What has been the fascination of artists for Brittany, almost rivalling that of Venice in the 18th century for British artists? It’s a cold wet place, relatively isolated but had a fascination for French and Czech artists from 1850 to 1950, notably Gauguin and Buffett and, for many years, Britanny and its people seemed stuck in a fascinating folklore time-warp.
The Kinsky Palace in Prague faces onto the Old Town Square, slightly odd because of its Rococo architecture, but it has an exceptional importance in Czech history. Built for the Golz family between 1755 and 1765 to designs by Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer, it was purchased by the Kinsky family in 1768. As with many buildings in Prague, the ground floors were rented out. Franz Kafta’s father, who was a haberdasher, had storage space in the palace and the young Kafta attended secondary school here from 1893 to 1901. For a short period in the 20th century, the palace was the base for the legation of the Republic of Poland.
At Kinsky Palace, the National Gallery of Prague has been exploring the artistic interest in Brittany, in particular with Czech painters, in its exhibition ‘Bonjour Monsieur, which also looks at how the subjects were intertwined with contemporary art developments of the different periods – indeed the great joy of the exhibition is how it moves through the century, linking with different parallel art movements, starting with art that is quite traditional and then becoming more and more free-flowing and modern, along with costumes and travel posters from the time.
And, if you peek upwards, you can see the ceilings of the original palace and other architectural details carefully preserved behind the display walls.