‘Gather round!’ On the Art Criticism of Miroslav Tyrš
Miroslav Tyrš (1832–1884) is best-known to the public as one of the founders of the Sokol gymnastic movement, but he was also involved in the history of Czech fine art. He wrote various art historical studies and theoretical essays, organised academic lectures, and shortly before his death, he even became professor of art history at what is today the Charles University in Prague. This article focuses on his art criticism, which has never before been analysed in detail. Between 1872 and 1884, Tyrš wrote dozens of reviews of exhibitions, which he published in various periodicals, mainly in Národní listy. He also became an expert member of the jury that decided on the decoration of the National Theatre and sat on other competition committees for the creation of monuments and statues in public spaces. He perceived his work of a critic and mediator of art as an essential social task and wanted to provide it with a solid scientific basis. Therefore, he used his newly acquired knowledge from various fields to imbue his judgments with ‘exactness’, basing his opinion on his own empirical research. Thanks to archival research and a detailed analysis of all the texts, new information has been discovered in this respect. The study thus focuses firstly on Tyrš’s methodological sources of inspiration (Darwin and the evolution theory, Winckelmann and neo-Classicism, Schopenhauer and Voluntarism, Taine and Positivism, Brücke and the theory of colour, Zimmermann and Herbartism) and subsequently on the practical creation of the texts including interesting stylistic observations.