This exhibition features more than 200 paintings from the collections of the Hradec Králové Gallery of Modern Art as it celebrates its 70th anniversary. The works on display range from the late 18th century to the present day. The exhibition explores how the canon of Czech (and Czechoslovak) art history chimes with the tastes of contemporary audiences. In pursuit of this aim, the curatorial selection consciously brings together works by well-known painters with pictures by less celebrated, half-forgotten, provincial and even entirely anonymous artists. Unlike run-of-the-mill gallery projects, which naturally involve works that have been culled and critiqued by generations of art historians and critics, here we present visitors with a broad palette of artistic and technical quality that more faithfully reflects the reality of human creativity and gallery collections.
Drawing on the insights of reception theory, we query visitors about their aesthetic preferences. Which paintings would you like to have in your home? And which paintings do you think should be permanently displayed as works representing the very best our collections have to offer? Vote with tokens directly in the exhibition.
Reception theory, or reception aesthetics, originated in the 1970s as an arm of literary studies at the University of Konstanz in Germany, where it primarily developed along two lines. While the German literary theorist Hans Robert Jauss investigated how a text was perceived by readers in different historical situations and how it far it proceeded towards or transcended the “horizon of expectations”, his colleague Wolfgang Iser came up with the concept of the “implied reader”, by which he meant a particular type of ideal reader to whom a text is addressed. We may all read a book slightly differently, but we are only ever given a handful of choices in how it can be read.
Both these strands of reception theory can also be put to good use in analyses of visual art, as exemplified in particular by the German art historian Wolfgang Kemp, who coined the term “implied beholder”. The difference between art and literature in this respect is that, while a text is intrinsically intangible (it can be transposed from parchment to a bound book or notebook) and its physical surroundings are hence irrelevant, a work of art is always experienced in a particular setting that was either originally intended for it or to which it was subsequently moved. These externalities influencing the presentation of an artwork have a bearing on the viewer’s perception, and hence are also explored by reception theory.
The Search for a Masterpiece is an exhibition that embodies these three aspects of art-oriented reception theory: the horizon of expectation, the implied beholder, and the setting in which the work is displayed. It has been limited to painting, as this (as opposed to sculpture, for example) is the medium of art best suited to testing the postulates of reception theory. In a bid to exhibit as many works from the Hradec Králové Gallery’s vaults as possible, the installation method typical of historical noble collections and art salons was chosen, i.e. maximum use of wall space.
