Until 17 November, you can visit a unique exhibition of the giant of Czech art, Emil Filla, in the National Gallery in the Trade Fair Palace. The exhibition presents the painter’s graphic designs from the 1930s and 1940s, his series Boje a zápasy (Fights and Struggles, 1937), and the album Heracles (1945) he created to respond to the aggressive Nazi ideology.

Who was Emil Filla?

Originally a clerk, Emil Filla (1882–1953) was a leading Czech artist of the first half of the 20th century. His artistic work, which includes drawings, paintings, graphic designs and sculptures, was very versatile. Filla was also an art theorist and an influential man of his time, not only in the field of culture. Already during his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, he had an image of philosopher and innovator – he was not happy about the conventional methods of teaching, left the school, and focused on his own work.

Life of Emila Filla

The two world war conflicts largely influenced his work. At the outbreak of World War I, Filla lived in Paris but he had to flee to Holland where he actively participated in the Czechoslovak resistance movement. In the interwar period, he was fully aware of the upcoming threat to freedom, and he felt the need to fight against tyranny and oppression. He symbolically expressed the feelings of the time in the character of Heracles, the son of the mortal Alcmene and the Almighty Zeus in the graphic series Boje a zápasy (Fights and Struggles, 1937).

As a prominent Czech figure who warned against the threat of fascism for a long time, he was arrested by the Gestapo at the very beginning of World War II, on 1 September 1939. He experienced the horrors of concentration camps in Dachau and Buchenwald, where he kept his faith in humankind by writing and composing poetry. He had six heart attacks in the camps, and although he survived, his health was in poor. Emil Filla died of his seventh heart attack as a university professor in Prague in 1953. His life partner was painter Hana Krejčí, the daughter of František Krejčí, professor of philosophy at Charles University in Prague,.

The importance of Emil Filla’s work

There are many styles, shapes and subjects in Emil Filla’s lifelong work. He created mostly still lifes, collages, and paintings of women. He also focused on sculptures and paintings of figures. His work reflects the time and often expresses the tense emotions he used to appeal to the society especially in the interwar period.

In 1907, Filla became a member of the expressionist group Osma (Eight), and four years later, he initiated the founding of the cubist Group of Fine Artists. In this period, his work was strongly influenced by cubist paintings by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Later, the Czech painter and sculptor developed a taste for the mythological themes of surrealism, the title of the exhibition in the Trade Fair Palace refers to: Emil Filla – Heracles Fights the Bull.

How to get there

The best way to get to the Trade Fair Palace is by tram, the “Veletržní palác” stop is located just outside the National Gallery. It is also not far from Strossmayerovo Square, one of the tram junctions in Prague. The closest metro stop is Vltavská on the red C line. After the exhibition, you can enjoy a pleasant walk in the nearby Stromovka park or more culture in the Bio Oko cinema.