Book Announcement: Modernity, History, and Politics in Czech Art by Marta Filipová

What social and political role did modern art and art criticism play in the Czech lands during the first half of the twentieth century? Marta Filipová’s new book (Routledge 2019) assesses this question with close analysis of five themes (Modernism, The People, Society, Identity, Traditions), which show just how closely the construction of modern Czech art was intertwined with national, social and political interests. By considering Czech art writing and criticism across a timespan leading from the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition of 1895 until the Second World War, the book highlights the central role of Czech national identity in the formulation of Czech modern art and, in turn, the ways in which Czech art and artistic discourse sought to confirm and redevelop national identity.

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Conference report: In the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire?

The first CRAACE conference, ‘In the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire? Art and Architecture in Central Europe’, took place in the Moravian Gallery, Brno, from 12 to 14 September 2019. With three keynote speakers, five sessions and fifteen papers, the event explored the topic of continuities and ruptures in post-Habsburg Central European art history from several angles, sparking many engaging discussions. This brief report below can only highlight a few of the wider topics that emerged in the course of the three days. (The conference programme can be accessed here.)

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Artwork of the Month, July 2019: Family by Gyula Derkovits (1932)

When we look at an artist’s work, we see it through a glass, darkly: whether we like it or not, we are influenced by its previous interpretations. After they die, some artists are turned into icons of artistic, social, or political movements and become entangled with them to such an extent that it profoundly affects the way their works are seen. The Hungarian artist Gyula Derkovits (1894–1934) is an especially complex case. Derkovits was the son of a cabinetmaker and began training in that profession before taking up painting; after finishing three years of primary school, he never gained a formal education. Despite making a name as an artist and finding a number of patrons, he struggled to make a living from his art and had dire money problems by the last years of his life. Furthermore, as a committed left-winger, he was involved with the Communist movement – illegal in the interwar period – and depicted the struggles of the working class in his paintings, while satirising the bourgeoisie. Thanks to all this, Derkovits was easily appropriated by the Communist regime from the 1960s onwards. His pictures were everywhere, and so was his name: among other things, a state-run art gallery, a housing estate in the town of Szombathely, as well as a grant for young artists were named after him.[1]

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CFP: Multiplying Modernity: Vernacular modernisms, nostalgia and the avant-garde

Multiplying Modernity

Vernacular modernisms, nostalgia and the avant-garde

CRAACE workshop, 67 December 2019

East Slovak Gallery, Košice (Slovakia)

In the decades before 1918 there was a vibrant debate over the nature of ‘national art’ in Central Europe. For many this was embodied in folk art and culture. By 1914, this idea was increasingly challenged by avant-garde interests in the metropolis. After the War, however, a return to folk art and regionalism was revisited and gained increasing importance in the decades leading up the Second World War. Within a broad artistic landscape, folk art and culture was used to search for a fundamental essence of human culture, as in the case of the Hungarian painters Lajos Vajda and Dezső Korniss; to create a ‘national style’ with reinterpretations of folk art, as in 1920s Czechoslovakia; and to seek renewal outside a lost imperial capital, like in Austria.

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