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07.05.2015: Sorrow and gentleness. These are the words that can be used to characterise the work of Vlastimil Košvanec, a Czech artist whose life's path was altered by war and the post-war development of Czechoslovakia. This May, visitors of the Czech Centre Prague, Italian Culture Institute in Prague, and the Bedřich Smetana Museum can become acquainted with the life and work of this wrongfully neglected artist. The organiser of this expansive exposition of the artist's work, the Museo Martinengo, has invited the collaboration of a trio of renowned partners: the Czech Centres, the National Museum, and the Italian Culture Institute in Prague.

One of the most attractive cultural events of the Czech Centre Prague's spring season begins on 07/05/2015.The exposition, The Masterpieces of Vlastimil Košvanec, was put together by the Museo Martinengo, who owns the largest foreign collection of Košvanec's works. The exposition is complemented by fifteen paintings from the collections of the National Museum. A portion of the exhibited works will be on display at the Czech Centre Prague gallery on Rytířská Street, in the Italian Culture Institute and at the Bedřich Smetana Museum (National Museum).

Based on the concept by Italian curator Giuseppe Franzoni, the exposition is divided into three sections, each of them holding representative pieces fromthe Italian collection belonging to the artist's younger style period, supplemented by later works from the National Museum's Physical Education and Sport and Labour Movement collections. These primarily consist of virtually unknown paintings and drawings that are not on display and come from the painter's style period beginning in the 1950’s. The set theme of Košvanec's works from the National Museum collection focuses on scenes of the Spartakiad mass gymnastic events linked to
the particular historical era and similar events that were so prominent in this period. The selection of works on display will help in the clarification of some of the controversial stages of the artist's life. 

Vlastimil Košvanec is valued primarily for his distinctive painting techniques and inimitable style, despite the fact that his work has lain forgotten for almost half a century. Košvanec's first, and for many years also his last, post-war exhibition in Prague took place in 1961, since which the artist had not been exhibited in such a comprehensive manner.


"The colouristically prominent oil paintings of Vlastimil Košvanec (1887–1961) became the object of heightened collector interest in the late 1990’s, almost a quarter century after the artist's death. In the panorama of the art of the 20th century, classic art history defined several stable research circuits, and the artistic expression of many artists were labelled as outmoded, derived, abject, or even inartistic. As a student of Vojtěch Hynais, Košvanec received the best foundation he possibly could at the Academy in Prague, including subliminal communication on the freedom of artistic creation. Although we all know Košvanec's landscapes and portraits, caricatures and illustrations, the foundation of his legacy is, in actuality, the allegorical union of man and nature, the image of a woman in bucolic natural scenery. One could say that Košvanec's women are a sort of Venus or Madonna dressed in period clothing. Musically, andante amoroso is the term that would best capture the nature of these colourfully persuasive images. The artist used bold brush techniques and showy colourfulness to shape his vision of the blissful Arcadia and the image of a world that is the yearning and destination of its own journey.

Today, Košvanec's paintings can be considered indisputable artefacts of French-style impressionism in a Central European context and are sought-after items on the artistic auction market."

Life and works

Vlastimil Košvanec was born on the 14th  of December 1887 in Karlín. After completing his studies at the České reálné gymnasium grammar school, he studied mathematics and physics for two years at university, and only then applied to the Academy of Arts, where he became the student of Vojtěch Hynais and Croatian painter, Professor Vlaho Bukovac. His studies at the academy (1909/1912) were a pivotal period for Vlastimil Košvanec's growth, as were his travels, in which he visited many countries across Europe: Italy, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Yugoslavia, Montenegro, etc.

In the early 20th century, Košvanec's works acknowledged the French traditions of impressionism and symbolism; later, however,
his works were dominated more by the expressionism of Central European art. Having become a part of the Prague cultural elite, the artist's most successful period was during the years between the two world wars, particularly from 1929, when he joined the Arts Forum association. He made his living as a book illustrator and portraitist, and he also authored satirical comics in well-known Prague magazines.

The artist's interwar artistic period was at first disrupted by the German occupation of the Czech lands, after which he was forced to deal with accusations of collaborating with the protectorate regime and was consequently imprisoned in 1947 for eight months. In 1949, when his wife, sister, and two brothers died, his life's hardships led to his hospitalisation at a psychiatric ward. He later assumed care of his sister-in-law and nieces, and tried to support all of them with his pension and artistic activities. However, his reputation had been stained, and so he sought employment in contemporary tendentious work. From 1956 onwards, he concentrated on preparing his first exhibition, which focused on promotional and physical education themes. In collaboration with
the State Museum of Physical Education and Sports, he created paintings inspired by the 1st Labourer's Spartakiad in 1921 and the 1st National Spartakiad in 1955. Despite the obstacles, he continued to paint until his death in November 1961.


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Czech Centres are an agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the promotion of the Czech Republic abroad. They work to promote the Czech cultural scene in an international arena. The network of Czech Centres operates in 22 metropolises and large cities on three continents. The Czech Centres general manager is Vilma Anýžová.


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