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Aleš Filip

The Seductive English Infl uences: The Pre-Raphaelite Inspiration in Czech Painters

In the conjunction of Neo-Romanticism, New Idealism and (pre)Symbolism, the works of Pre-Raphaelite aestheticism, which had already been established in the second half of the 1850s in England, gained currency in the 1890s. Until then little known in Central Europe, the works of English artists aroused (especially in the period of 1894–1903) a great response among the audiences of exhibitions of traditional and innovative art associations. They were reflected by critics and inspired local visual artists and writers – from direct quotations to loose transformations. The works of the Pre-Raphaelites had a great response, but they also raised concerns about the return of an outdated literariness, developmental regression, etc. This aspect is expressed in the title of the present article, Seductive English Influences, taken from the Prague critic Karel Matěj Čapek. It is paradoxical that the two Czech painters who were most influenced by Pre-Raphaelite aestheticism, Jan Preisler and Max Švabinský, adopted the arguments of contemporary critical discourse and simultaneously expressed both admiration for and disagreement with their patterns. From the point of view of methodology, the key concept is reception – in this article it is examined on several different, correlated levels: 1) the possibility of understanding the work of the English artists under study, especially Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones, for whom, in the absence of originals, photographic reproductions of their works, presented even at exhibitions, played an important part; 2) the Central European ‘mission’ of Walter Crane, who also represented the Arts and Crafts movement; 3) the reflection of art criticism and the response in the work of literati; 4) Pre-Raphaelite inspirations in the work of Czech painters working both in Prague (Preisler, Švabinský) and Vienna (Eduard Veith). The phenomenon has not been investigated in this way before and some of the works studied have not been associated with it yet; the aim of the article is to understand the reception of Pre-Raphaelitism in parts of Central Europe as comprehensively as possible.

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DOI: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.54759/ART-2023-0404

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