Art Nouveau Almanac
5 Sep – 3 Oct 2016
The Art Nouveau Almanac [in Czech Almanach Secese] was published in 1896 by Stanislav Kostka Neumann. This compendium of contributions by twenty-six authors also includes a foreword by the publisher and an afterword by Arnošt Procházka. A sensitive reader will recognize that this is an extraordinary book at first glance. It has meticulous, delicate, but very lively typography, page layouts are light and airy, and individual pressings are numbered. From the perspective of collectability, it is a rare and valuable book.
But this rare book from the collection of the Art Archive was definitely not the property of some bibliophile. Its owner was evidently a critical reader who didn’t hesitate to write numerous notes and observations on its pages using a fountain pen (for example on page 39, regarding a poem by František Merta: “All of course copied according to French examples, at that time already out-dated there.”). And likely he or she was also the parent of a talented boy, who picked the book as a sketchbook, and decorated it with many colourful drawings.
On page 35, Julius Alois Koráb bids farewell to youth. But youth found its way back here. It arrived in an automobile with a driver wearing a top hat, drawn by a child’s hand immediately beside it. There are many such coincidences to be found in this book. They are lovely and poetic – and yet, the atmosphere of the poems is quite different due to them. The young artist doubtlessly destroyed the Art Nouveau Almanac. The clean design of the pages didn’t count on marching columns of soldiers, knights, submarines, or automobiles. But in this case, no one was asking anything of literature. The singular nature of children’s drawings lies precisely in the spontaneity and freedom with which a child enters the world around him, and which allows him alone to violate all prohibitions without any guilt.