Czech inspiration

Posted by on Apr 10, 2015 in Art, Inspiration, Jewellery | 0 comments

Czech inspiration

Looking through some old photos recently, I came across some of our last couple of trips to Prague.  Prague has to take the title of my favourite destination, partly for the wonderful architecture, places and food, but also because of its cultural and artistic history, and the wealth of Art Nouveau design that still leaps out at you from around every corner: writ large on buildings, small in interior decoration, smaller still on everyday items and utensils, and even occasionally underfoot.


muchadesignsOf course, Alfons Mucha lived in Prague, and started and ended his career there.  One of the most famous and celebrated Art Nouveau artists, his style influenced many, and still does – not least myself (though of course I can’t aspire to anything close to his actual works, though how I would love to!).  Not just a painter, Mucha also designed jewellery, and some sheets of his designs are on display in the Mucha Museum in Prague.  Beautiful and elegant, they echo designs and elements in his paintings, and embody so much of what I love about Art Nouveau – the perfectly-judged curve, the organic sweep of a line, shapes that you just want to reach out and caress.


obecnidumDuring our last trip, we were lucky enough to be in the city at the same time as a major Art Nouveau/Secessionist/Jurgendstil exhibition was taking place at the breathtaking Obecni Dum – Prague’s grand, late-Victorian Municipal House, decorated inside and out by the leading artists of the day, including Mucha himself.  It’s a riot of sculpture, stained glass and crystal chandeliers and an absolute banquet for the eyes. (This is a picture of the wonderful stained glass arch at the front of the building.)

The exhibition itself was just as spectacular.  Furniture, glassware, fabrics, artworks and of course, jewellery, all with a gorgeous style and elegance.


This is just a small, and unfortunately badly photographed – the glass cases and bright spotlights made photography really tricky! – selection of some of the treasures.  Again, I love the shapes and the flow, and it’s given me so many ideas to try to incorporate into my own work. Click on the images for a bigger view.


As mentioned before, Art Nouveau is literally everywhere in the Old Town of Prague.  One of my long-time very favourite places is the Sarah Bernhardt restaurant at the Hotel Pariz, which has the most fabulous interior, with rich wood panelling, huge crystal mirrors and exquisite mosaics on the walls, with a gold framework bedecked with green and russet leaves and little white flowers, on a vivid turquoise background (that’s the mosaic, at the top of this post.  I love the swags of gold, and the pendant flowers … and am working on designs using just those stylistic ideas at the moment!).  The first time we ever went there, we’d just got to Prague for the first time after a nightmarish journey involving overbooked flights, replacement aircraft that looked quite frankly terrifying and my luggage going AWOL.  We arrived at the hotel exhausted, unkempt, stressed, posessionless and the very opposite of polished … and were shown to a table in the jaw-dropping luxury of the restaurant, where we were treated like royalty. I fell in love with the place then, and it’s never worn off.


babiesLastly, I have to include inspiration of a very different sort, although perhaps this is more suited to a Hallowe’en collection than my usual style!  David Cerny is a sculptor who creates works full of a brilliant and subversive wit that amuse, delight and sometimes unsettle the viewer.  We travelled out to the suburb of Zhiskov, to the TV tower, to see one of his artworks … yes, those are babies crawling up the sides of the tower.  Strange, black, smooth-faced, rather alien babies.  Why?  Who knows.  It’s a Cerny thing!

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