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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 III: The Arts and Crafts Movement


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The Arts and Crafts Movement

In the nineteenth century, the term “progress” was used self-consciously to describe present history. “Progress” was perceived as practically tantamount to “improvement,” which is why it was usually spoken of in the positive sense. This nineteenth-century perception of progress developed as a result of late eighteenth-century economic changes, primarily the Industrial Revolution.1 Nonetheless, the concept of progress began to expand as a description of the world in general, cultural phenomena included. The term “progressive” was no longer applied to strictly new machinery or new organizational systems, but moved into the private, customary, and artistic realms. Some trends in art, conscious in their use of modern scientific achievements and technology – such as French Impressionism – were interpreted as par excellence progressive, and thus valuable. Similar categories were applied in the assessment of any new artistic concepts, even if they carried no fundamentally innovative message. The process of mythologizing “progress” provoked a violent reaction against it, specifically towards the end of the century. Its results can be seen, for instance, in appreciation of artistic values of the works created beyond the official Salons and Academies of Fine Art and in the search for new primitivism, which meant also a rediscovery of folk art, seen also as foundation of the new national styles. ← 147 | 148 →

In Central European countries, where “backwardness” had become one of the most apparent features of the social and cultural landscape, “progress” was particularly...

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