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Simona Binko – Marie Fiřtová

So that our young industry will not perish!’ Josef Binko and his Support for the Prague Art Workshops during the First World War

The main purpose of the article is to present an entirely unknown chapter in the history of the Prague Art Workshops (Pražské umělecké dílny), which was founded in 1912 by the architects Josef Gočár and Pavel Janák with the financial support of Odolen Grégr. In the first years of its existence the firm was a great success, attracting a wide range of customers, and with its efforts to encourage a high-quality furniture and interior design culture it could even bear comparison with its predecessors abroad, such as the Deutscher Werkbund or Wiener Werkstätte. The Prague Art Workshops soon became a synonym for Cubist furniture, in which it had no rival in European production. The situation changed sharply, however, with the First World War, when the art industry went into gradual decline. The leading light of the Prague Art Workshops, Josef Gočár, was called up to the South Tyrol as a military engineer, but for the period of his absence he entrusted his brother-inlaw and one of his first clients (in the years 1907–1909 he built the Red Villa in Krucemburk for him), the industrialist and amateur photographer Josef Binko, with the administration of the Prague Art Workshops. Binko led them through the difficult war years. The article is based on a detailed study of hitherto inaccessible archive materials from private family collections, and especially the correspondence between Josef Gočár and Josef Binko from the years 1916-1918, supplemented by correspondence between Josef Binko and workers of the Prague Art Workshops (František Zavadil, Petr Kropáček). It draws attention to Binko’s unselfish help, business spirit and outstanding ability to find effective solutions even in a time of difficulty and wartime hardship. Thus for example during the war the Prague Art Workshops produced emergency wooden footwear, and worked for one of the most important entrepreneurs, patrons and collectors of his time, Jindřich Waldes.

Simona Binko:

Marie Fiřtová:

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