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19. - 20. století

Art Nouveau and Modernism

Reaction against the "deceiving" historicism
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Just before the end of the 19th century, European architecture changed and influenced fundamentally everything that followed. Young architects refused historicist architecture as false and redundant. According to their opinion, the modern world needed modern means of expression in art and architecture, and this could not definitely be the "blind" replication of styles from the past. From different European centres emerged movements which under various names ( Art Nouveau, Secession, or Modernism) announced the rapid dissolution of the rigid academic past and brought in a new artistic language, the specific appearance of which could surprisingly vary from country to country.
The first Art Nouveau structure in Prague is the Central Hotel at Hybernská Street, which was built in 1898 by Viennese architect Friedrich Ohmann. After 1900, the Art Nouveau style became very popular with architects designing

apartment buildings or public structures and came to mirror various European tendencies. Upper middle classes favoured a strange synthesis of Parisian Art Nouveau and domestic Neo-Baroque, examplified by the Old Town Obecní Court from architects Osvald Polívka and Antonín Balšánek. A counter-trend to this "bourgeois" approach was the so-called "geometrical modernism" of Jan Kotěra, founder of modern Czech architecture. It features austere architectural forms and a strict structure which became popular with an entire generation of Czech avant-garde architects (Peterka's House, Mozarteum, Etc.). The majority of artists in Prague of that time balanced between these two poles. Their creative potential is clear on a number of buildings on which they use Art Nouveau architectural patterns but also diverge from them (the Čech's Bridge by Jan Koula, or the Main Train Station by Josef Fanta).


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