The National Style: Culture and Politics
Venue: the National Gallery in Prague, Veletržní Palace: Mezzanine Respirium, Mezzanine Gallery
March 8, 2013 - June 2, 2013, opening March 7, 2013
Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design team:
Author: Vendula Hnídková
Graphics: Matěj Činčera, Jan Kloss
Producers: Jana Vinšová, Veronika Rollová
National Gallery in Prague team:
Curator: Rea Michalová
Financial Officer: Tereza Pouchová
Producer: Ivana Nováková
The National Style - Culture and Politics is an exhibition that analyzes a specific part of Czechoslovak visual culture in 1918-1925 from the historical, political and national perspectives.
The milestone year of 1918 dramatically changed the political map of Europe while profoundly affecting stylistic expression in the successor states of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The struggle for Czech emancipation ended successfully with the founding of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, and the search for a new national identity began. Although the character of the new republic was determined by the differently developed histories, religions and nationalities of the Czech and Slovak peoples, society called for a national expression to fit the definition of a "Czechoslovak nation".
The driving force to meet this call emerged from a circle of pre-war cubists who re-assessed their artistic repertoire after World War I. Some took on major posts in the state administration, at art schools and in cultural institutions where they could have a positive impact on the development of Czechoslovak culture. As influential members of artistic and architecture associations, the architects Pavel Janák and Josef Gočár, appointed professors at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design and the Academy of Fine Arts, began themselves to exert an impact. Their social status enabled them to play a significant role in the shaping of a Czech or Czechoslovak national style. Their cultural direction soon identified with the public's expectations and they created one of the forms of official state representation in the first years of Czechoslovakia's existence.
The idea of a national style, pioneered by Janák and Gočár, was based on the idea of artistic expression determined by the local climate, so it found inspiration in the ornamentation of Slovak folk art. Iconic structures such as the Bank of the Czechoslovak Legions, the Riunione Adriatica Palace and a crematorium in Pardubice as well as a number of middle-class single-family homes were executed in lavish and highly decorative forms. Similar ornamentation was soon employed in other spheres of state representation such as banknotes, the Czechoslovak pavilions at international exhibitions and National Theatre set designs.
Nevertheless, the national style soon came face to face with the international avant-garde, whose practitioners systematically attacked the decorative repertoire. Gradually, the pioneers of the national style, too, began to abandon their original means of expression. The installation of the Czechoslovak Pavilion at the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in Paris in 1925 was the last major occasion on which the national style was employed.