Modern and contemporary art

The origins of the Moravian Gallery collections go back to the Francis Museum (now the Moravian Provincial Museum) in Brno, established in 1818. However, systematic acquisition only started under Dr. Jaroslav Helfert, the first director of the museum (from 1923) and curator of its picture gallery. His methodical approach enabled a more consistent structure to be brought to the collections and their expansion with topical works representing Czech modernism. The first acquisitions included, for example, the sculpture Before the Bath (1906) by Jan Štursa. The picture gallery permanent exhibition was installed in the Dietrichstein Palace in the late 1920's.

Helfert's successor in the gallery management was Dr. Albert Kutal, who (apart from building a collection of Moravian Gothic art) compiled a series of modern Czech art at the end of the 1920's and the beginning of the 1930's. Among major acquisitions in these years were Procházka's Players (1909) and Prometheus (1911), as well as further works of Czech modernism by Emil Filla, Josef Šíma and Jaroslav Král.

In 1948 Albert Kutal was succeeded by Dr. Karel Krejčí, followed by Dr. Jiří Hlušička, Dr. Vlasta Kratinová, Dr. Marie Dohnalová, Dr. Kateřina Svobodová and Dr. Jitka Sedlářová. The period after 1945 was associated with unprecedented expansion of the collections; for example, in 1945 the gallery received donations of Kubišta's Still Life with a Lamp (1909), and in 1948 Haymaking (1939) by Jaroslav Král. The complicated administrative situation of the picture gallery, part of the Moravian Provincial Museum, improved under Director Jiří Hlušička in 1961 when the Moravian Gallery in Brno came into existence, through the separation of the picture gallery of the museum and its merging with the Museum of Applied Arts.

The gallery activities centre upon the documentation of the main features of the development of 20th- and 21st-century art. A remarkable series of sculptures and a collection of drawings and graphic art gradually developed alongside the painting collection. The first permanent exhibition of Czech 20th-century art was created in 1970 (in the Moravian Provincial Museum building) by Jiří Hlušička; the collection had later to be stored in a depository.

The collection of modern and contemporary art boasts masterpieces by the luminaries of Czech modern art: Jan Štursa, Jan Preisler, Josef Mařatka and František Bílek, leading protagonist of Czech symbolism. It contains a series of major works by the members of the Osma [Eight] group and the Group of Visual Artists (paintings by Filla, Kubišta, Kubín, Špála, Čapek, early pieces by Antonín Procházka and Jan Zrzavý and cubist sculptures by Otto Gutfreund such as Anxiety, 1911). A large collection of works by Antonín Procházka enables viewers to observe changes in his artistic approaches, largely associated with Brno culture. The Czech interwar avant-garde is represented by works of Czech poetism, by the artificialism of Jindřich Štyrský and Toyen (Dawn, 1931) and reflections of surrealism (sculpture Girl with Child by Vincenc Makovský, Josef Šíma's painting Europe, works by František Muzika, František Foltýn and others). The 1940's are represented by echoes of the war (Emil Filla, Jan Bauch), works by members of Skupina 42 [Group 42] (František Gross, Bohumír Matal, Jan Smetana and others) and the Ra Group (Bohdan Lacina, Václav Zykmund). The Czech informel is illustrated with works of Mikuláš Medek, Robert Piesen, Josef Istler and others, while art trends in the second half of the 20th century are represented by selected works by Adriena Šimotová, Jiří John, Václav Boštík, Jiří Kolář, Michael Rittstein, Brno artists Dalibor Chatrný, Miroslav Štolfa and others.

A new permanent exhibition of modern and contemporary Czech art was opened in 1994 in the reconstructed Pražák Palace. A section mapping the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century was opened, in revised form, in 2001. A year later it was supplemented with a further section spanning the mid-20th century and the present.