Black Strawberries (which means blueberries) is a remarkable example of Brožík’s mature style and choice of subject matter related to the rich French production of realistic landscape painting. Landscape and village painting played a significant role in his work, in addition to the most highly valued history painting. In his works, we can meet not only historical figures but also children picking berries, herders of goats, sheep, and other animals, which he dealt with in the last decade of his life in Normandy and Brittany and during his stays in the Povltaví region. Since his travels to Brittany and Normandy in the 1880s and 1890s, the rural and seaside atmosphere became an increasingly welcome source of inspiration to him and a necessary balm to his soul and weakened body. In a juicy colour range, with excellent composition and without unnecessary seriousness of the subject, a scene with French country children is captured in the presented painting. As the press of the time poetically reported: “We like them for their simplicity and humbleness, as we like to admire similar works by this artist in which the horizon and the space expand and relax...” Czech and French audiences sought out similar scenes – this is evidenced, among other things, by the fact that Brožík’s famous painting The Goose Herder, which today belongs to the collection of the National Gallery Prague, was purchased by Emperor Franz Joseph I. Within this subject matter, he executed other representative works, such as Children in the Beech Forest and Children in the Forest, which also recently appeared on the art market.
The presented painting was already widely discussed in public at the time of its creation, as evidenced by its publication in the contemporary cultural magazine Zlatá Praha (XVII, No. 12, 1900, fig. p. 136 under the title Picking Strawberries [Na jahodách]) and in the Světozor magazine (XXXIII, No. 31, p. 370). It is also mentioned in important recent literature (M. Mžyková, Wings of Glory, Prague 2000, fig. p. 337; V. Vašátková / M. Dospěl: In front of a Painting, Prague 2015, p. 26 and 141, fig. p. 27 and 141; A. Pravdová: Bonjour, Monsieur Gauguin: Czech Artists in Brittany 1850–1950, Prague 2017, fig. 82) and the artist’s last monograph (N. Blažíčková-Horová: Václav Brožík, National Gallery Prague 2003, cat. No. 320, p. 284, on the photograph from Brožík’s atelier on p. 106 it hangs on the wall behind the artist). It was presented in 1899 at the annual exhibition of Krasoumná jednota under the title Black Strawberries (cat. No. 86) and in 1900 at Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung (fig. p. 158, cat. No. 215 under the title Die Schwarzbeeren – Kinder im Walde), as evidenced by the stamp on the reverse. It was also exhibited at the exhibitions Bonjour, Monsieur Gauguin: Czech Artists in Brittany 1850–1950 (National Gallery Prague, 16. 11. 2018 – 17. 3. 2019) and Artistes tcheques en Bretagne (Musee departemental Breton, Quimper, 16. 6. – 30. 9. 2018). The high value of the painting is enhanced by the existence of a partial study of it in the collections of the National Gallery Prague (inv. No. O 2407 and inv. No. K 17247). It comes from an excellent First Republic collection of the then-mayor of Pilsen, JUDr. Matouš Mandl, and is presented in an elegant period frame. Assessed during consultations by doc. M. Mžyková, CSc., and prof. R. Prahl, CSc. The expertise of PhDr. Š. Leubnerová is attached.