Prague exhibition celebrates great Czech painter Josef Mánes

A new exhibition marking 200 years since the birth of Josef Mánes, one of the pioneers of modern Czech art, is currently underway at Prague’s National Gallery. The retrospective, entitled Josef Mánes: Man – Artist – Legend, features more than 400 items, including the original Calendar Plate from Prague’s Astronomical Clock.

Josef Mánes | Photo: National Gallery Prague

“People dream at night...I dream in the day.” A quotation from Josef Mánes’s sketchbook has become the motif of a new exhibition currently underway in National Gallery’s Wallenstein Riding School. It is the first show dedicated to the famous Czech artist since 1971, says one of its curators, Veronika Hulíková:

“We thought it was time to present the collection of Mánes’s drawings, prints and paintings from the National Gallery’s collection again, as the gallery manages the largest collection of his works.

“But we have also tried to place Mánes in the context of the time in which he created, so, in addition to his own works, the exhibition features works by his contemporaries and the artists who inspired him.”

Photo: National Gallery Prague

Today, Josef Mánes is regarded as one of the most important Czech painters of the 19th century. However, as Mrs. Hulíková says, he became widely known only after his death in 1871:

“Even during his lifetime, it was clear that he was a distinctive artist that was unmatched in Prague at the time. Many of his friends were aware of this, which is why they kept his letters.

“For the general public, however, Mánes was largely unknown, because he didn’t display his work at the annual Prague exhibitions.”

Photo: Ablakok,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 4.0

Mánes’s oeuvre is characterised by its extraordinary breadth and quality and includes works intended for public space as well as works of a distinctly intimate character, says Mrs. Hulíková:

“He was a great landscape painter, a great portrait painter, but he also devoted a lot of his time to various commissions, such as creating banners for various associations, but also for his patrons.

“But he also created smaller items, such as illustrated letterheads, painted fans, and in all of these fields he was actually ahead of his contemporaries, he was exceptional and pushed those fields forward.”

Photo: National Gallery Prague

The overall picture of the iconic 19th century Czech painter is completed by information about new discoveries made during the research of his work as well as by excerpts from his correspondence, says Mrs. Hulíková:

“Thanks to the generous approach of our colleagues from the National Literature Memorial, the Moravian Provincial Archive and the archives of the National Gallery in Prague, we have several original letters by Mánes on display at the exhibition.

“Most of them were written in German, so we translated them into Czech. But thanks to the handwriting, the letters are beautiful just in themselves.”

The exhibition is on display at the Wallenstein Riding School until July 16 and is accompanied by guided tours, lectures and art workshops for children.

Photo: National Gallery Prague
Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Karel Oujezdský
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