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Annotated Bibliography of Eastern European Folk Architecture

A-J

Danusha V. Goska, PhD

 

Notes on Article Selection and Citation Variation

            It is hoped that the reader will remember the reasoning behind using the Carpathian Mountains as ground zero for a previous annotated bibliography on folk architecture. That reasoning will not be reiterated here, though it is applied. Items were found using the IUCAT, the Modern Language Association bibliography, Lexis Nexis, the Expanded Academic Index, Art Index, the Bibliography of the History of Art, and Art-bibliographies Modern. Search terms were permutations of Folk Art, Poland, Czech, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, Jewish, depending on what form the bibliography in use preferred. Once again, given the language limitations of compiler and reader, only books and articles in English were selected. A few articles about the contemporary "elite" art scene are included. These articles are included because the boundary between elite and folk art is not the same in this part of the world as it is in the United States, and, these articles provide insight into what impact recent political and economic changes are having on artists.

            As was the case with the bibliography on folk architecture, a paucity of works were found; therefore, all works turned up in this search are treated here. Items which do not provide much enlightenment into folk art per se may enlighten the reader as to the intellectual conditions under which folk art scholarship has been taking place in this part of the world, and may inspire him to help fill the intellectually indefensible vacuum in worthy English language scholarship on the folk art of Eastern Europe.

            The Expanded Academic Index and Lexis Nexis provided the full texts of many articles cited here. Since I read these articles as they appear in these on-line sources, I cannot provide their complete pagination. Rather, for articles from the Expanded Academic Index and Lexis Nexis, the initial page is provided followed by the symbol "+," which indicates that the article continues for more, non-sequential, pages.

            More than one book in this bibliography lists no publication date. I asked reference librarians to check their most complete sources. They, too, did not know the publication date for these books.

            Some articles and one book have still not arrived from inter-library loan. Their citations are followed by blank spaces to be filled in when the materials arrive. Other books that are not followed by an overview or main points are sources for articles that are annotated elsewhere in the bibliography.
 

Abernathy, Francis E., ed. 1985. Folk Art in Texas Dalls: Southern Methodist University Press.

 

Apter-Gabriel, Ruth. 1991. "The Jewish Art of Solomon Yudovin, 1892-1954, From Folk Art to Socialist Realism" Jerusalem: Israel Museum xiii Catalogue # 325.

Overview:

Intriguing and all too limited glimpse into the life and career of a Russian Jewish artist who participated in the An-sky expedition mentioned elsewhere in this bibliography (Ronnen), and who created art works based on Jewish folklife. Twenty-seven illustrations, all small and black and white, include photos taken by the artist and his works of art.

Main Points:

Solomon Borisovich Yudovin (1892-1954) born in Beshenkovichi near Vitebsk to a Jewish artisan family ... Yehuda Pen, Chagall's teacher, taught him ... there was a trend to create a modernist Jewish art by fusing images from Jewish folk art and avant garde style ... Yudovin was on the fringes of this; more interested in traditional themes and less interested in being "artistic" ... in the late 1930's adopted Socialist Realism ... was a photographer in the An-Sky expedition ... his earliest works were oils, which have not survived ... his linocuts of gravestones are his earliest surviving works; unlike other artists, he made no attempt to make these "artistic" but faithfully copied from gravestones ... took up wood cuts ... moved to Leningrad in 1923; made non-Jewish work; "outside of the scope of this catalogue" ... remarkable works: a charming scene of a village bathhouse; a terrifying rendition of a pogrom ... "The majority tell the story of a poor, drab, and joyless existence" ... children are missing from his work; no hope for future ... many representations of Jewish craftsmen; catalogue shows a couple of prints made from photographs Yudovin had taken during the expedition ... after Russia entered World War II, devoted himself to Russian, as opposed to Jewish, themes, in the Socialist Realism style ... was this a change of heart, or ...? His son reports that he changed because of a fear of anti-Semitism, and in his heart, Jewish themes were what interested him.

 

Balas, Edith. 1989. "Brancusi and Bartok: A Parallel" Imago Musicae 6:165-182.

Overview:

Argues for parallels in the careers of Bela Bartok and Constantin Brancusi. Brancusi was a peasant; Bartok grew up among them; each was inspired by folk art and used folk art to rescue himself from the failings of elite art and to inform his own creative work.

