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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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British art and design played a significant role in shaping Central European culture at the turn of the twentieth century. However, its inclusion in the cultural landscape of the period did not stem from the literal presence of British works in Central Europe. Exhibitions of painting, sculpture, or design from Great Britain, although they did happen, were not commonplace. Significantly, in 1894, the Viennese audiences saw reproductions of paintings by Edward Burne-Jones shown at the Künstlerhaus in 1894, not the original works. In Central Europe, awareness of the Pre-Raphaelites grew by way of a number of intermediary factors, the most significant of which was their reception in Paris and later in Germany. Hence, the works of British artists were presented as a part of European Symbolism, although art critics also pointed out their specific, national character. Appreciation of the Arts and Crafts Movement came together with the revival of applied art and the reform of the art industry, but also was seen as inspiration to search for a national style.

From a Central European perspective, the discovery of British art and design contributed to the rewriting of the artistic map of Europe. At the turn of the century new cultural centres emerged which until then had been situated on the margins of European culture. The fringes – whether Barcelona, Glasgow, Oslo, Riga, Prague, or Budapest – began to play a significant role in the development of art, design, and architecture. In Central Europe the emergence of new...

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