From Figure to Pattern : The Changing Role of Folk Tradition in Hungarian Representations at Universal Exhibitions (1867–1911)

Székely, Miklós (2013) From Figure to Pattern : The Changing Role of Folk Tradition in Hungarian Representations at Universal Exhibitions (1867–1911). In: Competing Eyes: Visual Encounters With Alterity in Central and Eastern Europe. L'Harmattan, Budapest, pp. 190-212. ISBN 978-963-236-706-4

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The world exhibition as is typical phenomena of the 19th century western culture represented a powerful tool for self-representation of economical and cultural power. During the decades of the existence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire one of the main goals of the Hungarian political elite was to elaborate the image of an economically, politically and culturally independent country. The selection of fine art works depended strongly on conservative taste the selection criteria for applied works were mainly influenced by their capacity of representational power. Since originality and national style was a leitmotiv of the turn-of-the-century cultural policies applied art objects had not only an economical but also a cultural goal. “Hungarian style” works served to show up the image of a culturally independent country and to gain new markets for Hungarian entrepreneurs. The paper deals with the first cultural representation of Hungary at the 1867 Paris world exhibition from the aspect of ethnography and Hungarian cultural policy. This universal exhibition is widely recognized of how folk art has influenced on applied arts (Deneke 1964). This leaded to the renewal of the definition, practice and style of the applied art artifacts in the following decades therefore represents the root of the flourishing turn-of-the-century arts and crafts. The Hungarian sections of the 1867 Paris Universal Exhibition were insufficient for cultural representation largely due the political changes occurring during the year. The exhibition of Hungarian folk culture especially the folk costumes has drawn special interest from foreign critics. This interest in Hungarian costumes has its origin in the exhibition of photographs representing peasants of different nationality from Hungary wearing traditional costumes at the London Universal Exhibition (Kresz 1968). From this moment exhibiting peasant culture (costumes, objects, housing) composed an important part of the Hungarian sections at universal exhibitions between 1862-1878 emphasizing not only rich folk traditions but the ethnic/ethnographical diversity of the country. It is worth examining the reception of the Hungarian folk exhibition at the 1867 Paris universal exhibition through the writings of the official French critic Victor Cosse. Cosse had a considerable influence on his contemporaries he wrote and edited the official journal of the exhibition entitled: Exposition Universelle de 1867, (Paris, 1868). In his writings he argued for the assimilation of the nationalities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, supporting the idea of a politically and culturally homogenized Austrian culture in which the “existing nationalities will soon be dissolved in the corps of the Austrian nation” (Cosse 1867). This conception is mainly based on the consideration of Austria-Hungary and Germany as being both empires of German langue and culture. The paper intends to examine the critical reception of the Hungarian ethnographic exhibition by comparing the message of the installation and the exhibited objects with its foreign critical reception. The analyze of the interpretations and misinterpretations shall include the political contexts of the 1860’: the effects of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise and the political negotiations leading towards the creation of the unified Germany.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: N Fine Arts / képzőművészet > NA Architecture / építészet
N Fine Arts / képzőművészet > NE Print media / grafikai művészetek
N Fine Arts / képzőművészet > NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament / iparművészet, díszítőművészet
N Fine Arts / képzőművészet > NX Arts in general / művészetek általában > NX4 Art history and criticism / művészettörténet, műkritika
Depositing User: Dr. Székely Miklós
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2014 13:48
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2023 06:47

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