Main Points:

Early in 20th century European artists were disillusioned by consumerism brought on by technology ... turned to folk art, as did Constantin Brancusi and Bela Bartok ... "both expanded the horizons of 20th century art by adapting the archaic conventions of the East European peasantry to a Western artistic context" ... Brancusi b. February 19, 1876, small village, parents peasants ... attended National School of Fine arts; lived in Paris ... d. 1957 ... Bela Bartok b. March 25, 1881, Nagyszentmiklos, 200 miles from Brancusi ... parents white collar musicians; he witnessed peasantry, but was not a peasant ... attended Academy of Music in Budapest; d. in US, 1945 ... Brancusi was dissatisfied with Rodin, for whom he worked ... inspired by African sculpture ... returned to Romanian folk sculpture ... Balas, unlike other authors, sees Brancusi's attraction to African art as an episode, not lifelong and exclusive ... Bartok also rejected elite training and turned to peasant traditions, although, for him, it was from the outside (as he was not a peasant) ... insisted musicians must experience peasant music in situ ... Robert Goldwater has formulated a historical pattern of primitivist tendencies in twentieth century art; always, the artist is drawn back to a new simplicity of form ... Bartok said: 'A peasant melody ... is a classic example of the expression of a musical thought in its most conceivably concise form, with the avoidance of all that is superfluous ... above all, from this music we could learn how best to employ terseness of expression; to cultivate the utmost excision of all that is non-essential. And that is the very thing, after the excessive grandiloquence of the Romantic period, which we thirsted to learn.' ... Brancusi was less of an artist in the post-Renaissance tradition than a craftsman: celebrated work, revered materials, avoided theorization, rejected concern for difference between art and craft ... used pedestals as sculptures ... sees similarities in these qualities with Bartok, except that Bartok was a theorist ... Bartok's love and use of peasant melodies was condemned ... 'barbarous shatterer of form,' 'aggressive,' 'Asiatic,' 'gruesome' ... similarly, Brancusi's 'freedom of attack upon the contours' was viewed as primitive.

 

Bartelik, Marek. 1993. "Gruppa: Galeria Zacheta, Warsaw, Poland" Artforum December 32:92.

Overview:

Brief profile of a group of formerly angry young male Polish artists who have mellowed since the fall of communism.

Main Points:

Gruppa was founded in 1982 ... provocative paintings, drawings, performance art ... had their own publication ... attempted to treat the fall of communism and Solidarity as something other than another chapter in Poland's struggle for freedom against foreign oppressors ... examples given of how they attempted to convey this through art ... now their work is more "contemplative" "less challenging" ... are they transcending politics, or selling out?

 

Bartelik, Marek. 1994. "The Four Elements" Art Forum. March, 1994 32:97.

Overview:

Very brief discussion of an art show by women artists in Poland. Most interesting for its observations about the differences in perception of feminism in Poland and in the West.

Main Points:

Show drew on Jungian archetypes and a quote from Bachelard: 'the realm of the imaginary is ruled by four elements and one can distinguish four types of material imagination that correspond to fire, air, water, or earth' ... curator claimed that women are closer to 'the magical and mythical and ... the biological rhythms of Nature' ... "Though perhaps surprisingly archaic to many Western readers, this approach accurately reflects feminist discussions in Poland" ... several of the works in the show described, in view of their adherence to nature and women as themes.

 

Beale, Lewis. 1996. "You Art So Beautiful; For Three Local Artists, Craft Preservation is a Full-Time Job" Daily News August 25, 3+.

Overview:

Contains a brief profile of a Czech puppeteer active in the U.S. today.

Main Points:

Vit Horejs, a Czech puppeteer, was given a marionette theater as a child ... Czech puppetry has a strong tradition going back to the seventeenth century ... he discovered a cache of century-old Czech puppets in a church closet in New York ... he co-founded the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater ... "These things are very rudimentary, compared to all the technology we have (e.g., in movies like "Independence Day"); Everyone knows they are not real, and you can use your imagination" ... characters are devils, water sprites, Turks ... five puppeteers, twenty puppets, live music, in any given show ... In Europe, "Having folk traditions all around you makes it impossible to accept mainstream culture" ... "This background of folk arts is an important anchor in Europe and this is maybe a problem with American kids, because they don't have it. I hope this thing of being anchored in a culture will survive."

 

Bednarik, Rudolf. 1956. Mal'ovane Ohnistia v Oblasti Malych Karpat. Martin: Osveta.

Overview:

Wow! Photographic records of a hidden and perhaps extinct folk art: paintings made on the walls around stoves in the Lower Carpathians. Forty-three photos, majority black and white, plus fifteen line drawings, capture sophisticated, elaborate birds and flowers which don't exactly match the motifs on any of the other products of this region, embroidery or pottery, for example. Several photos of the artists themselves, looking every bit like humble, weathered, peasants. One photo illustrates a barefoot old peasant woman with a very muscular forearm drawing on a wall with her finger. Wow and again wow. In Slovak with English summary. English summary most helpful as an example of Stalinist folklore scholarship. Even so, the photos should not be missed.

