In Morbid Colours
Art and the Idea of Decadence in the Bohemian Lands 1880 - 1914
From the artistic point of view, the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries was an unusually rich age. Dozens of groups, trends and opinions emerged; there was constant debate about art and the meaning and place of the work of art in the mosaic of the world and in our lives. Form however was not the only issue in this brew of opinions; equally significant was the content and meaning of a work of art. Here too a spectrum of opinions stretched from pole to pole - one of which was Decadence.
The exhibition In Morbid Colours presents Decadence in Czech art from 1880 to 1914. The choice of works rests on a thesis about the interpenetration of Naturalism and Symbolism in which - through the subjective fusion of their extremes regarding content and through the merging of the apparent antitheses of the sickness of the body and the exaltation of the soul - Decadence originated. The independent artistic view required by the Decadent standpoint enforced original outer expression. The formal expression of an artistic work was thus subordinated to subjective requirements, which is why the Decadent form was so diverse and why it exceeded - sometimes quite deliberately - the directives of the canon of the time. It opened itself to a wide variety of experimentation and consciously took inspiration from the past. It was and is difficult to classify a distinctive Decadent work, not only into the mainstream currents, but sometimes into the work of the artists themselves.
The inclusion of some artists in the selection may at first sight seem surprising, because their work does not seem to have anything in common with Decadence; but seeing them side by side convinces one otherwise. Hanging in the same space are paintings by Gabriel Max and Bohumil Kubišta, František Kobliha and Emil Filla, Maxmilián Pirner and Josef Váchal - works widely separated from the point of view of form and even time. Alongside early work of František Kaván and Jaroslav Panuška influenced by Decadence, certain specific motifs can be found in pastels by Alfons Mucha from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Reference to German Decadent art of the time is made through the work of Bohemian Germans - August Brömse, Alfred Kubin and Richard Teschner. The selection naturally includes sculpture, with the striking representation of early work by František Bílek, and especially Quido Kocian and Jan Štursa. The influence of Decadence was fundamental to the work of several members of what was known as the second Symbolist generation, especially František Kobliha, Jan Konůpek and Josef Váchal. Appearing in the exhibition are even some almost forgotten artists such as Josef Mandl and Emil Holárek.
In the Exhibition Halls of the Municipal House, Prague 1 until 18 February 2007- GAL -
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