The Time of the Art Noveau


This collection of essays wants to complement the known facts about the Czech Art Noveau both with its illustrations in the lesser-known details and objects and with the search for Art Noveau in areas and domains not primarily typical for the study of this period. The symposium called The Time of Art Nouveau, which took place in May 2006, gave the basis for a part of the essays in this volume.

The Pavel PANOCH´s essay called "Dionýsův templ" a secesní nálady v Pardubicích po roce 1900 ("The Temple of Dionysius" and Art Noveau Mood in Pardubice after the Year 1900) traces the uneasy way to the establishment of the theatre building in Pardubice in 1909. Author's detailed approach to the "physical" appearance and the reflexion of the building opens the first part dedicated to architecture and sculpture. The following study by Zbyněk ČERNÝ comprises an entire town by analogy - it watches the Čas secese v městě Chebu (The Time of Art Noveau in the City of Cheb). Among other facts, the study reminds of the fact that the international universalism of Art Noveau was replaced by an inclination to the "national spirit of Cheb". Turning down the derived influences entailed a certain inner paradox; it was the very Art Noveau what discovered the traditional ornaments. In spite of that, the local "artists" kept sticking to a strict realism, rather than to the Art Noveau stylisation. The article by Jana CERMANOVÁ "Aby vkus umělecký se budil i pěstoval a tím šířil se zájem pro věci krásné… ." Počátky českého uměleckého výstavnictví a prezentace sochařských objektů na příkladu Galerie plastik v Hořicích v Podkrkonoší ("In Order to Raise and Cultivate the Artistic Taste and to Further the Interest in Things Beautiful …" The Origins of the Czech Artistic Exhibitions and Presentations of Sculptural Objects as Exemplified by the Gallery of Sculptures in Hořice v Podkrkonoší) represents the circumstances of the establishment of the Gallery of Sculptures in Hořice, utterly unique institution in the Czech lands of the first decade of the 20th century. Its uniqueness was in the fact that the institution allowed the public to visit their sculpture collections arranged in a modern way. The local conditions are also very important for the author; she emphasizes the local quarrying and the processing of sandstone in the region of Hořicko, which gave a start to another thing which was second to none in the whole Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the stonemasonry and sculpture school.

The two following texts let us have a look into the "backstage" of the Art Noveau painting. The contribution of Tomáš SEKYRKA Čas secese ve světle nově objevených časopisů studentů pražské AVU z přelomu 19. a 20. století (The Time of Art Noveau in the Light of Newly Discovered Journals of the Students of the Academy of Fine Arts (AVU) in Prague at the Turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries) represents an unknown collection of journals Paleta (Pallette) and Špachtle (Spatula), originating in Munich and Prague between 1885 and 1905. Although the journals were "published" in a single copy, they are documents of a primary value for the understanding of the shaping of the form of the modern Czech fine-art life. In the essay called Historik mezi umělci (Přátelství Josefa Šusty s Benešem Knüpferem a Janem Kotěrou) - A Historian among Artists (The Friendship of Josef Šusta with Beneš Knüpfer and Jan Kotěra), Josef BLÜML talks about the relationship of historian Josef Šusta to Beneš Knüpfer, painter of the sea, and architect Jan Kotěra. He describes mainly their meeting and life in Rome, affected by projection of Knüpfer´s and Kotěra´s artistic activities in the context of the art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The historian and the two artists both represented the advanced Czech intelligence and culture on the European stage, and they were bringing home new impulses of the European art.

The second part is represented by three articles about the applied art of Art Noveau. Petr NOVÝ in the contribution called Motýli všech barev. České dekorativní a luxusní sklo na přelomu 19. a 20. století (1889-1915) - (Butterflies of All Colours. The Czech Decorative and Luxury Glass at the Turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries) gives an answer to the question concerning the taste of the customers in the given period, their perception of the terms "modern" and "luxurious". He also traces the success of the Czech glass on the world and local markets. When necessary in terms of sales, the glass patterned in the Art Noveau style then became an integral but not dominating part of the offer of a crushing majority of those Czech glass works and refineries which presented themselves at the contemporary exhibitions and fair trades. The same road was taken by the Czech glassmaking schools, professional designers and artists. Juraj ZAJONC in his study called Návrhy paličkovaných krajek Vojtecha Angyala (Designs of the Braided Lace of Vojtech Angyal) studies the Slovakian braided lace and thus opposes the views claiming that there were no conditions for the development of Art Noveau. On the basis of an analysis and comparison of the designs of braided laces by Vojtech Angyal, Zajonc proves that the specific braided lace originating from the territory of Slovakia at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries belongs unambiguously to the European Art Noveau textile production. The study of Vojtech Angyal´s designs shows that the braided lace can't be seen only as a phenomenon of the traditional popular culture but its development and manifestations must be understood in the broadest context. The second Slovakian contribution, an article by Olga DANGLOVÁ called Odlesk secesního cítění v krajinomalbě venkovských samouků (The Reflection of Art Noveau Feelings in the Landscape Painting of the Rural Autodidacts), examines the decoration of the entrance parts of houses in Záhorí, a region in Western Slovakia. The landscape paintings of the 1960s and 1970s represented a cultural clash of two forms of aesthetics: concurring the local tradition of decoration of the outer and inner walls of the house with ornamental painting and an adaptation of the aesthetic standards corresponding primarily with a distant experience in the Art Noveau style picturesque landscape painting of the 19th century. The author points out how the big landscape-painting tradition of the 19th century, during the democratisation of the society, melted into various forms of popular production, which was entered by amateurs as well.