Main Points:

"The National Liberation freed the creative forces of the people" ... "These wall paintings ... are creations by ordinary women of the people" ... this technique came about after creation of a clean room, at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries ... "After frequent peasant revolts the fetters of bondage were shed" ... "The individual creator worked according to the taste of the collective of which he [sic] was a member" ... "During capitalism in a village society divided in classes a girl was valued according to her dowry. Her personal virtues were only of secondary importance" [thank god that's all changed] ... "This art ... is indeed an art of the people ... [it] achieves a socialist content" ... "The Center of the People's Artistic Production nowadays continues to successfully this forever alive and beautiful art and develops it for everyone" (sic).

 

Bogatyrev, Petr. 1971 [1937]. The Functions of Folk Costume in Moravian Slovakia. The Hague: Mouton.

Overview:

A classic. Required reading for the student of folklore. In a review article, the intended reader for this bibliography called it "excellent,"[1] and wrote, "it deserves serious attention as an early work with real contemporary significance." Comparisons with Levi-Strauss are apt but shouldn't be taken too far, "Like Levi-Strauss, Bogatyrev utilized advances in linguistic theory to clarify ethnographic problems, but he anticipated modern structuralists no more than he did the 'new ethnographers.'" In conclusion, Henry Glassie wrote that Bogatyrev's book is "a well-made and flexible tool." Well, I'm not a folklorist, but, rather, a Slovak, a member of a dismissable ethnicity, and this book, which I have read more than once over the course of several years, chills me. Slovak folk costume was one of the great, compelling mysteries of my childhood, like the sun and planets and the change of seasons. What were those coruscating artifacts in the trunk upstairs? How did they get that way? What on earth were they saying? When I first picked up this book, I thought it might hold some key to the mystery. Rather, it explained to me further how not human we are, how any mark we make, no matter its effulgence, will be misinterpreted by people who have power that we don't. At the end of the book are illustrations of Slovak folk costume. In other books, costumes are shown laid out on a table or being worn by people. The illustrations in Bogatyrev's book show costumes as if they are being worn by people, but no faces appear in the oval between collar and cap, only white space. My wish would be that Hans Joachim Schauss, who wrote another book in this bibliography, had written a book in 1937 about Slovak folk costume. Then I might have gained the insight I have been craving all my life.

Main Points:

Conclusions based on material collected by others ... only desire is to "illustrate more thoroughly my findings on the nature ... of the various functions of costume" ... some findings "will be applicable to all clothing; however, folk costume has many features of its own which have nothing in common with urban dress" ... functions interact and can't be considered in isolation ... peasants suffer to be beautiful, for example, wedding headdresses ... in one village women have fifty-two different aprons, worn according to what the priest's vestments will be that Sunday ... clothing may change from everyday to holiday or visa versa ... holiday attire may become ritual attire ... context may determine meaning; example, a nosegay may signify a new recruit or a bridegroom, depending on costume context ... in the case of the bridegroom, the sign is of ritual function, in the case of the recruit, the sign communicates status ... costume items may transit from everyday to / holiday / ceremonial / ritual use ... everyday costume may have these functions: practical / social status / aesthetic / regionalist ... functions of holiday or ceremonial costume ... "in the transition from everyday costume to holiday, and from holiday to ritual, some functions weaken while others simultaneously gain strength, and new functions appear" ... "in the transition ... the degree of obligatory use may grow or diminish" ... occupations may have distinctive dress, e.g. millers ... status distinctions distinguish between the rich and poor and squires and peasants ... peasants and merchants remain distinct in dress, even after the shift from folk to urban costume ... cap may bring fertility ... shift can heal cattle ... baby clothes might have apotropaic red color ... costumes differentiate between one village and another, in small details known, understood, and important to villagers only; borders coincide with former parishes ... costume may have reached such elaborate development in Slovakia because the people ruling over the Slovaks were so very different from the people they ruled ... when shoes reached urban areas and peasant girls wore shoes, rural boys refused to dance with them ... "village dress is seldom cheaper than town dress" ... when farmers get wealthier, they make more elaborate costumes, rather than making more citified costumes ... "there are many cases where no part of the folk costume is made entirely at home" ... once Czechoslovakia gained self rule, costume began to die out ... Catholics don't marry Protestants ... Protestant dress more simple; Catholic dress more colorful ... two different kinds of age distinction: elderly people wearing the outdated costume of their youth; elderly people wearing signs of age which are retained over time ... young boys wear kosirek plumes and fight over them ... age differentiation more elaborate in women's costumes ... unwed mothers forced to abandon signs of virginity; a wronged wife slices off the virgin braids of her husband's lover ... wearers will not discuss erotic function of costume ... newborns' christening clothes are color coded as to gender; blue for boys, pink for girls ... "archaic elements may be better preserved in children's dress than in adult wear" ... the costume is sometimes an object, sometimes a sign ... an officer's uniform may be assessed as being of higher or lower value than a private's; his uniform is a sign of status ... everyday costume more object, holiday costume more sign ... costume is part of a web of meaning; can't expect it to remain when village changes ... the idea of gestalt should be applied to ethnographic study ... our costume is like our mother tongue; not necessarily the most beautiful, just closest to us ... closeness implies transfer of power; clothing is close to body, much power is transferred ... in conflict, "it is sufficient to ridicule that community's signs, such as its costume or dialect."

