Petr Brandl: The Story of a Bohemian

The National Gallery Prague is launching an exhibition of one of the most important Czech Baroque artists – Petr Brandl, a brilliant painter, but also an eternal debtor, unfaithful husband, prodigal, great gourmet and… a prisoner. The exhibition, comprising 64 mainly large-format paintings by the artist, will also feature newly discovered and previously unexhibited works, such as The Baptism of Christ, The Vision of St. Anne, and Self-portrait, So-Called Viennese, but above all it will guide visitors through the rich life story of Petr Brandl.

The exhibition presents new findings about Brandl’s work, which are the result of many years of research, and builds on previous projects of both the National Gallery Prague and of the exhibition’s curator, Andrea Steckerová. The inventive concept is based on telling two intertwining stories: the story of an exceptional oeuvre and of an equally exceptional life, for which we have an unprecedented amount of archival evidence, portraying Brandl as a man who rejected social and professional conventions and as an artist for whom creative and personal freedom was paramount.

The exhibition displays a wide range of Brandl’s works. Visitors will have the opportunity to see monumental altarpieces, measuring several metres long, on which dramatic scenes from the lives of saints and saintly people take place, as well as Brandl’s portraits, including that of one of the most controversial figure of Baroque culture – Count František Antonín Špork. The lesser-known pieces include Brandl’s genre paintings, which depict the world of charlatans, quacks, smokers, and prostitutes. Brandl’s largest canvas, The History of Joseph of Egypt, is one of the exhibition’s landmarks. This work, on loan from the chateau in Jindřichův Hradec, underwent a thorough restoration prior to the exhibition, along with 20 other works, including the altarpieces. The comprehensive restoration of the works took almost two years and was carried out in collaboration with the National Gallery Prague’s team of restorers. The restoration of the painting The History of Joseph of Egypt was co-funded by the Czech National Heritage Institute.

A dedicated section of the exhibition focuses on paintings where Brandl ostentatiously demonstrates his original painting technique, which was completely unconventional and modern in its time. Brandl’s haptic, almost sculptural conception of painting marks his works with a unique style. The exhibition also features the art of Brandl’s collaborator and close friend, the well-known sculptor Matthias Bernard Braun, whose name is associated, for example, with the phenomenal sculptural decoration of the Kuks castle and hospital complex.

The exhibition also presents work by Brandl’s official teacher, Kristián Schröder, paintings of Brandl’s famous predecessor, Karel Škréta, and those of his contemporaries and followers (including Jan Kupecký, Michael Václav Halbax, and Filip Kristián Bentum). The uniqueness of Brandl’s art and life is underlined by an inventive installation design by architect Roman Brychta.

Visitors will be guided through the exhibition by a creative audio guide (created by René Levínský and directed by Johana Ožvold), while young audiences can enjoy educational animated videos exploring the life and work of Petr Brandl in a playful way (created by Tomáš Zach, narrated by Kryštof Hádek). Two time-lapse video documentaries directed by Jan Strejcovský show the restoration process of Brandl’s greatest work, The History of Joseph of Egypt. The exhibition will be accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue and a publication for children and young audiences from the National Gallery Prague’s well-established Pocket Paintings edition. The project’s rich accompanying programme features various thematic guided tours. 

For further information on the life and work of Petr Brandl, visit our online database:

Petr Brandl: The Story of a Bohemian
Wallenstein Riding School, 20/10/2023 – 11/2/2024 

Curator: Andrea Steckerová

Architects: Roman Brychta, Markéta Mráčková, Barbora Šímová

Graphic design: Kristina Ambrozová, Štěpán Malovec

The National Gallery Prague would like to thank the Senate of the Czech Republic for hosting the exhibition in Wallenstein Riding School and the Czech National Heritage Institute for providing subsidies for the restoration work.

Details can be found on the website.