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Views of Albion

The Reception of British Art and Design in Central Europe, 1890–1918


Andrzej Szczerski

Views of Albion is the first comprehensive study of the reception of British art and design in Central Europe at the turn of the twentieth century. The author proposes a new map of European Art Nouveau, where direct contacts between peripheral cultures were more significant than the influence of Paris. These new patterns of artistic exchange, often without historic precedence, gave art during this period its unique character and dynamism.
Beginning with an analysis of the concept of Central Europe, the book examines knowledge about British art and design in the region. In subsequent chapters the author looks at the reception of the Pre-Raphaelites in painting and graphic arts as well as analysing diverse responses to the Arts and Crafts Movement in Germany, Austria, Poland, Bohemia, Slovakia, Hungary and Southern Slavic countries. The epilogue reveals the British interest in Central Europe, echoed in the designs Walter Crane, Charles Robert Ashbee and publications of The Studio.
The book questions the insularity of British culture and offers new insights into art and design of Central Europe at the fin de siècle. It presents the region as a vital part of the international Art Nouveau, but also shows its specific features, visible in the works of artists such as Alfons Mucha, Gustav Klimt and Stanisław Wyspiański.
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CHAPTER 4: Germany


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Reference to the British solutions as a model of industrial and applied arts reforms in Central Europe around the year 1900 was nothing new, with several decades of history already behind it. Notably, relations between Central Europe and Britain did not always mirror the provinces–centre formula: occasionally, it was Britain that was following reforms implemented in the continent.

The main environment on the continent in which the modern perceptions of industrial and applied arts developed was Germany. In the reform process, the Germans managed to blend British solutions with their own local traditions, which gives grounds for rejecting a unilateralist perception of Great Britain as the sole source of the revival of the industrial and applied arts in the nineteenth century. In Central Europe, Germany acted primarily as an intermediary and source of information on British art phenomena, the Germans themselves being more resistant to British influence than other Central European communities.

German Industrial and Applied Art Reform in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century

As described by Stefan Muthesius, the first stage of changes in Germany involved reforms in the Prussian art societies in 1815 – a part of overall state reforms after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. This is when associations supporting the industrial arts began their work, formed both as a replica of eighteenth-century French solutions (the Academy and polytechnic ← 151 | 152 → schools) and British thought (the Society for...

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