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Gallery of Modern Art Roudnice nad Labem
The Permanent Exhibition
The Roudnice Gallery of Modern Art’s permanent exhibition was officially opened in 1965. It is situated in the former Lobkowicz castle riding school that was built by the Italian architect Antonio Porta and later reconstructed by the architect Pavel Mošťák in accordance with the conception of the gallery’s then director Miloš Saxl. The striking impression made by the gallery’s interior stems from a dialogue between the vaulted Baroque space with its side-lighting and the original Modernist language of the construction with its exhibition panels for hanging pictures that, thanks to surprising views between individual areas of the installation, enable viewers to see the exhibited works in interesting contexts. Today, the reconstruction itself and the articulation of the exhibition layout can be considered of significant value as cultural heritage. The Modernist spirit of the reconstruction also corresponds well with the character of the permanent exhibition featuring works by classics and innovators of Czech modern art.
Perhaps the greatest ‘family treasure’ of the gallery’s collection is the series of sixty paintings by Antonín Slavíček, which was part of a collection totalling over two hundred artworks donated by the enlightened collector and benefactor August Švagrovský. The section that visitors see as they enter the permanent exhibition recalls this act of generosity, whose 100th anniversary took place in January 2010, with a collection of small studies by Antonín Slavíček. Here, Slavíček is presented as a brilliant interpreter both of the soul of the city, with its bustle and anonymous crowds, and of the countryside with its dramatic changes of weather and close bonds with the difficult fate of the people who lived there. August Švagrovský the benefactor is commemorated in the exhibition by a spiritually sensitive and artistically poised portrait by Miloš Jiránek. These two artists are joined by their fellow traveller Antonín Hudeček, the creator of melancholic landscapes, who is represented above all by the painting Evening in Capri dating from 1903. The introductory part of the exhibition also commemorates the work of a celebrated native of Roudnice, Otakar Nejedlý, who earned renown with his series of pictures based on exotic themes that he painted during and after his stay in Ceylon and India between 1909 and 1911.
August Švagrovský was not, however, the gallery’s sole benefactor. His act of generosity was followed in the second half of the 20th century by other benefactors, most prominent among them being Mrs Anna Hůlová whose gift of 1988 that included primarily works by artists from the landscape school of Julius Mařák helped complete the character of the painting collection from the turn of the 20th century. By coincidence, that same year the gallery made another acquisition in the form of a donation by Mrs Božena Sudková, the sister of the photographer Josef Sudek, who, during the decades he was active on the Czech art scene, created an original collection based on friendships and working relations with numerous artists. The core of the collection, which includes more than five hundred works, is a series of drawings by artists working in the 1930s, 1940s and in the post-war period. A special place among them is occupied by a set of drawings and prints by Sudek’s close friend František Tichý. This series of works also features paintings and several sculptures, including the renowned marlstone torso Study for Autumn of 1929 by Josef Wagner, which is one of the finest works of the permanent exhibition.
The gallery’s collection was enriched with a series of other donations, the most important of which was a series of 26 paintings that were created at the 1st Painting Symposium Roudnice ’70. The organising of this symposium ranks among director Miloš Saxl’s most important achievements. He was helped in selecting and inviting the artists by the painter Václav Boštík and the art historian Jaromír Zemina. In the spaces of the gallery which, between the 25th May and the 18th June 1970, transformed into one large studio, twenty painters (Václav Boštík, Miloš Sevčík, Otakar Slavík, Karel Machálek and Bohdan Kopecký from Czechoslovakia, Marian Bogusz and Stanisław Fijałkowski from Poland, Endre Bálint from Hungary, Gradomir Petrović and Branko Miljuš from Yugoslavia, Jacques Busse from France and Lorenzo Taiuti from Italy) created 96 paintings. At the conclusion of the symposium, each of the artists donated at least one work to the gallery. The idea of the symposium corresponded well with those of the Prague Spring. However it was staged at a time when post-1968 repression was coming into force, which prevented the symposium being repeated. Thus the chance to expand the collection with international works, something unique in the Czech context at that time, was lost.
This bold project is recalled in the current permanent collection by several works. It is worth noting that Otakar Slavík followed on from his donation of forty years ago by making the generous new donation of Feisty Lass of 2008-2010, which was part of his recent exhibition commemorating the symposium.
The arrival of a strong artistic generation at the turn of the 20th century featured in the introduction of the permanent exhibition is followed by a view of subsequent periods in the development of art history that, from the 1900s to the 1940s, witnessed a dynamic sequence of alternating artistic trends ranging from Expressionism to Cubism and Surrealism. Miloš Saxl, responsible for the gallery’s first permanent exhibition, focused on leading figures of individual trends and collective movements as well as on interesting solo artists. Here we find, for example, outstanding works by Antonín Procházka, Emil Filla, Jan Zrzavý and Václav Špála, recently enhanced by Josef Čapek’s Cubist paintings kindly loaned by his heirs. Further on, the exhibition brings together art from the inter-war and post-war period, such as paintings by František Janoušek, František Muzika, Josef Istler, Zdeněk Sklenář and Kamil Lhoták.
The presentation of art from the second half of the 20th century is based on the juxtaposition of various artistic trends and works by exceptional artists. Viewers can thus see a mutual symbiosis of represented work by artists’ groups dating from the period of the thaw in the late 1950s, pictures from the field of figurative and abstract art, the trend of dark romantic rebellion associated with Art Informel, as well as the opposing spiritual and poetic trends. The pioneering 1960s are then represented by work belonging to the field of Pop art and New Figuration. The core of this part of the exhibition is formed representative paintings by Mikuláš Medek, Jiří John and František Ronovský. Pictures illustrating the suppressive and existentially dramatic atmosphere of the ‘normalisation’ period during the 1970s and ’80s have a wholly different character. Among the many on show, mention should be made of the paintings and objects of Jitka Válová, Čestmír Kafka and Adriena Šimotová. The latest trends in Czech art are represented by works from opposite ends of the art scene.
The Roudnice Gallery’s permanent exhibition occasionally undergoes slight changes in order to gradually present other outstanding works hidden in its depositories. The exhibition’s fundamental aim continues to be the effort to present, within a small area, an original idea of the most important changes in the development of Czech modern art and unique works by leading figures displayed in fresh contexts and a mutual dialogue.
Gallery of Modern Art Roudnice nad Labem
Příspěvková organizace Ústeckého kraje
Telefon: 416 837 301
Adults: CZK 60