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2/9/2017

The Slav Epic on a Journey

One of the most famous works of art that you could only see in the Czech Republic is now going to tour the world.

The Slav Epic is a cycle of twenty large-format paintings in which Alfons Mucha, the Czech Art Noveau artist, depicted the history of the Slav nations. The cycle was painted in the studio at the Zbiroh Chateau in central Bohemia. First displayed in 1928, it was carefully hidden from the Nazis during WWII to prevent its destruction or theft. The paintings were on display in Prague until 31 December 2016, but this year they are getting ready for a tour of Asia, and most likely the U.S., that will take several years.
 
Alfons Mucha wished to capture the history of the Slav nations in a collection of paintings that would symbolise their journey through the past. He played with the idea of creating the Epic from the end of the 19th century, but he did not have enough funds for a work of such scope. At the beginning of the 20th century he found a patron, the industrialist Charles Crane, who was willing to finance the work. It took him eighteen years to paint the large canvases. He founded his studio at the Zbiroh Chateau at the border of Central and Western Bohemia. He finished the paintings in 1928, when he and Charles Crane handed the work over to Prague and donated it to the country.
 

Epic in Asia for the First Time

The journey of the large-format paintings is unique. The paintings will first visit Japan. People will have the opportunity to see Mucha’s work in the National Centre of Art in Tokyo from 7 March to 5 June 2017, daily from 10 am to 6 pm, within the Czech Culture Year and the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of reopening diplomatic relationships between the Czech Republic and the Japanese Empire.
 
The collection of canvases illustrating Slavic history from as far back as mythical times should travel to China but due to fears of experts the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic from this intention oficially resigned.
 
Negotiations are currently under way to show the paintings in South Korea and the U.S., but no contracts have as yet been concluded. Although it is likely that the paintings will be displayed there in 2018.
 

Will They Return to Prague?

Until the end of 2016, the paintings were located in Veletržní palác in Prague, which belongs to the National Gallery. However, when Alfons Mucha donated the paintings to the Czech state, he made it a condition that an appropriate new exhibition hall will be built to house them. This did not happen due to WWII and the post-war developments. At present, there are intense debates regarding where the new building should be and when the construction will start. The latest reports say that the new Gallery building will be built on the border between Old Town and Karlín.