 

Carvel, John. 1993. "Pillagers with an Eye for Profit Strip the Former Soviet Bloc of Its Artistic Heritage as 'Cultural Cleansing' to Order Sweeps over Central and Eastern Europe" The Guardian November 15; p. 22 +.

Main Points:

Thieves' preferred items described ... in Western Europe ownership of stolen artwork is not a crime ... this is the third wave, after Hitler and Soviets ... in Czech Republic, 20,000 items a year go to Germany and the West ... tens of thousands of icons stolen from Russia ... customs officials earn much more money by looking the other way than by doing their jobs ... Germany, Switzerland, and Britain are prime markets ... a Slovenian official reports that a London auction house used the exact same notes to describe a stolen painting that were used by the museum from which it was stolen ... prospect is bleak.

 

Cesal, Miroslav. 1978. "Tradition of Czech Puppetry" Art and Artists 13:40-43.

Overview:

Brief but informative introduction to Czech puppet theater. Four black and white photographs of puppets and a play in progress.

Main Points:

Began in 18th century ... first Czech theater of any kind ... wandering Czech puppeteers adopted repertoire and style of Central European baroque theater ... "Faust" and "Don Juan" .. Kashparek was the comic figure ... considered by some scholars to have "heralded the National Revival" ... declined from mid 19th century ... revived early 20th century ... new audience: children ... thousands of theaters ... Josef Skupa, a prominent figure, invented two new comic characters, Spejbl and Hurvinek ... Gestapo arrested Skupa, Spejbl, and Hurvinek ... puppeteers died in the resistance; theaters destroyed by Nazis ... Soviet Central Puppet Theater was very influential ... fifteen state puppet theaters ... modern trends ... annual competition in Plzen, intense rivalry.

 

Chadima, Kathryn. 1995. "Museum Hails Czech, Slovak Heritage" The Plain Dealer August 6, 1995, p.1I

Main Points:

$2.9 million ... patterned after traditional architecture in Prague ... fifty Czech and Slovak costumes ... seven hundred groups and individuals have contributed ... glassware, pottery, jewelry, eggs, lead crystal, ceramic ware, wood carvings, farm implements; largest such collection outside Czech / Slovakia ... 10,000 volumes in Czech and English, oral histories of immigrants ... "The Czech and Slovak people who make these crafts are not ignorant peasants but a people with artistry who have a wonderful history, culture, and traditions."

 

Cordwell, Justine, ed. 1979. The Visual Arts: Plastic and Graphic. The Hague: Mouton.

 

Daniec, Jadwiga Irena. 1983. "Silk Sashes: Pasy Kontuszowe" The Polish Review 28:3 33-42.

Overview:

Quick introduction to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of silk sashes, part of the costume for male Polish gentry in the late seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth century.

Main Points:

Wide sashes woven of silk and sometimes of fine wool or a combination were a part of the costume for male Polish gentry in the late seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries ... were worn over a kontusz, a nobleman's long overcoat ... tied around waist ... elaborate and fringed ends hung down in front ... their creation was an important part of Polish decorative weaving ... factories called persjarnie , as sashes were originally imported from Turkey and Persia ... weavers were often Armenians ... designs adapted to Polish folk art, expressed "Polish skies and manners" ... designs discussed ... reversible sashes ... designers signed their sashes ... creators discussed ... the collection is described in detail.

The Economist. 1994. "Post Communist Folk" August 20; pp. 67-68.

