was founded in 1927, as the second institution of art history in what was then Czechoslovakia. The first director of the ‘section’ (it did not become a full department until 1952) was Eugen Dostál (1889–1943), a scholar of medieval art and a student of Prof. Max Dvořák at the University of Vienna.
Like the University as a whole, the section faced possibly its gravest challenge in 1939 following the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia the previous year. In November 1939 the University was closed down by units of the SS and the Gestapo, and staff and students either lost their jobs, or were redeployed to work in industry and construction. Many were also deported to concentration camps, from which a number never returned.
Albert Kutal (1904–1976)
The University (and the section) was re-opened in 1945 with the liberation. Dostál had already died and he was succeeded by Albert Kutal (1904–1973), one of the first students of the new department and, like Dostál, a scholar of medieval art and architecture in Bohemia and Moravia. Communist rule, and the imposition of ideological dogmas, hardly encouraged the development of free thinking and scholarly inquiry, but the department nevertheless continued to expand and to be a notable centre of research and teaching. It also took on a number of different identities in the postwar era, which reflected changing ideas of the place of art history as a discipline. Between 1952 and 1961 it became part of a bigger department that included aesthetics, classical archaeology and musicology. It was then combined with Ethnography, and then, in 1965, was joined with art education, the Head of Department being the painter Bohdan Lacina (1912–1971). The 1970s brought further change; it was combined with musicology again and, until 1989, was section within a larger department, the Head of which was Jiří Vysloužil (1924–2015), a scholar of nineteenth and twentieth-century music.
Its final incarnation before the Velvet Revolution of 1989 was as the Department of Marxist-Leninist Aesthetics and Art Theory and History. Despite the political interference that such a title implies, art historians continued to produce high quality scholarship; notable scholars included Zdeněk Kudělka (1926–2000), a historian of architecture whose work ranged from the Baroque through to modernism, and Ivo Krsek (1922–1993), whose specialism was painting of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
In 1990, the Department was reconstituted as a separate department, led, first, by Zdeněk Kudělka and then, from 1992 to 2001, by Jiří Kroupa, Lubomír Slavíček (2001–2012) and, from 2012 to 2019, by Ondřej Jakubec. In 2019 Radka Nokkala Miltová, a historian of Baroque art, assumed the role of Head of Department.
Despite the numerous discontinuities in its history, certain features have remained as constants of the department. Dostál’s interest in architecture was taken up and continued by subsequent generations of scholars, including Jiří Kroupa. Likewise, Dostál and Kutal’s focus on medieval art can be seen as the precursor of one of our research centres: the Centre for Early Medieval Studies. Ever since it inception, the department has been marked by its ability to combine a concern for the rich artistic and architectural heritage of Brno, Moravia and the Czech lands, with an active involvement in contemporary international thinking and scholarship. With the increasingly international character of its staff, who come from, amongst other places, Italy, Hungary, Britain, Austria and Germany as well as the Czech Republic, it is continues that tradition to the present.