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.
exhibition and reproduction loaned by the following owners:
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.
(1905 – 1981)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.