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16 October 2019Cultural Revolution in the Heart of Europe

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Cultural Revolution in the Heart of Europe Gavin Plumley Wednesday 16 October 2019

During the 19th century, when many Central European countries were still under the control of the Habsburgs in Vienna, art and culture were often the only ways in which the Empire’s constituent crownlands could express national identity. One hundred years after the end of Habsburg dominance in Central Europe, this special interest day looks at two case studies, Slovenia and Hungary, through the prism of their capital cities. 

1. Ljubljana and Slovene Singularity 

Situated between the Austrian Alps and the Balkans, Slovenia was subject to opposing political forces during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Crucially, however, many of its cultural figures sought to express an individual brand of nationalism. Artists such as Rihard Jakopič and Ivan Grohar formulated a local type of impressionism, celebrating the Slovene landscape, while architects Jože Plečnik and Ivan Vurnik reimagined the country’s capital, Ljubljana, creating one of the most unified urban design projects in Central Europe. This talk looks at their efforts within the context of the history of Slovenia. 

2. A Hungarian Metropolis

Budapest was formed in 1873 by the unification of Buda and Pest, situated on either side of the River Danube. The new capital was the focus of resurgent Hungarian nationalism, which found expression through lavish new buildings, the continent’s first underground railway system and myriad paintings featuring specifically Hungarian subjects and locales. Meanwhile, in the countryside, composers Bartók and Kodály began collecting the music of their compatriots. Placing these endeavours in a historical framework, the final lecture of this special interest day explores how Hungarians came to understand their national identity by cultural means.  

Gavin Plumley is a writer and broadcaster, appearing on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 and contributing to The Independent on Sunday and The Guardian.  He lectures widely about the culture of Central Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries, including to the National Gallery, the British Museum, the V&A, the Southbank Centre, the Tate and the Neue Galerie, New York and The Art Fund. 

This will be a two-lecture special interest day with lunch.

Image: The parliament building, Budapest - courtesy of Gavin Plumley