Part of Mucha's Slav Epic to go on display

The smaller paintings will be at Prague's Obecní dům and the larger ones in Brno

Part of Alfons Mucha's Slav Epic will be on display at Obecní dům from July 19, 2018, to Jan. 13, 2019. The exhibition is timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia.

Due to size limitations, not all of the canvases can be displayed at Obecní dům (the Municipal House). Only the smaller ones will be shown, according to a Prague City Gallery press release. The city of Prague owns the entire cycle of 20 paintings.

“The exhibition space of the Municipal House is one of the most representative in Prague and its Art Nouveau character is very closely related to Mucha’s decorative work. It gives a very suitable backdrop for the Slav Epic series, but its capacity is not enough for all of its 20 monumental canvases. Therefore it features 11 smaller-scale paintings mostly created during the First World War and later on, when Mucha was forced to adapt the original dimensions to the limited supply of canvas from Belgium,” Prague City Gallery stated.

Mucha was among the artists who contributed to the decoration of Obecní dům when it was built.

The exhibition has an unusual design. “We have tried to present the paintings in such a way so that everyone can get a better idea about the technical aspect of Mucha’s work, revealing at the same time how the canvas is mounted on the base frame,” the gallery added.

People can see the paintings from the back and examine the canvas. “We believe that this unusual view of Mucha’s monumental masterpieces will bring new experiences to the public and prove that the Slav Epic is still in good shape and can be expected to give us joy in another century,” the gallery said.

In the past, when the canvases were loaned out, some experts expressed concern that they were too fragile to be moved. In 2017, the epic was on display in Japan for three months and was seen by 600,000 people.

The remaining larger canvases are currently on display in Brno at the Brno Exhibition Center (BVV) until Dec. 31, 2018, where they are part of that city's Re:Publika festival.

The entire epic was last shown in Prague from 2012 to the end of 2016.

The Slav Epic was painted between 1910 and '28. Mucha devoted the latter half of his artistic career to this work. The idea was formed in 1899, while he was working on the design for the interior of the Pavilion of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which had been commissioned by the Austro-Hungarian government for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. In preparation, he traveled widely through the Balkans, researching the history and customs of the Slavs.

A key role in creating the paintings was played by Mucha's American patron Charles Crane, who offered him $100,000 to finally paint the works.

The Slav Epic was created in Mucha's rented studio at Zbiroh castle, and the finished canvases were turned over to the City of Prague as they were completed.

In 1919, the first 11 canvases were displayed in the Prague's Klementinum. In 1921, five of the paintings were shown in New York and Chicago. In 1928, the complete cycle was displayed for the first time in Veletržní Palace.

Where the epic will wind up on permanent display has been a long saga. Prague in June announced that they will be kept at the Lapidarium at Výstaviště in Prague’s Holešovice district. The Lapidarium, which currently houses statues, is set to be expanded and renovated.

Previously, there was a plan to build a new exhibition space at Těšnov, the site of a former railway station that is now a green space. Another site on the opposite side of Těšnov was also considered.

Prague 1 proposed a gold-tone egg shape gallery that it plans to build at the end of Revoluční Street adjacent to Štefánikův most (Štefánik Bridge).

The pedestal of the former Stalin Monument at Letná, the National Monument at Vítkov, Letohrádek Hvězda, Colloredo-Mansfeldský palác, the Klementinum and Letohrádek královny Anny had also been suggested at one time or another.

From 1963 to 2011, the Slav Epic was housed at the chateau in Moravský Krumlov, where they had been safeguarded since World War II. The epic was the town's main tourist attraction.

Prague City Hall after the Velvet Revolution waged a legal battle to have the canvases returned to the city, claiming that they had been a gift from businessman Crane. 

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