PART I CHINA - November 24, 2007 – February 24, 2008
PART II JAPAN - March 2, 2008 – June 22, 2008
The National Gallery in Prague’s exhibition of East Asian figural art looks toward the future – the Summer Olympics in Beijing – and the past, i.e. the work of collection founder Lubor Hájek, who died seven years ago and whose activities this exhibition commemorates. The National Gallery in Prague Collection of Oriental Art houses 5,731 works of Chinese and Japanese painting and graphic art; original figurative painting occupies a major place in the collection. In 1980, Lubor Hájek (1921–2000), founder of the Oriental collection, chose the best pieces for the House of Arts in Brno for a monumental exhibition to be accompanied by a catalogue. The exhibition was a success, though his expertly written catalogue looking at the essence of eastern art was never published for lack of both resources and advanced technology of colour reproduction.
Seven years after Hájek’s death, the National Gallery in Prague decided to repay its debt to this peerless expert and pioneer in Asian art scholarship and publish his original catalogue as a period document. Hájek’s exhibition is being restaged at the permanent exhibition of Asian art in Zbraslav Chateau by Helena Honcoopová, Director of the Collection of Oriental Art in Prague, on the occasion of the publishing of this spectacular catalogue boasting 175 colour illustrations. The catalogue’s publication was supported by the Japan Foundation, and the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation.
Hájek organized his exhibition based on stylistic context into nine sections illustrating the development of figural painting in the two great cultures of East Asia from the beginning of the first millennium to the twentieth century. Frottage transfers of figures depicted on archaic bronze wares represent the oldest Chinese artwork. Displayed objects include polychrome icons of Mahayana Buddhism, eccentric Zen painting and a pleiad of legendary Chinese and Japanese historical figures (Eight Immortals, Sixteen Arhats, Seven Lucky Gods, founders of sects and magic hermits) painted in monochrome ink or colours on paper and silk, both in fine, detailed lines or ecstatically bold brushwork. Besides the imaginary figures of ancient Chinese heroes, spectators can get acquainted with large brightly colored portraits of majestic ancestors executed in the “fine brush” technique gongbi, or with freehand art of the literati who practiced “a dance of the brush”, “ink play” and “idea writing” on paper.
The exhibition’s three sections review traditional Japanese figurative art from its oldest expressions in the local Japanese style Yamatoe and the colorful “images of the fleeting world” Ukiyoe of the Edo period to classic monochrome painting of figures rendered with lively movement, spirited expression and compositional abbreviation. Although some of the paintings are later copies of old masters, the joy of recognizing an unknown artistic mode of expression is no less great.
Owing to the lack of exhibition space, the abundant pictorial material was divided into two parts, one highlighting Chinese painting and the other Japanese figural painting. The six-month exhibition is complemented by several Education Department programmes and, most significantly, the book left behind by Lubor Hájek for the National Gallery in Prague. The display is designed as a tribute to the founder of the National Gallery in Prague Collection of Oriental Art.
Phone: 00420 257 921 638-9
Bartoňova 2, 156 00 Praha 5 – Zbraslav
Transport: Subway B, tram No. 12, 14, 20 – Smíchovské nádraží station, bus No. 129, 241, 243, 314, 318, 338, 390 – Zbraslavské náměstí stop / or subway C, Jižní Město, Radotín – bus No. 165, Zbraslavské náměstí stop.