Nicholas Sawicki, Frank Hook Assistant Professor and Assistant Professor of Art History Department of Art, Architecture and Design, Lehigh University
Avant-Garde Fissures in the Modern Czech Art Press:
Traces in the Printed and the Digital
This presentation examines the radicalization of modern art periodicals in the years before World War I. Focusing on the prominent Czech magazines Volné směry (Free Directions) (1896-1949) and Umělecký měsíčník (Art Monthly) (1911-1914), it considers key moments in the history of the two periodicals, when they began to transcend their own stated role as publications of the specialized art press, and to manifest avant-garde qualities more typically associated with periodicals of the interwar avant-garde. Both magazines were initially designed to appeal to the broadest possible constituency of the art-going public, but successively sharpened their artistic and editorial positions in the early 1910s. They radicalized their content and reoriented to a more circumscribed readership, and the editorial inclusiveness and compromise needed to sustain their operation and popularity as leading art magazines gave way to conflict and division. Tracing these instances of avant-garde fissure, the presentation also looks closely at how our contemporary understanding of episodes such as these is mediated by the multiple forms of access that we have today to the periodical as an object of study: as printed original; as transcribed, translated, and anthologized text; and increasingly as digital facsimile, available in a growing number of online repositories of digitized periodicals. Volné směry and Umělecký měsíčník have recently been added to the digital collection of the Princeton University Library’s Blue Mountain Project.