Overview:

The threat to folk art caused by modernization; hope found in open air museums. Two illustrations of wood carvings

Main Points:

Poland is a country of ancient farms and satellite dishes ... rich folk art heritage ... much pillaged by Nazis and Communists; now threatened by modernity ... century old wayside shrines by anonymous masters ... history of folk art after end of serfdom; typical folk art items listed ... only ethnographers and urban intellectuals champion preservation ... there are thirty open air museums ... an impressive one is Slawinek, near Lublin ... houses built (and rebuilt by museum staff) without nails; had to be; builders couldn't afford them ... Slawinek has farm animals and crops ... Cepelia's role under communist patronage of folk art ... a wooden carving of Lenin and Stalin seen as example of state influence ... quality control has slipped for profit motive ... renaissance of interest among the young ... "Folk culture in Poland is vividly alive" but it needs protection.

 

The Evening Standard. 1992. "Art That Had to Be Seen in Secret" September 25; p. 21

Main Points:

Communist brutality is a theme of Nora Mustova's art ... her family was murdered ... she was famous but had no shows; her patrons had to visit her atelier in secret ... incorporates elements of icon painting in the old Slavonic tradition ... compared to Chagall and folk art.

 

Fel, Edit, Tamas Hofer and Klara K. Csillery. 1958. Hungarian Peasant Art. Budapest: Corvina.

Overview:

Very good discussion of Hungarain folk art in the context of its use. Eighty-one plates, some in color.

Main Points:

Folk objects are "under the sun," to paraphrase a proverb; they have a special meaning to the community ... this book does not wish to discuss dead objects in museums, but objects that had an integral and vital place in life ... holiday attire ... variations followed express rules ... might be understood fully in only a single village ... at what stages of her life a woman wears what costume ... great personal loss may alter standard pattern of dress ... men's attire has fewer variations ... frieze mantles' great value ... the home ... only the patriarch sat in the painted wooden chair ... dowry bedclothes were not meant to be slept in, were signs only ... adorned utensils ... highly ornamented utensils were given as presents ... herdsmen produced remarkable art ... festive role of decorated objects, for example, the betrothal kerchief ... birthing objects ... shovels for digging graves are artistically carved ... a woman who dies young and childless may be given so much needlework that it has to be buried separately ... relations who are willed cloths will wear them on Sundays in memory of the woman who donated them ... vessels ... puzzle jugs ... elaborate rules dictated what would be worn on weekdays, what on holidays ... in one village, each guest received a uniquely embroidered kerchief in memory of a wedding ... poor and rich shared style, but differed in amount, of possessions ... some items were made by specialists, e.g., holiday tablecloths ... specialists did the same rural work as others ... herdsmen known for carving ... wages were paid in kind ... widows and disabled persons might be specialists ... winter was a time to create folk art ... ornamentation of utilitarian objects might be left to women, e.g., potters left drawing to women ... fairs ... at one fair, honey bread alone took up more than a hundred stalls ... potters might sell a pot for the amount of agricultural produce that fit in the pot; smaller vessels had to be filled twice ... artists had individual styles; were remembered by others; signed their work ... disciples, sometimes offspring ... unseemly for others to imitate ... a painter of wooden chests locked her doors while working ... some potters prepared special dyes and glazes at night ... since stitches changed year by year, a boy's shirt sleeve could tell exactly when he became an adult ... local v. new styles ... history of development of Hungarian folk art ... Hungarians have liked red and blue since medieval times ... suffering under the Turks ... peasants had nothing ... liked "gaudy Turkish wares" ... Italian influences ... baroque, rococo and classicism ... establishment of the clean room ... folk art thrived first in areas with advanced agriculture, near Vienna and Pressburg ... folk art region by region, starting with the great plain ... the uplands ... the infamous Ash Wednesday bonfire in Mezokovesd; the villagers were sacrificing too much in order to have fancy costumes, and the costumes were burned in church ... Transdanubia.

 

Frys-Pietraszkowa, Kunczynska, and Pokropek. 1991. Folk Art in Poland. Warsaw: Arkady.

Overview:

Main Points:

 

Gaborjan, Alice. 1969. Hungarian Peasant Costumes. Budapest: Kossuth Publishing House.

Overview:

Informative, brief general outline to folk costume in Hungary. I had reservations about a few of the arguments made. For example, draws a sharp distinction between peasant aesthetics and elite aesthetics, implying that peasant fashion is categorically different from elite fashion, e.g., peasants do not acquire an integral style, but only elements of a style, which they mix, sometimes inharmoniously, with elements of other styles. (Many would argue that the elite does exactly the same thing). Too, in the final discussion of the great undressing, the author argues that one reason peasants abandoned their costumes was that they were impractical, e.g., the many skirts were too heavy to work in. Well, these costumes always had an impractical aspect, yet were still worn. Over a hundred photographs, majority black and white, and line drawings, of costumes in isolation and being worn.

