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17 May 2019Cultural Revolution in the Heart of Europe - Prague, Ljubljana and Budapest
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Cultural Revolution in the Heart of Europe - Prague, Ljubljana and Budapest Gavin Plumley Friday 17 May 2019

Central European Nationalism in Art and Culture

During the 19th century, when many Central European countries were still under the control of the Habsburgs in Vienna, art and culture were often the only ways in which the Empire’s constituent crownlands could express national identity. One hundred years after the end of Habsburg dominance in Central Europe, this study day looks at three case studies, the Czech lands, Slovenia and Hungary, through the prism of their capital cities.

The Magic of Prague

Throughout Habsburg history, Prague was beloved of kings and princes. During the 19th century, however, the Czechs sought to reclaim the city for their own. Looking back at ancient mythology, they imagined their future by means of art, literature and music. From Romanticism to cubism, the Czechs re-conceived various artistic movements in specifically patriotic ways. Looking at painter and decorative artist Alfons Mucha, artist Karel Svoboda and composers Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák, the opening session of this study day shows how the Czechs created a capital fit for a new independent nation. 

Ljubljana and Slovene Singularity

Situated between the Austrian Alps and the Balkans, Slovenia was subject to opposing political forces during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Crucially, however, many of its cultural figures sought to express an individual brand of nationalism. Artists such as Rihard Jakopič and Ivan Grohar formulated a local type of impressionism, celebrating the Slovene landscape, while architects Jože Plečnik and Ivan Vurnik reimagined the country’s capital, Ljubljana, creating one of the most unified urban design projects in Central Europe. This talk looks at their efforts within the context of the history of Slovenia.

A Hungarian Metropolis

Budapest was formed in 1873 by the unification of Buda and Pest, situated on either side of the River Danube. The new capital was the focus of resurgent Hungarian nationalism, which found expression through lavish new buildings, the continent’s first underground railway system and myriad paintings featuring specifically Hungarian subjects and locales. Meanwhile, in the countryside, composers Bartók and Kodály began collecting the music of their compatriots. Placing these endeavours in a historical framework, the final lecture of this study day explores how Hungarians came to understand their national identity by cultural means. 

© Gavin Plumley, 2018

For more information on Gavin Plumley see his website

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