About

Continuity/Rupture: Art and Architecture in Central Europe 1918-1939 is a research project funded by the European Research Council and led by Matthew Rampley at the University of Birmingham. The research team consists of the Principal Investigator and three research fellows, and is supported by an advisory committee.

When new political elites and social structures emerge out of a historical rupture, how are art and architecture affected? In 1918 the political map of Central Europe was redrawn as a result of the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, marking a new era for the region. Our project examines the impact of this political discontinuity in three of Austria-Hungary’s successor states: Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. For many centuries, the entire territory of these countries had been ruled by the Habsburgs, and the shared memory of this imperial past created a common cultural space, even as the newly formed nation states were asserting themselves in opposition to that memory. Furthermore, that opposition was not constant. Governments sometimes encouraged a sense of historical caesura, but at other times looked to the past for legitimation, as required by their short- and long-term political goals. The Habsburg Empire cast a long shadow, and artists and architects had to engage with its legacy as they navigated the highly fraught political and cultural landscape of their own time.

Our project focuses on the contradictory ways in which artists and architects in Central Europe adapted to and tried to shape the new socio-political circumstances in the light of the past. It analyses the conflicts between avant-gardes and more conservative artistic movements, as well as the role of the visual arts in interwar memory politics. It searches for the place of art in the nexus of religion, nation and state, examining official art and counter-cultural tendencies, as well as their intersections. Special attention will be devoted to the survival and new emergence of artistic networks connecting the three countries, and to the reorganisation of the art world and its institutions in the course of the nation building process.

The project is organised into four themes. Read more about them by clicking on the links below.