Mysterious Distances—Symbolism in Czech art at the Covent of St. Agnes

The Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia runs till September, 27th, 2015

Symbolism - an ism from the mid 19th century that depicted the undepictable. This art movement slightly continued the tradition of Romanticism, and reacted to the excessive descriptiveness of Naturalism. Social development had slowed down and the existing social problems were reflected in art. Thus unsurprisingly, the exhibition Mysterious Distances—Symbolism and Art in the Bohemian Lands, 1880-1914 is dedicated to human emotions, moods, and feelings expressed in the works of well-known Czech artists such as Bohumil Kubišta, Alphonse Mucha, František Bílek, Emil Filla, Jan Zrzavý and many others. The name of the exhibit comes from the eponymous novel of Otokar Březina, another important Czech symbolist, otherwise known as “the Freak of Metaphors”. This nickname may also represent the whole exhibition itself, as it is a bewitching stroll through various frames of mind.

This exhibition, curated by Otto M. Urban, is perfectly suited for the Convent of St Agnes of Bohemia, which was probably founded in 1231 by Anežka Přemyslovna, a Czech princess, who later became its abbess. The Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia is a place where one can feel the history and religion in the walls and through the ceilings. With its great number of rooms and long, dark corridors, this also makes the exhibition a joyful symbolist adventure, in itself. The darkened rooms add a gloomy glamour, which is typical for Symbolism; this also tempts viewers to savour every small detail in the art works to the fullest.

By experimenting with different spaces, and especially curatorial materials (for instance, paintings are not displayed on plasterboards, but on metal), this gives an impression of lightness and playfulness that goes hand-in-hand with such a complex and heavy ism as Symbolism. Highlights of this exhibit’s paintings and sculptures include Emil Filla’s The Reader of Dostojevsky (1907), Beneš Knüpfer’s seductive siren “Invitation to Play,” (1890), Maxmilian Pirner’s most mysterious “Finis—The End of All Things,” and then Viktor Oliva’s “The Absinthe Drinker (Poet and Muse)” (1910) is the icing on the cake, for revealing the decadent tendencies that dominated the end of the 19th century and early 20th century in Czech art and culture. The Symbolist movement itself helped Czechs to become a part of the wider European art community, and the movement enabled a few Czech artists to even become internationally known, such as Alphonse Mucha and František Kupka.

Mysterious Distances-- Symbolism and Art in the Bohemian Lands, 1880-1914 will stun visitors at the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia till September, 27th, 2015.

Mysterious distances, Symbolism in Bohemian lands @ Narodni Galerie Prague

Opening Hours:
Daily except Monday 10:00 - 18:00 


U Milosrdných 17, 
Prague 1

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