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Johann Kupezky and „the Black Art“

Archive: Johann Kupezky and „the Black Art“


Hradčanské náměstí 185/2, 118 00 Praha-Praha 1, Česká republika
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Date: 06.12.2016 - 12.03.2017
Place: Schwarzenberg Palace

This intimate exhibition commemorates the 350th anniversary of the birth of Johann Kupezky (1666–1740), whose works are presented here by 18th-century prints. Though Czech by descent, Kupezky’s life story and artistic significance make him a truly European painter, one of the greatest masters of Baroque portraiture in painting. He first acquired training as a painter in Vienna; in the mid-1680s he left for Italy where he spent twenty years, working his way up to become an outstanding portraitist. Around 1706 he returned to Vienna and established himself as a sought-after artist. In 1723 he moved to Nuremberg where he spent the rest of his artistically very prolific lifetime.

The extraordinary period renown of Johann Kupezky’s art can be seen in numerous good-quality graphic reproductions, which were produced in Nuremberg and Augsburg mostly at the end of this painter’s life and in the decade after his death. The majority of these prints were made in the technique of mezzotint, at the time termed „black art“ („Schwarze Kunst“ in German, and similarly in other languages). This impressive graphic technique, invented in the mid-17th century, achieved the greatest popularity and qualities in the course of the 18th century, in England and Germany in particular. In mezzotint, the image is not formed by lines, as is usual in graphic arts, but by areas in finely gradated black-and-white scale. Thanks to the delicate tone transitions the mezzotint evokes painterly treatment and this is why it was a favourite technique for reproductions of paintings, portraits in particular.

The abundant holdings of the Cabinet of Drawings and Prints of the National Gallery in Prague provided drawings and prints for the exhibition, of Kupezky’s paintings which not only transmit the values of his production, but most of all, they prove the admirable art of the Nuremberg and Augsburg masters of the mezzotint: Bernhard Vogel, Valentin Daniel Preisler and Johann Jacob Haid.

A small catalogue in Czech and English will be published: Petra Zelenková, Jan Kupecký a „černé umění“ / Johann Kupezky (1666–1740) and „the Black Art“


Curator: Petra Zelenková

Places & Venues

Hradčanské náměstí 185/2, 118 00 Praha-Praha 1, Česká republika




Schwarzenberg Palace

Schwarzenberg Palace

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