The story of Czech modern art begins in the mid-19th century. The art collection traces its development through the strongly represented artistic generations and individual artists, among them the chief exponents of Realism Viktor Barvitius and Karel Purkyně, the National Theatre Generation – Alphonse Mucha, Josef Václav Myslbek and Vojtěch Hynais, and artists espousing the Art Nouveau and Symbolism – Alphonse Mucha and Max Pirner.
The founding generation of modern artists is represented by Antonín Slavíček, Jan Preisler and Max Švabinský. The National Gallery also houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by František Kupka that documents the painter’s advance from Symbolism to abstract art.
Formerly intended for trade fairs, this gem of Czech Functionalist architecture has been the seat of the National Gallery in Prague from 1976. Built in 1925–1928 after the plans of architects Josef Fuchs and Oldřich Tyl, the imposing building was the largest edifice of its kind in the world. First it served the Prague Sample Trade Fairs company and, after the war, it housed various foreign trade companies. The history of the building was dramatically affected on August 14, 1974, when it was nearly destroyed by a huge fire that took six days (until August 20) before being quenched. In 1976, a decision was made to renovate the building; the reconstruction progressed slowly and was finally completed in the 1990s.