‘Whence come these terrible images…’ How 19th Century Bohemia Began to Show an Interest in Folk Art and Popular Imagery
One outcome of the changes taking place in European art in the late eighteenth century – a period generally described as the onset of Modernity – was a major transformation in the approach to tradition and its acceptance. Traditional artistic considerations extended in a new direction: the consideration of alternatives that, thanks to their otherness and visual freshness, offered a variety of ‘low’ styles. This coming together enabled the sphere of high art to expand into new ways of expression, including inspiration from artistic motifs linked with the countryside and the gradually constructed idea of popular art. This article will, in the course of some commentaries, deal with reflections of this situation in the visual arts in Bohemia. It will aim to set them in the European context and to show the relationships in which the idea of ‘low’ and ‘folk’ was shaped in thinking about the visual arts in the early nineteenth century. Using the examples of Josef Mánes, Josef Führich and Hippolyt Soběslav Pinkas, it will describe how vernacular (folk) art in Bohemia began to be reflected in fine art, and whether and how high art addressed artistic procedures derived from this field as early as the nineteenth century.