Women and Graphic Art in 19th-century Bohemia


New Graphic Cabinet of the Collection of Prints and Drawings in St George’s Convent

March 16 – June 13, 2010

Women and art – a pairing of words that long meant only women as the subject of art. In the Czech lands, women assumed an active role in art in the nineteenth century. Contemporary opportunities meant women’s art focused on painting and drawing, but interest in graphic techniques also existed. However, the position of graphic art in the spectrum of professions open to women had two poles – while it was not contradictory to the idea that detail work was suitable for women, mastery of the necessary techniques required specialized skills that were usually difficult to acquire. Nevertheless, women engaged in graphic art from its very beginnings.

The National Gallery in Prague offers a wide cross-section of 19th-century women’s graphic art in Bohemia from among the artworks in its Collection of Prints and Drawings. The exhibition opens with artwork by aristocratic women who were the first to receive a good art education. Their activities in art, including graphic art, played a role in society’s recognition of women as artists.

The first professional women artists found themselves in a different situation than their aristocratic counterparts, often taking an untrodden path that offered nothing but an uncertain livelihood and frequently forced them to relinquish the traditional role of wife and mother. The exhibition looks at the activities of widows who took over the copper-engraving workshops of their late husbands. In the second half of the 19th century, women graphic artists began to produce fashion pictures and embroidering patterns in ladies‘ magazines. This period brought the first women’s schools offering classes in graphic techniques, particularly woodcut. Owing to this education, women found jobs in book and picture magazine illustration as early as the 1870s, making a name for themselves at home and abroad. The Cabinet also presents the artwork of Zdenka Braunerová’s contemporaries, whose activities significantly helped invigorate the graphic art genre in Bohemia.

St George’s Convent

Jiřské náměstí 33

Prague 1 – Prague Castle

Transport: Tram 22, 23 – Pražský hrad

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