Monday, October 17, 2016

172. Saving the best 'til last ...

Today I returned back to the Prague National Gallery's Veletrzni Palac for an afternoon's viewing of what must be the grandest of all art undertakings - and certainly the most extravagant and overwhelming show I could ever imagine ...

The Veletrzni Palac

Before you go any further, I must apologize for the photography - three things - to preserve these most important paintings, it is necessary to keep gallery lighting to a minimal + artist used rather pale colours and thirdly the paintings are so tall, it is really pushing the camera to focus properly ... so please take this into consideration when viewing the blog ...

The Slav Epic
by AlfonsMucha

Mucha lived from 1860 until his death in 1939

The Slav Epic is a cycle of 20 large canvases painted by Czech Art Nouveau painter Alfons Mucha between 1910 and 1928. This magnificent cycle depicts the mythology and history of the Czechs and other Slavic peoples.

In 1928, after finishing his monumental work, Mucha bestowed the cycle upon the city of Prague on condition that the city build a special pavilion for it. Prior to 2012, the work was a part of the permanent exhibition at the chateau in Mucha’s hometown of Moravský Krumlov in the South Moravian Region of the Czech Republic.

In 2012, all 20 works were moved and are displayed together here on the ground floor of the Veletržní Palace in an exhibition organized by the National Gallery in Prague.

All paintings are egg tempera and oil on stretched canvas.


The Slavs in their Original Homeland - 1912 - 610 x 810 cms

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The Celebration of Svantovit in Rugen - 1912 - 610 x 810 cms

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Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria - 1923 - 405 x 480 cms

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Coronation of the Serbian Tsar Stefan Uros Dusan as East Roman Emperor
1923 - 405 x 480 cms

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Introduction of the Slavic Liturgy - 1912 - 610 x 810 cms

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Alfons Mucha spent many years working on The Slav Epic cycle, which he considered his life's masterwork. He had dreamed of completing such a series, a celebration of Slavic history, since the turn of the 20th century; however, his plans were limited by financial constraints.

In 1909, he managed to obtain grants by an American philanthropist and keen admirer of the Slavic culture, Charles Richard Crane and soon after he began visiting the places he intended to depict in the cycle: Russia, Poland and the Balkans, including the Orthodox monasteries of Mount Athos.

Mucha also consulted historians regarding details of historical events in order to ensure an accurate depiction, and in 1910, he rented part of the castle in Zbiroh and began working on the series.

Mucha continued working on the cycle for 18 years, gradually submitting paintings to the city of Prague as he completed them. In 1919, the first part of the series comprising eleven canvases was displayed in the Prague's Clementinum. In 1921, five of the paintings were shown in New York and Chicago to great public acclaim. In 1928, the complete cycle was displayed for the first time in the Trade Fair Palace in Prague.


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King Otokar of Bohemia - 1924 - 405 x 480 cms

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After the Battle of Grunwald - 1924 - 405 x 610 cms

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After the Battle of Vitkov Hill - 1923 - 405 x 480 cm

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Petr Chelcicky - 1918 - 405 x 610 cm

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Jan Amos Komensky - 1918 - 405 x 620 cm

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The Hussite King Juri of Podebrady - 1923 - 405 x 610 cm

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Mount Athos - 1926 - 405 x 480 cm

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The Oath of the Youth under the Slavic Linden Tree - 1926 - 390 x 590 cm

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The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia - 1914 - 610 x 810 cm

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The Brethren School in Ivancice - 1914 - 610 x 810 cm

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The Defence of Szigetvar by Nikola Zrinsky - 1914 - 610 x 810 cm
 
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Alfons Mucha died in July, 1939. Shortly before his death he was interrogated by the Gestapo, as he was an important exponent of public life in Czechoslovakia.  During World War II, the Slav Epic was wrapped and hidden away to prevent seizure by the Nazis.

Following the Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948 and subsequent communist takeover of the country, Mucha was considered a decadent and bourgeois artist, estranged from the ideals of socialist realism. The building of a special pavilion for the exposition of the Slav Epic cycle became irrelevant and unimportant for the new communist regime. After the war, the paintings were moved to the chateau at Moravský Krumlov by a group of local patriots, and the cycle went on display there in 1963.


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Master Jan Hus Preaching at Bethlehem Chapel - 1916 - 610 x 810 cm

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Jan Milic of Kromeriz - 1916 - 620 x 405 cm

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The Meeting at Krizky - 1916 - 620 x 405 cm

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Apotheosis 'Slavs for Humanity' - 1926 - 480 x 405 cm

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The city of Prague has waged a decade-long legal battle over the work which intensified in early 2010. Much consideration has been given to relocating the Slav Epic from Moravský Krumlov (where it had been displayed for almost 50 years), to Prague. The hope was that Prague, a city frequented by many thousands of tourists, would attract increased attention to the series of paintings. However, there is was no suitable space for the work in Prague's galleries, therefore it was decided preferable to leave the paintings in their current location.

Nevertheless, in early 2010, the city of Prague requested the return of the Slav Epic for restoration work and subsequent display. However, the Mucha Foundation, run by the artist's grandson John Mucha and his mother Geraldine, blocked the move as it would simply be a provisional measure.
  
After a two-year dispute between Prague and the Moravian town of Moravský Krumlov, the renowned cycle of 20 monumental canvases was, in a move protested by conservationists and art historians alike, taken for display at the National Gallery's Veletržní Palace in 2012 and will remain there until the end of 2016.


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What an experience ... !!! ... 
and how privileged am I to view these important masterpieces ...

and ( he whispers ... ) thank goodness there were no tour groups cluttering up the gallery ...

For the history readers viewing this blog, and for those wanting 
a full explanation of each of the Slav Epic tales, go to  

<  http://www.muchafoundation.org/gallery/themes/theme/slav-epic  >



Next blog I'll give you a peek at a bit of "home grown " art ...