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A Masterpiece: The Slav Epic

March 14th, 2013 | Posted by Karolinad in Karolina | Lifestyle | Us | What's Happening Prague

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Although there has been much controversy around Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic relocation from Moravský Krumlov to Prague, since May 10th, 2012 twenty large-scale canvases (up to six metres tall and eight metres wide) are on display at Veletržní Palác (Národní Galerie) until the very last day of 2013.

I finally had the chance to visit the exhibition, which has been on my “to do list” since the opening day, and it truly was a unique experience.  I have loved Mucha since I can remember.  I am intrigued by his masterful craftsmanship, his organic designs and the well-known mystical depictions of his muses.  Mucha is primarily known for his poster illustrations, advertisements and art-nouveau designs, but his fine art paintings and drawings are supreme, especially when seen in person.

When you walk into the large gallery at Veletržní Palác, where the Slav Epic canvases are exhibited, the darkness is accompanied by a soft illumination of each canvas.  Although I am sure the lighting, along with the de-humidifier buzz that can be heard all around, has to do with the strict preservation guidelines, it adds a unique ambiance in the gallery.

Upon entry, you are greeted by Mucha himself in a short silent film that is looped and projected on a temporary wall divider.  The individual paintings are much larger than expected and this, along with the dynamic composition and characters in each painting, keeps you absorbed in the subject matter as you walk from one canvas to another. Whether you are on a battle field, celebrating the history of the Slavs, or a devout believer at Mont Athos, by the end of the exhibition you begin understanding why Mucha felt that the Slav Epic was his final fine art masterpiece.

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The Apotheosis of the Slavs, Slavs for Humanity – 1926

A Slavic nationalist, Mucha wanted to depict the history of the Slavs since he was a young man. Towards the end of his working career, he did just that over the course of about 18 years in 20 of his monumental canvases.  By depicting a common history of the Slavs, the goal was to unite all Slavs and encourage them to work together in the future for all humanity.  In 1928, on the 10th Anniversary of the Czechoslovak independence, Alfons Mucha and Charles Richard Crane, a wealthy American businessman who sponsored the works, unveiled the Slav Epic to the city of Prague as a gift to his nation.

The exhibition ends (as does the series) with one of my favorite pieces, The Apotheosis of the Slavs, Slavs for Humanity – 1926, which depicts the overall victory of the Slavs by getting their lands back in 1918, after gaining independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Mucha strives to incorporate important periods of Slav History in this painting by dividing them in four different colors leading up to the ultimate victory in the center.  The blue at the bottom right represents the early history of Slavs, the red in the top left stands for the blood-shed in the Hussite Wars during the Middle Ages. The darker band below signifies the enemy continuously attacking the Slavic tribes, and the yellow represents Czech and Slovak soldiers returning from WWI and the eminent fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The center victorious figure represents the new young independent nation, protected by Christ.

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A visitor looking at: Introduction of the Slavonic Liturgy in Great Moravia, 1912

I must agree with Mucha, The Slav Epic is his fine art masterpiece that has inspired many and hopefully still does today; it certainly inspired me.  I encourage you to go and visit this exhibition while it’s still in Prague and on display, as beyond that who knows where the future home of the Slav Epics will be.  Back in Mrovaský Krumlov where it has been for the past 45 years?  Prague’s main train station by 2014 as planned by the Mucha Foundation?  Well, the permanent home of the Slav Epic is still yet to be determined and who knows when the 20 canvases will be displayed all together in the near future.

Veletržní Palác is opened daily from 10.00 to 18.00, except for Mondays.

 

Ticket prices for Full Gallery access:

-Standard 240 Kč

-Discounted 120 Kč

  • Children from 6 - 15 years
  • Seniors over 65 years
  • Students (ISIC, IYTC, EURO 26, ITIC)

Ticket Proces for Slav Epics Gallery access only:

-Standard 180 Kč

-Discounted 144 Kč

  • Holders of Opencard
  • Members

-Discounted 90 Kč

  • Children from 6 - 15 years
  • Seniors over 65 years
  • Students (ISIC, IYTC, EURO 26, ITIC)

-Discounted 20 Kč

  • School Group price per student

-Free

  • Children up to 6 years
  • Cardholders: ZTP a ZTP/P

More info on: Národní Galerie

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