Surrounded by the Art Nouveau tenement buildings of Holešovice, the austere Trade Fair Palace (Veletržní Palác) is a daring work of art in itself. It was the first official Functionalist building in Europe, and even Le Corbusier was impressed when he visited Prague in 1928. In 1979, plans were launched to turn the former trade fair complex into the home of the National Gallery’s modern and contemporary art collection. The space was inaugurated in 1995, with works by prominent Czech artists alongside a rich array of international masters from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
Dukelských hrdinů 47, Holešovice • 224 301122 • www.ngprague.cz • Open 10am–6pm Tue–Sun • Adm
The National Gallery’s impressive collection of French art was begun in 1923, when Czech president Tomáš Masaryk helped found a small collection. This bright work showing a large tan house (c. 1887) by Paul Cézanne was one of those original 25 pieces.
Paul Gauguin originally painted this simple, flat self-portrait as a decoration for the lower panel of a dining-room door in an inn in Le Pouldu, Brittany. The much-admired 19th-century French artist painted this enlarged copy in 1889.
Van Gogh’s encounter with Impressionism was a decisive moment. Charmed by the southern French countryside, he created bright canvases such as this 1889 landscape.
Otto Gutfreund paved the way for modern Czech sculpture. This bronze 1912 work captures the apprehension of man in the early 20th century.
Auguste Rodin’s 1878 sculpture is a study of spiral motion and the natural movement is hightened by his visible muscles, from the tension of the firmly anchored feet, to the trunk, to the head turned away from the dominant gesture of the hand.
Delacroix often visited zoos to study predatory animals whose movement inspired him. This 1855 canvas, striking for its interaction of colour and motion, is an example of his research and French Romanticism in painting.
One of 14 Picassos donated in 1960 by former National Museum director Vincenc Kramář, the almond-shaped eyes and triangular nose of this 1907 work testify to the influence of Iberian art.
Henri Laurens’s 1926 bronze sculpture is a synthesis of Cubism and the classical ideal of form and beauty. It was added to the collections in 1935.
Toulouse-Lautrec thrived on depictions of Paris nightlife such as this oil tempera on cardboard. One of the dancing women is his muse, Jane Avril. Oscar Wilde is one of the figures in the background.
With the city of Paris and the elements of modern civilization in the background, Henri Rousseau’s self-portrait with a palette in hand in the foreground, painted in 1890, depicts impressively the artist as a self-assured personality.
Plans for a trade fair complex began in 1924. A design competition selected the work of architects Oldřich Týl and Josef Fuchs. Only the existing Trade Fair Palace was completed; the other planned buildings never materialized due to a lack of funding. The Trade Fair Palace opened in 1928 but was badly damaged by fire in 1974. It was reopened as a gallery in 1995.