Karel Škréta (1610-1674): His Work and his era
Chief curator: Vít Vlnas
Curators: Tomáš Hladík, Petr Přibyl, Lenka Stolárová, Alena Volrábová, Marcela Vondráčková, Petra Zelenková
Exhibition design: Jan Roháč, Bronislav Stratil
The exhibition is held by the National Gallery in Prague in cooperation with the Prague Castle Administration and the Archdiocese of Prague.
The exhibition is held under the auspices of the President of the Czech Republic, Mr. Václav Klaus, the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, the Archbishop of Prague and Catholic Primate of Bohemia, Dominik Duka, and the City of Prague.
Prague Castle Riding School
Wallenstein Riding School
Pictor aetate nostra in Patria summus
(The finest painter of our country in our time)
Karel Škréta Šotnovský of Závořice is regarded as the founder of the modern tradition of Czech painting and one of the finest artists to have been born in Bohemia. His varied stylistic range spans between elements of harmonious Classicism to dramatic Tenebrist compositions which prefigure the grandeur of High Baroque art. Alongside numerous prints and drawings, Škréta's artistic legacy includes both entrancing altarpieces and small-format intimate scenes. His paintings address religious and mythological as well as allegorical themes; his portraiture reveals Karel Škréta as a learned and acute observer of human nature. To mark the 400th anniversary of the artist's birth, the National Gallery in Prague together with the Prague Castle Administration and the Archdiocese of Prague have prepared a monumental retrospective exhibition of the works of Karel Škréta and his contemporaries. The core of the exhibition is the work of Karel Škréta, structured according to thematic sections. This versatile artist is presented here not only as an eminent painter and draughtsman, whose creative genius is attested to by a number of recently restored and often newly-discovered works, but also as the designer of a multitude of prints. The intellectual dimension of the artist, regarded by his contemporaries as a veritable pictor doctus, is illustrated by a representative sample drawn from Škréta's remarkable library, while original historical documents show Škréta as an astute and successful entrepreneur of the period following the Battle of White Mountain. The opening sections of the exhibition evoke Škréta's background in the Mannerist style of the Prague court of Rudolf II, and the transition between the stages of the Late Renaissance and the Early Baroque period to which the artist returned from Italy in the early 1630s. The exhibition likewise showcases architecture and urban planning of the period as well as Early Baroque sculpture - a province where Škréta's work found a distinguished counterpart in the figure of Jan Jiří (Johann Georg) Bendl. Alongside the central protagonist, the exhibition also presents those artists whom Škréta drew on in his work. Thus for the first time the paintings of the "Apelles of Prague" appear in direct confrontation with brilliant works, much praised in Škréta's day, by Annibale and Ludovico Carracci, Johann Karl Loth, Carlo Maratta, Bernardo Strozzi, and Guido Reni, whose ravishing Annunciation from Ascoli Piceno is an artistic masterpiece of the highest quality. The exhibition also presents works by Karel Škréta's colleagues from north of the Alps - among others Joachim von Sandrart, Johann Heinrich Schönfeld, and Tobias Pock. The viewer can thus form an idea as to the relevance of judgements by those art historians who had hitherto drawn comparisons from reproductions instead of the original paintings. A separate section is dedicated to the figure of Karel Škréta the Younger and issues related to Škréta's workshop and his followers. Commemoration of Škréta's artistic afterlife and the impressive cult he spawned, particularly during the Czech National Revival of the 19th century, forms a logical if at times rather droll epilogue to the exhibition.
Regardless of the stature of his genius, no artist can be removed from of the context of their time and seen apart from their social and economical background, or their genesis as an individual figure viewed outside of the interaction of various influences, styles and inspirations deriving from other provinces of art, as well as the general atmosphere of the historical epoch.
If we have succeeded in showing that the oeuvre of Karel Škréta is far more than the "safe bedrock" of modern Czech painting, nonetheless this does not represent a finished chapter in the history of art but rather a dynamic phenomenon meant to challenge and provoke new interpretations as well as surprising confrontations, then the current retrospective exhibition has fulfilled its mission. The exhibition will be accompanied from its very first day by an extensive scholarly catalogue published in both Czech and English versions (670 pages, with approx. 900 colour reproductions).
The exhibition comprises 400 items, about a quarter of these paintings which have undergone technical and technological examination. The works on exhibition have been loaned by several Czech museums and religious institutions, as well as private collections from the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Italy, and the United States.
Karel Škréta (1610-1674): doba a dílo, eds. Lenka Stolárová - Vít Vlnas, Praha 2010.
Karel Škréta (1610-1674): His Work and His Era, eds. Lenka Stolárová - Vít Vlnas, Praha 2010. ISBN 978-80-7035-459-9
Together with a number of research institutions, particularly Charles University and the Institute of the History of Art of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the National Gallery has throughout this project sought answers in practice, rather than theory. The research team has succeeded in finding and identifying hitherto unknown works by Karel Škréta as well as locating pictures believed to be lost for decades. Naturally negative findings also occurred, resulting in the discarding of some works traditionally attributed to Škréta from the catalogue of his oeuvre. The broadly conceived technological examination and restoration which followed also yielded a number of surprises. Historical research conducted in archives both in the Czech Republic and abroad likewise produced several groundbreaking new findings.
Lenka Stolárová - Vít Vlnas
Information about the exhibition
Prague Castle Riding School
U Prašného mostu 3, Praha 1
tram 22 > Pražský hrad
open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Waldstein Riding School
Valdštejnská 3, Praha 1
metro > A, tram 12, 18, 20, 22 > Malostranská
open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
for one venue / for both venues
standard 150 CZK / 200 CZK
reduced 70 CZK / 100 CZK
family ticket 200 CZK / 300 CZK
school groups (per student) 20 CZK / 30 CZK
Ticket sales: Wallenstein Riding School Gallery and the Prague Castle Riding School Gallery in Prague box offices / Ticketpro sales network
special thanks to: