The first impulse to establish a Prague city picture gallery came from the art department of the newly founded Umělecká Beseda, headed by the painter Josef Mánes, in the 1860´s. The aim was not only to benefit the society but also to support contemporary artists. The City Council eventually began purchasing their works, albeit only occasionally. The collection of the Prague Municipal Government also gradually developed via donations from both individuals and institutions. It was significantly enriched at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries by an extensive collection of paintings by Jaroslav Čermák, donated by Hippolyta Gallaitová, and a collection of works by Václav Brožík from the Knight, Václav Špaček of Starburg. The idea of establishing a Prague city gallery returned to the centre of attention after the start of the independent Czechoslovak Republic. The new building of the Municipal Library from the late 1920´s already housed exhibition halls directly reserved for the gallery. At approximately the same time, in 1928, the City of Prague received a generous gift from Alfons Mucha: a cycle of monumental canvases, The Slav Epic. The City Council almost simultaneously issued administrative regulations facilitating more systematic purchases for the planned gallery, the regular artistic advisor for which became the sculptor Ladislav Šaloun in 1927.
Thus, many significant and today already classical works of 20th-century Modernism were acquired from contemporary exhibitions by the beginning of the Second World War (e.g., paintings by Emil Filla, Rudolf Kremlička, Otakar Kubín, Jan Bauch, František Muzika, Josef Šíma, Václav Špála, Jindřich Štyrský and Jan Zrzavý and sculptures by Otto Gutfreund, Jan Wagner and others).
The plans to establish a city gallery again intensified after the war, in the latter half of the 1950´s, and the National Committee of the City of Prague steadily purchased works from the current art exhibitions for the future art institution.
The many years of effort found their fulfilment on 1 May 1963 with the foundation of Prague City Gallery.