What do we care about a city in Europe a hundred years ago? Why should we take note of its cultural life, its music, poetry, painting and decorative arts? Well, no reason, really, unless we actually want to know what we’re talking about when we use the word “bohemian.”
Prague in 1900 was undergoing a transformation from being the capital of the ancient nation of Bohemia to being a city on the cutting edge of European culture. Less recognized than the cultural powerhouse of Vienna, it was in its own right a hotbed of artistic expression that would become part of the foundation for many of the 20th century’s great art movements, from art nouveau to German expressionism and more.
Prague 1900, in what might be called the ultimate Bohemian wrap-up, collects 10 essays about the arts and culture of the time, from posters to poetry, from music to painting. Accompanying these are sumptuous illustrations, many reproduced in full color, of the great (and lesser) artworks of the time. And to round it off, a brief biography of each artist is included, so you’ll be able to recognize even more names on your next museum trip.
So even if the great museums of Europe (the French Musée d’Orsay and the Czech Republic’s Gallery of the City of Prague, among dozens of others, loaned pieces to this collection) aren’t on your travel agenda this winter, you can still feel as though you’ve taken a cultural journey. Think of it as the completion of the one Prague’s cultural elite set out upon a century ago.
Alisa Gordaneer is MT features editor. E-mail her at email@example.com.