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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 6: Poland


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The reception of British art and design in Poland shows the ambition to merge the ideology of modernity with national rebirth, both in the cultural and political spheres. As was the case with the rest of Central Europe, British art and design were seen by the Poles as a national resource par excellence and they were treated – at the ideological level – as the precursors to Polish “national style”. Such a conviction was concurrent with attempts to modernize art and design themselves, which the reformers believed could serve as the beginning of the revival of national culture as a whole. The nation’s cultural distinctness was, eventually, to lead to political independence. The trend of identifying art with a political manifesto was typical not only of Poles but also of other nations which had no statehood and were subservient to Habsburg or Romanov authority. Such tendencies were most prominent in regions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire where political and cultural autonomy was the strongest, namely in Kingdom of Hungary which enjoyed nearly complete sovereignty, followed by Polish, Czech, and Southern Slavic lands, administered by the Empire. Due to political circumstances, these ambitions could be pursued mainly thanks to private patronage and never attained the status of official cultural policy, with Hungary being the exception. The government in Vienna supported the cultural and political autonomy of different nations only in exchange for their loyalism and as a mean to counterbalance irredentist movements which called...

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