Bartoněk Vojtěch, Bartovský Václav, Beneš Vincenc. Beneš Vlastimil, Boettinger Hugo, Boháček Karel, Brožík Václav, Císařovský Tomáš, Čapek Josef, Čermák Jaroslav, Čumpelík Jan, David Jiří, Diviš Alén, Doležal Adolf, Doležal František, Doleželová Bohumila, Engelmüller Ferdinand. Fiala Václav, Fišárek Alois, Foerster Viktor, Glückselig Zdeněk, Halwax F., Hanel Olaf, Hanuš Vladimír, Heritesová Zdenka, Heřman Josef, Hliněnský Robert, Hlobilová Danuše, Horný Willy, Hudeček František, Chittussi Antonín, Istler Josef, Janeček Ota, Jansa Václav, Jeřábek Jaroslav, Ježek Stanislav, Jiroudek František, John Jiří, Justitz Alfred, Kaloč Jiří, Kaván František, Kirnig Alois, Knüpfer Beneš, Kocian Quido, Roman, Komárek Vladimír, Kopecký Jaroslav, Kotík Pravoslav, Krejčí Jiří, Kremlička Rudolf, Krisan Antonín, Kubíček Jan, Kubišta Bohumil, Lamr Aleš, Langer Karel, Lhoták Kamil, Liebscher Adolf, Liebscher Karel, Liesler Josef
Mahrla Karel, Macháň Václav, Machek Antonín, Mánes Josef, Marešová Milada, Mařák Julius, Matal Bohumír, Mautnerová Pavla, Medek Mikuláš, Meisner Karel, Menčík Břetislav, Merta Jan, Mezerová-Winterová Julie, Mirvald Vladislav, Mizera Otto, Viktor, Moos Franz, Moravec Alois, Mrkvička Otakar, Mucha Alfons, Multrus Josef, Muzika František, Načeradský Jiří, Němec Rudolf, Němejc Augustin, Nešleha Pavel, Nikl Petr, Nowopacký Jan, Obrovský Jakub, Oplt Oldřich, Orlická Bronislava, Paderlík Arnošt, Panuška Jaroslav, Pavlík Václav, Pelc Antonín, Pešicová Jaroslava, Petrbok Jiří, Piepenhagen Augustin Bedřich, Piepenhagenová Louisa, Pirner Maxmilián, Pištěk Theodor, Preisler Jan, Procházka Antonín, Procházka Josef, Přibyl Zdeněk, Raffalt Ignaz, Rathouský Luděk, Rejnart Jindřich, Rittstein Michael, Róna Jaroslav, Ronovský František, Ruben František Lev, Russ Adolf, Rýdlo Petr, Rykr Zdeněk
Sequens František, Seydl Zdeněk, Scheiwl Josef, Schwaiger Hanuš, Sigmund Karel Jan, Sion Zbyšek, Skála František, Sklenář Zdeněk, Skrepl Vladimír, Slavíček Antonín, Smetana Jan, Sopko Jiří, Stavinoha Eduard, Stieckel M. / Stieckelová, Střížek Antonín, Sýkora Zdeněk, Šimák Lev, Šimon Tavík František, Šlenger Karel, Šmídra Jaroslav, Špála Václav, Špillar Jaroslav, Špulák Alois, Švabinský Max, Tikal Václav, Tittelbach Vojtěch, Trampota Jan, Tůma Bohuslav, Typlt Lubomír, Ullik Hugo, Umlauf Jan, Urban František. Váchal Josef, Válová Jitka, Válová Květa, Valter Karel, Veselý Aleš, Vitík Alois, Vítková Lenka, Vlček Augustin, Vlček Jindra, Vožniak Jaroslav, Vrbová-Kotrbová Vilma, Vyleťal Josef, Wachsman Alois, Wachsmann Bedřich, Wiesner Radek, Zikmund František, Zrzavý Jan, Ženíšek František
FROM LEFT: Jan Umlauf, PORTRAIT OF A MAN WITH DOG (ca.1863); Beneš Knüpfer, SEA BAY (ca. 1870); Franz Moos, FLOWERS (19th century); unknown painter, STILL LIFE WITH SNAIL (late 18th to early 19th century); Hanuš Schwaiger, FARRIER (19th century)
ON THE TOP LEFT: Kamil Lhoták, JET AIRPLANE OVER THE CITY (1952); UNDERNEATH: Ota Janeček, FLORA (1957); ON THE TOP RIGHT: Danuše Hlobilová, HARBOR WITH LIGHTHOUSE (undated)
ON THE TOP LEFT: Jindřích Rejnart, WINDOW (undated); BOTTOM LEFT: František Doležal, THE PRISONER’S MONOLOGUE (1970); IN THE MIDDLE: Jiří Sopko, QUIETUDE (1987); ON THE TOP RIGHT: Willy Horný, QUARRY AT BOUKALKA (undated); BOTTOM RIGHT: Jaroslava Pešicová, SUN (1984)
FROM LEFT: Vladimír Komárek, PINK TABLE (1995); Josef Procházka, SPACE (1996); Tomáš Císařovský, PORTRAIT WITH GUTFREUND’S HAMLET (1991); Jaroslav Róna, FAMILY PORTRAIT (2007)
LEFT: Rudolf Němec, IN THE STUDIO (1980); IN THE MIDDLE: Michal Rittstein, WAGON III (1981–1984); Pavel Nešleha, CHASM (1983); RIGHT: Zdeněk Sýkora, LINES NO. 150 (1998); Jiří David, MARKÉTA (1991)
FROM LEFT: Lenka Vítková, SKIRT (2018); Alexey Klyuykov, JOSEPH VINTESTIN, PORTRAIT OF MY FATHER WITH VIOLIN, 1939 (2017); Lubomír Typlt, LYING CAT (2001); Luděk Rathouský, TV CHAIR (FROM THE DEEP EMOTIONS SERIES) (2007); Bronislava Orlická, COLOR COMPOSITION NO. 1 (2021); Antonín Střížek, STILL LIFE WITH TIE (2000)