Main Points:

A guess that in 896, clothing was colorful ... Turks influenced costume ... in 18th century peasant clothing was usually undyed white or brownish ... mid 19th century rivers were channeled, railroads were built, leading to greater prosperity and more elaborate clothing ... black is introduced, at first quite fashionable and festive, not the color of old age and death ... people began to wear more items of clothing at once ... peasants have their own aesthetics ... elements of peasant costume may have ultimately come from the Renaissance or Baroque, but a peasant Baroque is a misnomer ... peasants did not slavishly copy, but picked and chose, reconfigured ... concentration and intimacy of work on each item of clothing, from sowing seed for hemp or flax to embroidering garment, produced a harmonious style ... poverty and effort inspired conservatism ... crammed fields typify Hungarian surfaces; sparse decoration was seen as a sign of poverty ... long hair on men went out of fashion in 1848, when the military demanded short hair ... evolution of men's costumes ... boots (Turkish inspiration) ... frieze coats ... had sleeves which were never used ... when blue was introduced, with the industrial revolution, it was very popular ... basic elements of women's costumes ... typical garments by region: the Great Plain ... animal husbandry yielded basic materials of hide and sheepskin ... in 1698 a shepherd was caned for wearing an embroidered garment ... women's costumes became fancy before men's ... Transdanubia ... Western influence was greater here ... draining of swamps had big effect ... the Uplands ... most diverse costumes ... Matyo folk had to travel to earn their bread, as landholdings were small; saw costumes from all over and incorporated elements ... in other regions women wear many skirts to appear broad; Matyos work for a long, thin effect with few skirts, breast compression and conical hats ... Transylvania ... old costumes ... can be traced to royal fashions of the 17th-18th century ... men abandoned costumes sooner than women; worked in town; didn't want to stand out ... children are the first to be dressed in new fashions ... change starts with footwear and ends with headdresses and coiffures ... peasants, though buying ready made garments, still chose to combine colors or patterns in ways that urban people would call bad taste.

 

Grabowska, Bozena. 1993. "Portraits after Life: the Baroque Legacy of Poland's Nobles" History Today 43:18-25.

Overview:

Focuses on the nobles, their history, and politics, rather than on the portraits. Very pro-noble; for example, does not interrogate the nobles' idea of themselves, but rather reports it as history. Does not repeat or even respond to arguments that link the nobles' "Golden Freedoms" with the disintegration of Poland in the late 18th century. Provides the environment for the creation of the portraits, and descriptions of their use, without discussing them as art.

Main Points:

The Baroque lasted longer in Poland than any other period ... from end of 16th century to 1760 ... Poles imagined themselves as descending from Sarmatians, who lived in the 7th century B.C. along the Dneister ... saw themselves as protectors of Christendom a la Jan Sobieski ... others imagined themselves as descending from noble Romans ... excluded peasantry and merchants from the Polish nation ... honor was a big issue ... part of being a proper nobleman was passing on lifestyle and ethos, including in a portrait ... sitters wore orientalized Polish dress ... in contrast to Western European portraits, were true to life ... Polish funerary rites were based on so-called Italians funerals very popular in 17th century Europe ... nobleman's lifestyle was rustic ... detailed rights of nobles ... how to become a nobleman ... how nobles lost rank ... dress for nobles was influenced by the east: wide trousers, long smock, slit sleeves ... women dressed in Western fashions ... men's dress was a greater display of wealth than women's ... an actor might be hired to play the deceased at the funeral ... stood over corpse ... funerary portrait was attached to coffin ... paintings were painted on metal, made to last ... Alf Kowalski set up a portrait museum in Miedrzyrzecz after WW II.

 

Graves, Thomas E. "Keeping Ukraine Alive through Death: Ukrainian-American Gravestones as Cultural Markers" pp. 36-76 in Meyer, ed.

Overview:

Study of a Ukrainian cemetery in New Jersey, which contains the graves and cenotaphs of many prominent Ukrainians, shows signs of nationalism in folk art and inscriptions on tombstones. The author found "a vibrant constellation of motifs which formed a full picture of Ukrainian culture, history, aspirations, and religiosity ... making a stroll through this cemetery a lesson in the contemporary cultural and political history of these people."

