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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 5: Austria


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Adolf Loos or the Superiority of Anglo-Saxon over Austrian Culture

Adolf Loos offered the most individual and original interpretation of British culture and lifestyle around the year 1900. The artist was born in Brno and studied in Dresden and Vienna, but the three years he spent in the United States (1893–6) were instrumental in forming his beliefs and professional life. Loos was fascinated with Anglo-Saxon culture, which he perceived as the most modern in the contemporary world; he believed that Anglo-Saxon solutions (particularly the British) were the only ones worth spreading in the hugely backward country that he thought Austria to be.1 He saw Anglo-Saxon values as the desired role models of development for a country aspiring to a leading position in Europe and beyond, and yet in terms of civilization far from West European cultural centres. Das Andere, a periodical Loos began publishing in the year 1903, had an eloquent subtitle: “the periodical introducing Western culture to Austria”.2

Upon his return from the United States, Loos began writing for the Neue Freie Presse, published by Viennese liberal intellectuals and members ← 189 | 190 → of the middle class, mostly Jewish in origin. Both groups supported the new economic policy designed by Ernest von Körber and his government based on laissez-faire ideals and directed against the framework of a society following ancien régime traditions.3 No wonder that it was not difficult for Loos to...

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