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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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PART I: Britain and Central Europe


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Britain and Central Europe

The question of the reception of British art and design in Central Europe between 1890 and 1918 has yet to be addressed in a monograph in English.1 Art-historical analysis of the turn of the twentieth century has typically focused on comparing regional artistic centres with Paris, underlining the dominant role of French art and tracing its influences. The revision of this research perspective, beginning in the 1970s, has gained a new dimension thanks to the Central European studies published since the 1990s.2 The rediscovery of Central Europe has made it possible to notice the extraordinary dynamics of this region’s artistic life, thus relativizing the significance of Paris in the context of the entire continent and appreciating other cities such as Vienna. However, what was of much greater importance was the revision of the entire model of Western European art historiography, which applies the categories of “centre” vs “province” and the axiology that such categorization entails. From the vantage point of Central European studies, it is explicit that the study of art and design at the fin de siècle should ← 1 | 2 → be seen as a dynamic and multilateral project which encompasses Paris as well as regional centres, and where equal importance is assigned to both the normative definition of style produced in the “centre” and to its “provincial” interpretation questioning the norms.3

Bringing out the British context is, I believe, of significance here. First...

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