Main Points:

Ukrainians migrated to the US. in large numbers after 1880; settled in industrial parts of northeast ... have a strong folk art tradition ... use of Latin v. Cyrillic alphabet ... standard data on tombstones includes birth date, death date, profession ... motifs from Ukrainian folk art appear, like tridents, confrontal birds ... motifs from Hutzul wood carving, typical of one region, are used on the graves of Ukrainians not of that region ... geometric Hutzul designs are easily adapted to stone ... one grave has a portrait of folks in peasant costume ... a bandura, a Ukrainian instrument, appears ... wheat, guelder rose, hawthorn ... multi-vocalic nature of these symbols ... cornflower, daisy, poppy ... their symbolism ... what pictures on stone suggest to author and what they suggest to a Ukrainian audience; in one case, Ukrainian audience is reminded of a folk song ... Ukraine's recent history and nationalism ... on a cenotaph: "The symbolic grave of a priest who was tortured and murdered in Siberia, a husband and father whose imperishable remains no one knows where rest" another: "Here symbolically we host Lev, the tortured to death father, Olga, the suffering mother, and Peter and Yarema, the two brothers, shot to death while bound with barbed wire" ... graves are arranged by occupation; spouses with spouses ... more widely understood symbols are also used, for example, the caduceus on graves of physicians, bees on the grave of a beekeeper ... use of birch on Ukrainian graves and in folk belief ... epitaphs communicate the proper way of life ... this study suggests that the community has a gemeinschaft, a common worldview, although the sample is small.

 

Grobman, N.R. 1981-1982. "A Polish Wycinanki Artist from Philadelphia." Pennsylvania Folklife 31:56-63.

Overview:

Good introduction to wycinanki, through a woman who practices it in Philadelphia. Twenty-nine photographs offer a good sampling of wycinanki styles, but, unfortunately, they're small and black and white.

Main Points:

A quick review of paper cutting in China, Japan, and among Swiss-Germans; no genealogical relationship with wycinanki suggested ... wycinanki flowered in Poland in the 19th century, especially among women ... done with sheep shears, even today, even though more delicate and specialized scissors are used by Japanese and Chinese paper cutters, for example ... motifs include roosters and other birds, stars, flowers, village scenes, tree of life, spiders ... distinctive styles and motifs by region and season of the year ... now done by urbanites ... Mrs. Stephanie Batory of Philadelphia is an exceptional practitioner; has appeared in the press and taught classes ... uses paper the weight of newspaper, or even paper bags ... never irons her designs, since that is not traditional, although a paper may be folded 64 times ... wycinanki artists are traditionally very conservative of paper and will use their own scraps ... in Poland competition has been encouraged by the government ... regions and motifs discussed: Kurpie: one color; Lowicz: multi color; Opoczno: trees; Lublin: peasant blouses; Sanniki: peacocks, women's caps, wedding scenes ... kodry are peasant scenes ... Americans have done kodry of lawn mowing; this has traveled back to Poland ... ribands are vertical strips; used to embellish folk costumes; now Mrs. Batory uses them as bookmarks ... she recommends putting wycinanki in ceiling lights, on placemats ... author suggests ways to display wycinanki in a museum.

 

Hartmann, A. 1984. "The Present Mission of Artistic Crafts in Czechoslovakia" Glass Review 39:2-13.

Overview:

The good work socialism has done to preserve and advance folk art in Czechoslovakia. Thirty-four photographs of the artistic use of glass in new Czechoslovak buildings.

Main Points:

In spite of "the ever increasing speed of automated mass production" folk art is protected and advanced in Czechoslovakia by the unique 1957 Law on Work in the Sphere of Artistic Crafts and Folk Art Production ... eight hundred persons of thirty artistic branches are employed at the Arts and Crafts Centre "which is under direct management of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Socialist Republic" ... now folk art can contribute to the home environment or to new buildings ... this agency restores old buildings, the Prague subway's mosaics and represents Czechoslovak culture around the world in various shows and competitions.

 

Haslova, Vera and Jaroslav Vajdis. 1974. Folk Art of Czechoslovakia New York: Arco.

Overview:

Encyclopedic introduction to the folk arts of Czechoslovakia. Reading it wore me out. Epic amounts of information with only the barest of padding to provide context and render it reader friendly. Facts didn't stay with me because they are introduced once and only once and then a new fact is brought in. I felt that making this book longer would have made it an easier read. Data in context with vivid examples -- as in the books by Hofer and Fel -- would have increased my understanding and retention. Maybe charts would have been a better organizing principle for much of this information, rather than text? Two hundred thirty-six photos, many artistic and/or full page and in color, of a wide range of examples of Czechoslovak folk art.

