A Reader in East-Central-European Modernism: Book Review

In 1927 Kurt Tucholsky published a poem called Das Ideal (The Ideal),[1] in which he pieces together a fantastic wish list for his life including all the money in the world, an endless, but harmless stream of food and alcohol, and his desired apartment. The latter let him see the Alps in the backyard, and Berlin’s Friedrichstraße in the front, with tight-lipped servants, a rooftop tree garden, and 2 ponies, 4 stallions, 8 cars and a motorcycle in the barn. That is what the new Reader in East-Central-European Modernism 1918–1956 edited by Beáta Hock, Klara Kemp-Welch and Jonathan Owen and published online by the Courtauld Institute achieves: an easily accessible resource for an international audience that will serve as an essential point of reference for students and scholars of the field. Bringing together and translating 27 wide-ranging essays, written in Czech, Slovak, Polish or Hungarian, and not available in English before, is a great achievement. The publication was born out of a course on central European modern art and culture in the MA programme at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Whereas there were some anthologies of primary sources, which still could be expanded on in the future, there was simply not a sufficient quantity of secondary literature available for the student.[2] In contrast to the plethora of studies on German or Soviet art in the interwar period, there is still to this day a lack of easily accessible English articles on interwar Czech, Hungarian, or Polish art. This new reader makes good that lack, and the editors should be praised highly for their efforts; there are indeed many stallions in the stable.

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CFP: Faith and Religion in Central European Art and Architecture, 1918-1939: the Dark Side of Modernism?

CALL FOR PAPERS

Faith and Religion in Central European Art and Architecture, 1918-1939

The Dark Side of Modernism?

CRAACE workshop, 2425 September 2020

Belvedere, Vienna

One of the most marked aspects of 20th century modernism was the search for the spiritual. Figures such as Kandinsky, Mondrian, Kupka and Feininger all saw their practice as a quest for forms that might give visible form to mystical and spiritual absolutes.

This has long been a recognised part of the landscape of modern art and architecture. A much less examined feature has been the involvement of organised religions, particularly churches, in modernist practice after the First World War. Indeed, between 1918 and 1939 churches acted as one of the most powerful ideological and cultural-political forces in central Europe. Not only the Catholic Church, but also the various orthodox and evangelical churches, gave impetus to the demand for a revival of ‘spiritual’ values, or helped mobilise ‘spiritual’ values in furtherance of political and ideological ends.

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Book announcement: Liberalism, Nationalism and Design Reform in the Habsburg Empire by Matthew Rampley, Markian Prokopovych and Nóra Veszprémi

In the nineteenth century, museums of design, industry and the applied arts were intimately connected to ideas about economic, social and industrial progress. Hence, their position in the museum landscape of the time was markedly different from that of museums of fine art. Liberalism, Nationalism and Design Reform: Museums of Design, Industry and the Applied Arts, a new book by Matthew Rampley, Markian Prokopovych and Nóra Veszprémi explores the expectations these institutions faced in the first decades of their existence, as well as their impact. It is shaped by two broad concerns: the role of liberalism as a political, cultural and economic ideology motivating the museums’ foundation, and their engagement with the politics of imperial, national and regional identity of the late Habsburg Empire.

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Artwork of the Month, January 2020: The Nymburk Crematorium by Bedřich Feuerstein and Bohumil Slama (1922-24)

In the small town of Nymburk, some 55 kilometres to the East of Prague, sits one of the more unusual examples of interwar architecture in Czechoslovakia: the town crematorium. Built between 1922 and 1924, it is a plain rectangular main building – the ceremonial hall – with cylindrical front and back. Thanks to its plain unornamented forms, its low rectangular base, and a flat overhanging rectangular roof, it strikes the viewer like an exercise in the exploration of elementary geometry. This impression is reinforced by the portico around the sides and front, consisting of squat, plain columns. Everything about the building appears mis-proportioned. The portico columns seem too wide for their height, and the height (and that of the ground storey) appears to be out of proportion to the rest of the building. The upper part of the ceremonial hall thus looms over the storey below. In addition, the distance of the columns from the rest of the building gives it a squat appearance, as if it had in some sense been compressed by some enormous weight. We might dismiss this unprepossessing structure as a misconceived design, except that it is highly revealing not only about developments in architecture in Czechoslovakia, but also about social and cultural developments in Czechoslovak society.

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CFP: Future Prospects for Art History in Central Europe: Questions, Methods, Topics

CALL FOR PAPERS

Future Prospects for Art History in Central Europe: Questions, Methods, Topics

A workshop organised at Masaryk University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Art History

 on 17-18 June 2020

 What are the most prominent and important issues motivating art historians in east-central Europe at present? Are they methodological? Political? Thematic? Curatorial / museological? Conceptual? Or are they to do with debates relating to a particular period or geographical question?

This workshop is intended to provide a forum for considering answers to that question and for an assessment of the current state of art history in east-central Europe. Its aim, too, is to identify one or more potential projects that might give art historical practice in east-central Europe a higher profile and underpin an application for a European Research Council synergy grant (https://erc.europa.eu/funding/synergy-grants).

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