Gallery spol. s r. o.

Zdeněk Burian

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The painter and illustrator Zdeněk Burian who was born one hundred years ago this year (11th February 1905, Kopřivnice, Northern Moravia). This is the first exhibition to embrace his entire life’s work in all its breadth, including his well-known book illustrations, book illustrations never published and paleontological reconstructions (many of which feature in museums and galleries worldwide), as well as less-known pictures with geographical or ethnographical subject-matter and his virtually unknown uncommissioned paintings – paintings of well-known figures, relatives and friends, not to mention still-lifes and allegories. Many of the pictures have never been reproduced or exhibited before.

Burian’s oeuvre can only be presented in all its breadth of genre and so extensively (some 400 original works) thanks to the cooperation of many institutions and private collectors from the entire Czech Republic. The exhibition also comprises a large number of documentary photographs, examples of published books and various artefacts illustrating the painter’s life and times.


The exhibition also features
a programme of lectures, discussions and children’s activities,
including children’s workshops to be held on the following dates:
9th and 10th April (model-making workshop)
7th and 8th May (origami workshop)
11th and 12th June (on the trail of Indians)
18th and 19 th June (children’s puzzle),
2.30 am – 5.30 pm.


Exhibition curator: Vladimír Prokop
Concept and selection
of works:
Vladimír Prokop
and Jaroslav Holub
Architectural design: Jan Dušek a Emil Zavadil
Graphic design
of the exhibition
and publicity materials:
Světla Kořánová
Photography: Petr Chytrý, Jaroslav Kvíz,
Michal Tůma, private archives
Production: Renata Roubíčková,
Lucie Šafaříková,
Gabriela Kolářová
Erection: Vetamber, s.r.o.
Execution: Centrum Emauzy, s.r.o.,
Franklin, s.r.o.,
Antikvariát Valentinská,
Pavel Břach,
workshops of the National Theatre,
National Technical Museum,
Radek Labuťa, Miroslav Černý,
Jan Holoubek, Aleš Havlíček
Petr Šplíchal
Lighting: Václav Kubela
Children´s programme: Adriana Skálová, Martin Velíšek

Works for exhibition and reproduction loaned by the following owners:
Museum of Czech Literature
Moravian Museum
Dvůr Králové Zoo
Zdeněk Sklenář Gallery
Art Gallery, Cheb
Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague
Municipal Museum, Hořice
National Museum of Agriculture, Ohrada
Kopřivnice Town Hall
Silesian Museum, Opava
Czech Academy of Sciences
National Museum
Nový Jičín Museum
Faculty of Medicine

private collections

Special thanks are due to Messrs. Zdeněk Sklenář and Jan Prádler for their outstanding assistance in the preparation of the exhibition..

Valuable assistance was also rendered by the National Museum, Dvůr Králové Zoo, Prague Zoo, Linde Gas Therapeutics, Sazka and Kolby.

In conjunction with this exhibition Gallery has published an extensive full-colour monograph of Zdeněk Burian plus a shorter catalogue in colour, both with texts by the exhibition’s curator Vladimír Prokop.

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Zdeněk Burian (1905 – 1981)
The painter and illustrator Zdeněk Burian was born on 11 February 1905 in the North Moravian town of Kopřivnice into the family of a well-known local builder. As a child he enjoyed drawing and painting, often inspired by travel writings, old engravings, photographs and other pictures. Thanks to his obvious artistic talent, he was accepted into the Fine Art Academy in Prague at the early age of fourteen, and, on the recommendation of Max Švabinský, he went straight into second year. He was not to remain there long, however, being soon obliged to leave – chiefly for financial reasons – and make a living as an illustrator. He was only sixteen at the time. He was to stay faithful to the art of illustration for over sixty years, almost until the day he died (in Prague, on 1 July 1981, on the very day that an exhibition of his work opened in the Albatros Gallery in that same city).

Homo erectus olduvaiensis,
1972, oil, canvas
Zulu warior ,
1963, oil, canvas

Burian’s oeuvre is fascinating simply in terms of its scope – consisting of almost 14,000 items, some 10,000 of them being illustrations. Burian was outstanding above all in the sphere of adventure literature. In addition to book covers and illustrations he also illustrated countless stories for magazines. Although beloved of several generations of readers, he generally did not find favour with the official socialist critics, who objected above all to his overriding interest in Western literature.

The last witnesses of prehistory,
1975, oil, canvas, pasteboard
The explorer A. V. Frič,
1943, oil, canvas

Burian’s first palaeontological pictorial reproductions came into existence after he made the acquaintance (in 1935) of Josef Augusta, senior lecturer in palaeontology at Charles University. The artist subsequently started to occupy himself on a long term basis with reconstructing the appearance of fossil creatures, vegetation and prehistoric man, and the results of that creative activity gradually appeared in publications about prehistory not only at home but also abroad, and many of his pictures found their way into museums and galleries around the world. His work on palaeontological projects and their anthropological aspects continued under the guidance of a succession of specialists.
Less familiar are Burian’s non-commissioned works – portraits of well-known figures and relatives, as well as landscape paintings and still-lifes.

Mammuthus primigenius fraasi,
1961, oil, canvas
E. Štorch: Lovci mamutů,
1937, tempera, Indian ink, cardboard

As a painter with an extraordinary visual memory and outstanding powers of imagination, one who mastered every possible technique of painting, he found it hard to bear the fact that his oeuvre was, by and large, systematically ignored by the art world in his own country: the rare mentions were mostly critical or disparaging. No serious work dealing with Burian’s oeuvre was published in Czech until the 1990s.

Bushmen, 1975, oil, cardboard

The present retrospective exhibition to mark the hundredth anniversary of Burian’s birth seeks not only to recall the personality of this unique artist – a nature lover with the heart of a romantic – and broaden the accepted view of him, but also to bring him alive again to today’s younger generation. Last, but not least, it aims to spotlight the qualities of Zdeněk Burian which, for years, were wrongly disputed. Only in this way, in the long run, may Burian be accorded his rightful place in the artistic world of his times.

K. May: Son of the Bear-hunter, 1958, Indian ink, cardboard

The preparation of such a demanding exhibition and the publication of an extensive illustrated monograph in conjunction with it was rendered possible for its organisers – the Gallery Company in collaboration with the Administration of Prague Castle – by the many years of research by Mr Vladimír Prokop, who compiled a highly detailed list of Burian’s work. The successful realisation of the project was due in no small measure, and sometimes fundamentally, to the many admirers of Burian’s works – private collectors and institutions, all those who, in every corner of our country, have faithfully tended the artist’s legacy.

E. S. Vráz: S lovci lebek na Borneu, 1948, gouache, cardboard
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