About The Art Collections

Department profile

The Art Collections Department, originally called the Documentation and Literary Gallery, was formed as a workplace envisaged that organization and arrangements for a future permanent exhibition would take place there. The collection of visual arts started in 1952, and comprised fonds from the Strahov Monastery (graphics, movables and applied-art objects). The heart of the collection would consist of a few excellent groups of art works, which the MCL began to administrate in the 1950s (the collection of Jiří Karásek ze Lvovic, the so-called Karásek Gallery, the archive of original illustrations from the publisher Vilímkovo nakladatelství; portions of archives from the publishing houses Družstevní práce, Ottovo nakladatelství, Šolc & Šimáček; and objects from the National Cultural Commission’s fond).   
In 1964, the Art Collections became a specialised department aimed to amass, to process, to publish and to display original visual and applied art works, tangible inheritances from writers and personal possessions generally related to the literature development and the book culture, and to single literary figures. Acquisition focused on gathering such a collection that would relate to the history of Czech literature in terms of contents, and would document relations between literature and art in the widest contexts. The fond that was founded as a follow-up to the publishers’ art fonds was a book illustration fond, which would be systematically expanded. That period also saw the establishment of a fond of visual art works inspired by literary creation; the start of a collection of portraits and caricatures of literary figures; and a collection of art works by literary active authors. The author’s books collection has been made over recent years.
Between 1991 and 2001, the MCL handed over 30,000 collector’s items to legitimate persons, especially to the Royal Canonry of the Premonstratensians at Strahov. The collection of Antonín Macek and Emanuel Lešehrad had to be abandoned too.
In 1991, the MCL began to administrate the ‘Cabinet Ex Libris’ collection fond held in Chrudim. The Cabinet would be the Art Collections Department’s detached workplace. The ‘Cabinet Ex Libris’  was founded in 1971 from leisure activities of collectors organized in the Club of the Fine Arts Friends. The Club began to hold a regular triennial ‘Czech Ex Libris’ in 1974, which is now regularly held by the MCL. One excellent collection of Czech and world’s ex libris has been compiled from visual artists’ or collectors’ donations.
The Art Collections Department began to electronically process acquisitions in 2000, and to re-catalogue the Fond of Karásek Gallery in the DEMUS program. All gains are registered, processed and open to researchers in card catalogues in the MCL Art Collections Study Room. An electronically processed section of the card index is open in the Central Registry of Collections of the Ministry of Culture, the Czech Republic. 
The Art Collections Department administrates approximately 400,000 collector’s items. The collection fonds entered the Central Registry of Collections of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic in 2002.

Sub-collection 15 – Visual Arts
The heart of this sub-collection consists of personal, collector’s and publisher’s fonds.  Its main part contains visual art works in paper – graphic arts pieces and drawings, paintings, plastic arts and personal possessions. A majority of the sub-collections dates from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries. The collection of visual art works coming from the second half of the 20th century to the present is still growing.

Sub-Collection 25 – The Karásek Gallery
The Karásek Gallery was founded by the poet, writer and collector of arts Jiří Karásek ze Lvovic. He  changed his initial collector’s plan to build up merely a cabinet of drawings and graphics by old masters in favour of today’s universal art collection that boasts an extensive group of Czech and European arts coming from the 17th century to the mid-20th century. 

Sub-Collection 24 – ‘Ex Libris’
The largest specialised collection of this sort in the Czech Republic. It contains a collection of author’s ex libris by Czech and foreign artists dating from the 1990s to the present. It also boasts a group of drawings, sketches of ex libris and New Year cards.