František Bílekʼs Studio

The aim of the permanent exhibition, opened in September 2010 in Villa Bílek in the Prague Hradčany District, is to present the overall character of Bílekʼs oeuvre in his selected works, and thus to provide viewers with an apt opinion of the artistʼs contribution to both Czech and global art. The selection of works captures all stages of Bílekʼs artistic development and simultaneously pays attention to his ability to employ various techniques in creating a complex work of art which completes the symbolist project of both moral and aesthetic elevation of the human race.

The exhibition includes Bílekʼs significant works of art dating to the early 1890s, for example the first modern sculpture in the Czech context, entitled Ploughing Is Our Guiltʼs Punishment, the model of the group sculpture Golgotha – The Mountain of Sculls, a large-dimensional design drawing to the crucial programmatic work of Czech Modern art, The Crucified, and the sculpture The Tree which, Struck by Lightning, Burnt for Ages, representing a turning point in artistic development and highly valued on the global scale. These are accompanied by Bílekʼs principal works executed as partial realizations of his extensive projects Life, Journey and Building the Future Temple in Us from the early 20th century (The Blind, Moses, Astonishment, Adam and Eve) and sculptures and studies linked with the preparation of his funeral, as well as public monuments (Grief, Anxiety from the Body, the World and the Canopy of the Heavens, The Beauty of the Youth in Its Struggle).

Bílekʼs late oeuvre is represented by the monumental wood-carving Life Is a Battle and the five-piece group sculpture The Future Conquerors. Apart from sculptures and large-dimensional drawings, Bílekʼs original furniture, created in connection with the construction of his new studio villa and documenting the versatility of his artistic approach, is exhibited.

Two smaller spaces situated on the ground floor of the villa – the dining room and the study – are conceived more intimately in order to meet the expected visitorsʼ interest in the private life of the artist. This is why the prevailing exhibits here are portraits of his friends and family and small-dimensional prints and sculptures. The dining room and the winter garden were furnished according to surviving contemporary photographs.

The two front rooms on the first floor were transformed into exhibition spaces and facilitated with showcases. Here, visitors can mainly see Bílekʼs early works of smaller dimensions along with his oeuvre originating from the 1920s. The dominant works are, among others, Ploughing with the Cross, Dancing around the Golden Calf and Spiritual Encounter. The third room on the first floor is conceived as a Cabinet of Drawings and Prints, where visitors can moreover become familiar with many of Bílekʼs prints by browsing in the computer.

The celebratory opening of Villa Bílek was accompanied by the publication of the book František Bílek and His Prague Studio, which is the first issue of the new edition focusing on the artist. It was published in cooperation between the Prague City Gallery and the leading Czech publishing house Arbor vitae.

Villa Bílek – interior. Photo by Tomáš Souček
Villa Bílek – interior. Photo by Tomáš Souček