Lace is not typically viewed as high art. It is more of a decorative or utility object found under vases and on windowsills or as an ornament on garments. Historically speaking, it was often seen as a luxury product due to its hand-made origin that involved acquired skill. As a decorative object, its place in modern culture is tentative, however. Lace has been commonly linked to handicrafts, home industries and to folk art. At the beginning of the twentieth century, however, new themes and approaches to lace began to be explored and Emilie Paličková Milde (1892–1973) is one of the key examples of a designer who experimented with lace as a form of artistic expression.
Our conference Exhibitions, New Nations and the Human Factor, 1873–1939 will take place at
the Institut national d’histoire de l’art in Paris
on 4–5 April 2022.
The conference on world’s fairs and international exhibitions looks beyond their official, state-sponsored aims and considers the role of individuals and groups in them. Who were the people who organised them, designed them, worked in them and visited them? It places agency at the heart of the discussion. To what extent did those involved adhere to or challenge the ostensible purpose of these events?
If we organised a poll in Hungary to find the best-known twentieth-century Hungarian woman artist, Noémi Ferenczy (1890–1957) would probably be the strongest contender. She is arguably also the best-known applied artist; one of the few positioned in the mainstream canon as autonomous artistic personalities. Ferenczy was, indeed, an outstanding practitioner of her craft. Credited with introducing the art of gobelins to Hungary, she employed the technique to create a unique, self-contained pictorial world. Her artistic creativity has been highlighted by numerous studies and exhibitions, most recently by the retrospective organised at the Ferenczy Museum Centre in Szentendre and the accompanying extensive, bilingual catalogue-monograph authored by Emőke Bodonyi. This article will focus on how Ferenczy made her way in the turbulent political conditions of early- and mid-twentieth century Hungary. She was a woman, daughter of a well-known artist, a committed Communist, a strong personality who wished to work alone and make a living from her craft. Her career and reputation were shaped – sometimes helped, sometimes hindered – by these aspects, as well as by the radical political and cultural shifts that marked Hungary’s twentieth-century history.
The Black Boy was the most commercially successful work of the Czech ceramicist Helena Johnová (1884–1962) with nearly 900 sold items of various colour versions. The black figure with exaggerated facial features, however, may well raise eyebrows today, but also a number of questions. These are worth exploring in connection with interwar art and design in Central Europe, as well as with current political issues. The most obvious ones relate to ethnic and gender stereotypes, which still resonate today thanks to the #BlackLivesMatter and #metoo movements. Many people, even academic scholars, argue that the current Czech and, by extension, Central European society has never had problems with racism or sexism, and that therefore issues highlighted by these movements are irrelevant in this geographical and political context. If we look at Johnová’s work more closely, we can, however, point to deep-rooted beliefs that shape today’s understanding of race and racial equality; we can question the assumption that because there were no colonies, there were no stereotypical views of race.