Another significant phenomenon of Art Noveau was represented by a new artistic form of the book graphic art, studied in the following contributions. "Kniha jako umělecké dílo" ("The Book as an Artefact") is called the article written by Robert SAK. The author used a F. X. Šalda's quotation from 1905, by which the critic introduced his article for the Typografie journal. The journal was taken over by Karel Dyrynk (1876-1949), a typesetter by trade, an interpreter from several languages, the author of several professional publications, and predominantly one of the promoters of the modern Czech book printing. The Šalda´s article, bespoken by Dyrynk, became an impulse to the beginning of the beautiful book movement - i.e. a book would be an artefact also by its appearance. This article is followed by Bedřich KOCMAN´s text Vojtěch Preissig - umělec a manažer (Vojtěch Preissig - an Artist and a Manager), noticing another significant personality connected to the origin of the graphic art. In 1905, V. Preissig (1873-1944) opened his graphic studio in Praha-Vinohrady. Its production went far over the contemporary Czech graphic standard. The author mentions Preissig´s credit for the presentation of the Czech book abroad and his social engagement and courage during the Second World War. In the essay Artuš Scheiner a Václav Tille (ilustrátor, vypravěč a pohádka doby secese) - Artuš Scheiner and Václav Tille (Illustrator, Narrator and the Fairy Tale of Art Noveau), Dagmar BLÜMLOVÁ reminds the life and work of nearly forgotten Art Noveau painter A. Scheiner (1863-1938), who gained attention predominantly by his illustration work in the early 20th century. The first book he illustrated was written by Václav Říha, which was a pseudonym of Professor Václav Tille (1867-1937). The author ponders over their further cooperation - together they published twenty books of fairy tales- and looks for the inner alliance in their perception of the world. At the same time she confronts both of them with other Czech illustrators of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The preceding article created a passage to texts dealing with literature. In the article called Mezi imortelami a relikviemi (k charakteru české básnické secese) - Between Immortals and Relics (On the Characteristics of the Czech Art Noveau Poetry), Viktor VIKTORA ponders over the fifteen-year interim of the literary Art Noveau between 1890 and 1905, when the influence of the preceding poetic groups was failing and the representatives of many new artistic tendencies were taking up. The author does not find the literary Art Noveau as distinctive as that of the fine arts, he sees it functioning as a "sort of common factor", as an analogy to the Biedermeier, which gathered impulses of several parallel tendencies. The Dalibor TUREČEK's contribution focuses on one concrete example of the Czech literary Art Noveau: Secesní dekorativnost jako součinitel poetiky Čechových Písní otroka (The Art Noveau Style Decorativeness as a Coefficient of the Poetics of Čech's Slave's Songs). By an analysis of the poetry collection he draws conclusion that although the motives of the fine-art Art Noveau in this Čech´s collection do not represent a structural dominant feature they are distinctive and in some parts they form the main means of poetisation. It is evident that Svatopluk Čech used these motives knowingly with a respect to the taste of the audience. Martina HALAMOVÁ in her contribution Modifikace secese v básnické tvorbě Otokara Březiny (Modification of Art Noveau in the Poetry of Otokar Březina) ponders about Březina´s poems, in which she sees a tendency to the Art Noveau aesthetics. She demonstrates that this tendency is not expressed solely by a transformation of the typical motives of Art Noveau in the fine arts but that it is more the expression of the contemporary latent discourse, co-created by a co-existence of mutually close artistic tendencies: Art Noveau and symbolism, impressionism and vitalism, and also decadence - of which Březina is usually classified as a member. The author argues that Březina´s symbolic verses sound more Art Noveau like than decadence like.

Petr KUBÁT in his study Reflexe secesní erotiky v rané tvorbě a sebeprezentaci Jarmila Krecara z Růžokvětu (A Reflection of Art Noveau Eroticism in the Early Work and Self-Presentation of Jarmil Krecar of Růžokvět) deals with the personality of the late decadence poet Jarmil Krecar of Růžokvět. He reflects the erotic motives in Krecar´s early work, his attitude toward life, expression, stylization in photos and pictures with a respect to Art Noveau. The focus point is represented by understanding the connection between pornography and aesthetics as a vanishing point in the fine arts sphere from the late 19th century to the first decades of the 20th century.

