Gallery spol. s r. o.
 

Paradise and Myth
Max Švabinský

The Wallenstein Riding School, Prague

12. 12. 2001 – 31. 3. 2002
The exhibition is prolonged to 7. 4. 2002

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A Poor Country, 1900
Oil on canvas, 179 x 246 mm
The National Gallery in Prague

 

A native of Kroměříž in Moravia, Maxmilian (Theodor Jan) Švabinský has been for decades one of the best known Czech artists. He was a distinguished member of the generation that laid the foundations of modern Czech art and the quality of his work helped put Czech art on the European map. However, all the foreign recognition that he received in the course of his long career tells us little about the actual quality of his oeuvre. This must be discovered at first hand in order to fully appreciate its immense scope and do it justice.

            Almost forty years have passed since the artist’s death and it is almost thirty years since the last retrospective exhibition of his work. “The humble labourer, Maxmilian Švabinský, Czech painter and engraver”, as he described himself on the portrait of Mánes, believed in continuity, a continuing tradition, and he consciously sought to foster it in his work. His extensive oeuvre has stood the test of time. What has survived to our days is an impressive legacy of a great artist, which deserves to be constantly rediscovered.

 

Camelias, 1903
pen, brush, indian ink, water colour, 1220 x 1035 mm
The National Gallery in Prague

 

The exhibition in the Wallenstein Riding-School, accompanied by a representative publication and catalogue, seeks to counter the clichés traditionally associated with assessments of Švabinský’s oeuvre. The exhibition consists largely of his paintings and drawings, appropriately complemented by sets of graphics, designs for stained-glass and monumental works, archive material and documentation. The exhibition is not intended to show everything Švabinský created, by any means, but rather to bring together works of thematic and formal interest and quality. Emphasis is given to his pre-1922 output and his designs for the decoration of St. Vitus’ Cathedral.

 

Self-Portrait in Profile, 1915
pen, indian ink, water-colour, 250 x 180mm
The National Gallery in Prague

 

In the space of sixty years, Švabinský created outstanding portraits, series of graphics, posters, bank notes, stamps and many decorative designs. He was convinced that the greatest teacher and inspiration was nature, which he celebrated in his drawings throughout his life. He outlived all the leading personalities of his generation by as much as fifty years. Even though his work had followed its own line of development from the first decade of the 20th century, independent of contemporary trends, his consciously chosen path mostly aroused respect, due largely to the fact that no one could doubt his enormous talent, and probably also that he impressed people by with steadfast way he heeded nothing but his talent.

 

Studio, 1916
oil on canvas, 197 x 147 cm
private collection

 

Paradise Sonata IV – Early Spring 1918
wood-engraving, 800 x 530 mm
private collection

 

 Among the less happy aspects of Švabinský’s fate is that the greatest works of his mature years have remained anonymous (the cathedral) or inaccessible (the Liberation Monument). As a consequence, the only thing that many people know of his work is the large composition Harvest , perceived without any awareness of how it came to be created, and the portrait of the official communist idol, Julius Fučík. This has distorted the image of his oeuvre, and his best period – 1900-1922 – has been neglected. Future generations must be allowed to know the enormous, distinguished oeuvre of this great Czech artist at first hand. Maybe the history of Czech art – including the recent past – will manage to dispense with the clichés and start to reveal to us the enormous wealth represented by the different paths dictated by artists’ own particular talents.

 

The Last Judgement 1:10, 1935 – 1936
brush, indian ink, water-colour, 1570 x 1140 mm
Kroměříž Regional Museum

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Exhibition concept and choice of works: Jana Orlíková

 

Expert assistance: Jana Wittlichová

 

Exhibition architect: Tomáš Štajnc

 

Organisational team: Marie Bergmanová,
Jarmila Konířová,
 Jana Daňková

 

Graphic design of publicity material: Světla Kořánová

 

Translation:  Anna Gustová, Martin Tharp

 

Supplementary programmes:  Andrea Nečasová,
Michaela Prach-Kotrčková,
Terezie Bicanová

 

Exhibition erection:  Vetamber,
Kunsttrans Praha,
Miroslav Říha

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