Stanislav

bsu [Bohumil Stanislav Urban], Výtvarná skupina „Kvartu“, Národní listy večerník LXXV, 1935, no. 142, 23. 5., p. 3

Brief notes about the exhibition

jč [Josef Čapek], Výstava skupiny Kvart, Lidové noviny XLIII, 1935, no. 237, 11. 5., p. 9 

V. H. [Václav Hrudka], Výstavní sál Ústřední městské knihovny: Skupina „Kvart“, Lidové listy XIV, 1935, no. 122, 25. 5., p. 5

František Kovárna, Skupina Kvartu, Literární noviny VII, 1934–1935, no. 14, p. 6

jk. [Jiří Krejčí], Z pražských výstav, Právo lidu XLIV, 1935, no. 115, 21. 5., p. 7

pt, Výstava skupiny Kvartu, Lidové noviny XLIII, 1935, no. 229, 7. 5., p. 9

rsa., Malíři, sochaři a architekti „Kvartu“, Haló noviny III, 1935, no. 145, 26. 5., p. 4

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