The following texts represent an intersection of the Art Noveau feelings and opinions to other, less explored domains. Jitka RAUCHOVÁ in a study called Česká divadelní scénografie počátku století (The Czech Theater Stage Design of the Beginning of the Century) mentions the key importance of the first fifteen years of the new century that radically influenced the development of the art of stage design. She describes the period of searching, when the directors tried to find the way to the expressive possibilities of the theatre space and to a new way how to interpret the dramatic text. Although the results were none too surprising, the theatre space was explored so profoundly that the base of the tradition of the modern Czech stage design was established. Monika POLÁKOVÁ´s study Nevšední portrét secesní dámy. Vliv hereckého umění Hany Kvapilové (1860-1907) na výtvarný projev (An Unusual Portrait of an Art Noveau Lady. The influence of the Acting Skills of Hana Kvapilová (1860-1907) on the Fine-Art Expression) focuses on the theatre as well. It presents a significant Czech actress from several points of view: as a woman in privacy and in the society, as a hardworking artist, devoted to the theatre, and as a woman of letters. Through all her manifestations and details of the Kvapilová´s everyday life the author looks into the Art Noveau atmosphere in Prague at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. From an Art Noveau lady we get on to a woman of Art Noveau. Milena LENDEROVÁ in her study Přelom století: ženy, jejich lékařky, deníky a vlastní těla (The Turn of the Century: Women, Their Woman-Doctors, Diaries and Their Own Bodies) clarifies the role of Art Noveau in the transformation of its social reflection. Exactly at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the body, the history of which is just the core of the history of the material culture, ceased to be denied and deformed in the name of morality, ceased to be a singular determination, defining the nature of a woman. This disproved definitively the centuries-lasting medical, philosophic and juridical construct of a woman as a weak, unreasonable, irresponsible and constantly ill being, a stereotype of the "social" body of a woman.

By an analysis of a particular instance, Jana NOVÁ in her article Návštěva císaře Františka Josefa I. v Jablonci nad Nisou 24. června 1906 (The Visit of Franz Joseph I to Jablonec nad Nisou on 24th June 1906) illustrates the effort of the emperor to solve the nationality controversy in the Czech lands. Franz Joseph I strove for balancing the affection to both nations, which was, apart from other things, reflected in the programme of the formal visits. His visit to Jablonec nad Nisou, a town where the German nationality prevailed, can be seen as an interesting and of that time typical conglomerate of polarities, a compound of modern and traditional elements. The visual form of the welcoming ceremony is a very interesting evidence of Art Noveau.

Martin FRANCE´s contribution answers the question posed by the author in its very name: Lze v Čechách hovořit o secesní gastronomii? (Is it Possible to Talk about the Art Noveau Gastronomy in Bohemia?) As a starting point of the sought answer, the understanding of Art Noveau given by Petr Wittlich is used. According to the Art Noveau forming tendencies set by Wittlich, the author finds connections in the gastronomy of the period. At the end of his effort, he is defining the gastronomic Art Noveau with many features similar to the ideas of the so called "Moderna", in particular in the endeavour to overcome the Czech provinciality and inward-looking. In case of gastronomy, the conflict with eclecticism, accentuated in Art Noveau by Wittlich, can be put into context with the trend of getting rid of the anachronism of the old and overcomplicated haute cuisine of the aristocratic type, which began in the periods of the Empire style and romanticism.

The article by Zuzana GILAROVÁ called Návrat secese v čase obrody. Výstava česká secese - umění 1900. Hluboká nad Vltavou - Brno 1966/67 (The Return of Art Noveau at the Time of Resurgence. Czech Art Noveau Exhibition - Art 1900. Hluboká nad Vltavou - Brno 1966/67) summarises the perception of Art Noveau during the 20th century. While at the time of its birth and zenith Art Noveau was welcomed enthusiastically and appreciated, a few years later it became a synonym of being kitschy and petit-bourgeois. As late as after the World War II, when a more systematic research into and unbiased evaluation of Art Noveau as an organic part of the genesis of the modern art was carried out. In the more liberal atmosphere of Czechoslovakia in the 1960s, when also the generation of new young historians of art was growing, there appear more distinctive outlines of the new view and evaluation of Art Noveau. For the final change of prism, through which Art Noveau was viewed not only by professionals but also by the public, the exhibition Česká secese - umění 1900 (Czech Art Noveau - Art 1900) was fundamentally significant. Apart from other things, the presented paper tries to answer the question why it was so. Nevertheless, there is no doubt about the fact that the exhibition became a catalyst of the awakening interest in Art Noveau in Czechoslovakia.

The collection is concluded by a synoptic study Lotyšská secese (secese a lotyšská společnost) - The Latvian Art Noveau (Art Noveau and the Latvian Society) by Ivan MALÝ. By its reference to the analogy of the development and particular manifestations of the art of the fin de siecle in a comparable "small" nation of similar history - Latvia, it enables a confrontation with the preceding contributions. The author deduces the very heritage of the Latvian Art Noveau from the historically justified "double society" in Riga and on the territory of the future Latvian republic. Although Art Noveau is understood as an undivided art or tendency, the Latvian Art Noveau needs to be divided into the Riga's (urban) architecture and then into other artistic or craft manifestations. Art Noveau in Riga (Riga is considered as an Art Noveau pearl of the Northern Europe) was a monumental manifestation of the rich German aristocracy and did not have anything in common with the Latvian process of national emancipation. The manifestations of artists of the Latvian nationality, who were creating and co-creating the modern Latvian tradition of the fine arts at the time of Art Noveau, form its second line.