This year is precisely the 100th anniversary of the presentation to the City of Prague of the first three canvasses in this grand series. Throughout the duration of the exhibition there are plans for guided tours with lecturers, an accompanying programme in the form of talks, an educational programme for schools and a programme for families. In September there will be two big lectures on the works of Alphonse Mucha from the restorer’s viewpoint. Further details at www.ghmp.cz.
The way Mucha wanted
The 20 canvasses of the Slav Epic are exhibited for the first time as Mucha intended, in chronological order. This was impossible in Moravský Krumlov due to the lack of adequate space. The paintings have undergone partial restoration and have been reframed. The environment in which they are now on display is stable in terms of temperature, humidity and overall safety.
In cooperation with Arbor Vitae Publishers, Prague City Gallery has published an extensive biography on the Slav Epic. This was prepared, to accompany the exhibition, by Lenka Bydžovská and Karel Srp in cooperation with a number of experts. The richly illustrated publication gives an overview of the Slav Epic, analysis and interpretation of each painting detailed chronology, the comments of critics at that time and reflections by Mucha in his own writings.
Guides for the public
The admission charge includes the services of a guide who will acquaint the viewer with the subject of each of the paintings, which offer a cross-section of Czech and Slovak history and a reminder of significant events in the history of the Slavonic people. Mucha emphasised the role of the Husites and the Unity of the Brethren, the era which he, along with František Palacký, Ernest Denis, Jaroslav Bidl a Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, regarded as the most significant period.
The cost of the exhibition
The opening of the exhibition was delayed due to complex technical alterations, which raised the cost of the entire installation to a total of 36 million CZK. In comparison with standard costs this is not an excessive amount, if you consider that it costs 10 million CZK to rent space in the National Gallery. According to information in Prague City Archive the alteration of Palác U Hybernů was to cost 900,000 CZK at the time of the First Republic. By conversion to today’s values this would be three times as much. According to cultural representative Jiří Novotný the City has not contributed to the increased costs. “The gallery has to sort that out from their own budget,” he stated.
The Slav Epic will certainly remain in the exhibition hall of Veletržní Palác for 18 months. This period is covered by the initial contract with the National Gallery. However, the exhibition is conceived rather as a permanent exhibit and no-one from the City Council or Prague City Gallery makes a secret of the idea that the paintings could stay in Prague for up to five years or even more. “It’s the only space that corresponds with the importance of Mucha’s works,” said Ondřej Pecha, chair of Prague Council’s Board of Culture..
Was Mucha really appreciated?
Alphonse Mucha, who conquered Paris, and whose name was even given to the Art Nouveau style in Paris at several times – the Mucha style, is somewhat under-appreciated from today’s viewpoint. “The Epic is the culmination, and an integral part of his works, and it’s a shame that there was no room for the Slav Epic in the last publication on Czech Fine Art from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries which was published by the Czech Academy of Science,” notes Karel Srp, senior curator at Prague City Gallery.
How many people will come?
In Moravský Krumlov the Slav Epic was visited by around 30-40,000 people per year. In the last year, when the Mayor of Krumlov began a media battle to retain the paintings in the dilapidated Chateau, the number of visitors rose to about 50,000. The exhibition organisers now anticipate that the number of visitors in Prague will be similar, but according to some experts the attendance will be even higher. By rough calculation the costs of the transfer and installation of the Slav Epic could even be repaid.