At the dawn of the 20th century Prague exploded with fervent artistic and intellectual activity, focused a new way of seeing the world—an “art nouveau” that would transform Barcelona, Paris, Vienna, and other major European capitals. During this three-hour walking seminar we’ll look at the development of Art Nouveau and other early Modern movements in Prague and seek to contextualize it within the social and political realities of the time.
Our walk will start at the Prague train station, constructed in 1901. Using its ornate facade as a backdrop, we’ll look at some of the basic ideas behind Art Nouveau as a revolutionary movement against classicism and the aesthetics that emerged. We’ll also look at how modernisation—in this case, symbolized by the advent of trains—fueled the movement.
Our stroll will take us through the heart of Prague’s New Town, Wenceslas Square. Here we will visit many wonderful examples of Art Nouveau, including the beautiful Lucerna bar (once owned by Vaclav Havel’s family) and the elegant Grand Hotel Europa—both fantastic examples of a moment of Czech optimism in the early twentieth century. In addition to an artistic analysis and breaking down of Art Nouveau’s aesthetics, we’ll look at how the movement in Prague represented the transcendence of older ethnic grievances and signaled the region’s readiness to rejoin Europe by participating in European-wide avant-gardes.
As a counterpoint to the Art Nouveau movement, we will also spend a significant amount of time exploring the architecture of Cubism and Rondocubism. Born out of the Cubist movement begun in Paris with Braque’s 1908 exhibition, this unique style spread throughout Europe. Prague remains unique as the only city that contains examples of both Cubist and Rondocubist architecture. Whether it be the House of the Black Madonna, designed by Josef Gočár, or Cubist villas, each example will provide a unique lens from which to compare and contrast the mixture of architectural styles that reflected cultural tastes and attitudes in the Czech Republic during the early 20th century.
We’ll finish up near Old Town, visiting two major monuments of Art Nouveau and the incipient Modernism movement that followed. At Municipal House, we’ll not only consider its significance architecturally but consider it as a landmark of Czech independence, for it was here that T.G. Masaryk would announced the post-WWI creation of the fledgling first Czechoslovak republic.
|Duration: 3 hours|
|Venues: House of the Black Madonna, Municipal House|
Christopher is originally from Massachusetts (USA) and moved to Prague in 1996 to settle there and continue his studies. In the United States his degree in Medieval Studied concentrated on medieval religious art and architecture. He continued in this area at Central European University in Budapest, where Chris earned an M.A. in Medieval Studies. His main area of research is manuscript illumination from the 14th century - the time of Charles IV - specifically from St. George's monastery in Prague Castle. After finishing this degree, Chris has been teaching at both the Charles University, and at the Anglo-American University in Prague. He teaches courses in medieval history, Czech art and architecture, and a course about UNESCO and world heritage in the Czech Republic.
After studying History of Art at Perugia in Italy and at Montpellier and Paris in France, Kateřina Průšová received her PhD from the Institute of Art History in the Philosophical Faculty of Charles
University in Prague in 2008. A lecturer at both Charles and Anglo-American Universities since 2009, she is also an official guide of Prague and of the Prague Jewish Museum since 2011, and trains official guides at the Prague Information Service since 2012. Kateřina teaches courses in Art History, Prague Art and Architecture, Alternative Culture, the Jewish Experience in Central Europe, Jewish History, Holocaust, Central European History, and the Cities in Central Europe: Prague, Cracow, Budapest. She is also a lecturer at the National Gallery in Prague and the Gallery of the City of Prague. In addition, she works as a researcher of looted art.
Lenka studied Hussite Theology and Religious Studies at the Charles University in Prague (Master’s degree), specializing in church history and methods and theories in Religious Studies. The studies focused her attention on relations between religion and culture. Her academic interests include Czech church history, European reformation projects including Catholic Reformation and, from a more recent period, underground church structures during the communist period and their relation to Czech underground culture. Lenka is also interested in contemporary Christianity and spirituality. She is currently working on her PhD on the religious landscape of English speaking Caribbean, namely the Rastafari movement of Jamaica, and lecturing on African diaspora religions at the Charles University.
Prague native Hana studied Historical Sciences at Charles University, where she focused her thesis on the lives of children who were deported to Terezin concentration camp during the Second World War. An expert in both medieval and 20th century Czech history, Hana has vast experience leading tours, having worked in the profession for over 25 years.
For the past 10 year, Riccardo has been studying and working in Ireland, England and Portugal in the field of engineering and conservation. He graduated in 2007 from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University College Cork, Ireland. In 2008 he gained his MSc in Building and Urban Design in Development at the Development Planning Unit of University College London with the thesis ‘Urban Discourses: the Language of Public Space’. In July 2010 he obtained his advanced Masters degree in ‘Structural Analysis of Monuments and Historical Constructions’. Since 2011 he has lived in Prague. His current research focuses on knowledge-based assessment of historic buildings, and particularly on the diagnosis of masonry failure mechanisms and related intervention strategies. As a heritage enthusiast and scholar he enjoys discovering Prague´s fascinating urban fabric, making connections with the complex evolution of the socio-economic processes that take place as the city’s built environment transforms.
Marek Červený studied at the Institute of Art History at the Charles University in Prague, earning Masters degree in 2011. His thesis focused on the influence of the political system of the interwar Czechoslovak Republic on the iconography of official art commissions. His field of interest covers modern art, public monuments, funeral sculpture, sculptural decoration of architecture and the relations between politics and art. He believes that one need not visit museums to enjoy art, rather it is enough to look around while walking on the streets. This approach helps him understand Prague and the connection between its history, society, its institutions and the people who built it. Marek also enjoys working with archival records, using these to fill empty gaps in the story of Czech art.