Our artwork of the month – the first instalment in this new series – is not from the interwar period: it was created in 2008-2009. It has been chosen as an introductory piece because it represents an important aspect of our research in a thought-provoking way. Our project considers Central Europe after 1918 as a shared cultural space, but in doing so it has to deal with the political reality: the newly minted nation states of the region and the new borders drawn between them. These borders – either their enforcement, or, as in the case of Hungary, their fervent contestation – were central to political discourse in all of these countries. The concept of the nation state relies on the idea that the ethnic, cultural and administrative borders of a nation should correspond with each other; this is, however, rarely the case in reality. The new states of Central Europe were not homogeneous either ethnically or culturally. In the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, different ethnic groups had not only lived side by side, but also intermingled. After 1918 the population of the region underwent a radical mental shift from imperial multi-nationalism towards ethnic nationalism. Yet, multi-ethnicity was still present, and cultural transfer happened between ethnicities and across borders. What does this curious map tell us about all this? Let’s take a look.
Stormy Landscape, a painting by the interwar Hungarian artist Károly Kotász (1872-1941) is now on display at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Kotász may not be a household name today, but in the 1920s and 1930s his paintings were exhibited with great success in galleries throughout Europe, and many of them found their way into famous public and private collections. The story behind the rise and decline of his fame has been the subject of an article written by Nóra Veszprémi, a member of the CRAACE team. Entitled Gambling on Genius, the article was published in Midlands Art Papers, a collaborative journal of the University of Birmingham and 11 partner museums.