Main Points:

Geography of Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia ... history ... Slovaks ... Jews ... Gypsies ... what is folk art ... women ... ceremonial objects ... cottage industry ... tinkers ... village layout ... feudalism ... set up of homesteads ... black rooms ... detailed discussion of all the housing types of Czechoslovakia, region by region ... costumes ... fabrics ... jewelry ... shepherds' jugs ... basketry ... straw beehives ... ceramics ... medieval engravings ... mangling bats ... painting inside houses ... painted furniture ... oil painting ... painting on glass ... painted nativity scenes; record life of their shepherd painters ... targets as art ... signboards as art ... renaissance and baroque influences on folk carving ... tombstones ... molds for cheese, butter, gingerbread, pastry ... ritual effigies ... nativity figurines ... statuettes of saints ... toys ... beehives ... freestanding stone sculpture ... what is Czechoslovak about Czechoslovak folk art ... definitely part of Central European folk art.

 

Halporn, Roberta. 1993. "American Jewish Cemeteries: A Mirror of History" pp. 131-155 in Meyer, ed.

Overview:

Twenty-four pages is perhaps not adequate to cover thousands of years of history as reflected in American Jewish gravestones in a scholarly, non-tendentious, well organized fashion. In any case, there is lots of information here, although some of it is smudged; for example, Jews from Romania and Turkey are gathered under the author's category of "Russian Jews."

Main Points:

Jews can be divided into two types: Orthodox and adaptive ... Jewish American cemeteries can be divided into three types, by date of arrival of Jews; point of emigration; orthodox or adaptive ... ancient Jews, unlike Egyptians, did not believe in embalming ... unlike Greeks and Romans, did not cremate ... "Many Christian readers of the Bible" are not aware of Jewish burial customs as reveled in story of crucifixion ... brief review of Sephardic history ... vandals in Jewish cemeteries ... "German" Jews ... "Russian" Jews, including Jews from Turkey and Romania (!) ... pogroms ... (was anyone else in Eastern Europe having a tough time of it during this era? Were Eastern Europeans really the monsters portrayed here? Is this scholarship or hatred? Could a Polish American scholar write of oppressive usury in the way this author writes about pogroms? And get published?) ... nowadays people have their portraits photoengraved on stone ... popularity of Mogen David; was not originally a Jewish symbol, rather, Jews preferred the Menorah ... the Nazi order to Jews to wear a Star of David gave this symbol greater currency ... other symbols ... name symbolism on tombstones ... use of Hebrew lettering and Hebrew dates ... placing of pebbles on tombstones by visitors.

 

Hofer, Tamas and Edit Fel. 1979. Hungarian Folk Art. Budapest: Kossuth Printing House.

Overview:

"The task of the ethnographer...[is] 'translating' or making comprehensible, the phenomena of certain ways of life and of cultures for men living in other cultures...As a result of this attitude, these objects have been described in the context of the peasant's life in his village, of weddings and funerals, of struggle, sacrifice, and joy." So the authors state on page sixty of their introduction. They have succeeded marvelously. Their sixty page introduction is erudite and accessible. It conforms to traditional, European folklore scholarship; the folk are illiterate peasants connected to a literate, urban populace. Brass tacks information about who made what when, where and why provides the reader with an excellent introduction to Hungarian folk art, without weighing him or her down in academic navel gazing about who the folk are and what folk art is. Six hundred thirty-eight photographs, most in black and white, of architecture, carving, basketry, furniture, ceramics, painting, costume, metalwork, and jewelry.

Main Points:

Introduction of industry wiped out folk art ... it's still relevant, as it plays a role in search for national character ... artist and user may be the same ... must be understood in context ... different from tribal or high art ... peasants in relation to literate urbanites ... best examples date from nineteenth century ... best examples shown here, not shoddy work ... inventories of peasant belongings given ... most objects are not art, but are simple ... the same object may have two forms: the mundane and the festive: e.g.; a utilitarian shepherd's staff and a Sunday staff ... Herbert Read places beginning of aesthetic form in the Mesolithic or Neolithic ... form became divorced from function ... here ritual means solemn events ... peasant life had more ritual than industrial life ... rites of passage ... "ornamental objects were elements of rituals;" e.g. usage of ornamental bed at various rites of passage ... many channels were used to communicate the same message, including objects and rituals ... objects and rituals cemented bonds, and expressed tensions and contradictions as well, e.g. bride abduction ... how rich godmothers handled gift giving to poor godchildren ... form and quality of folk art gifts mediated relationships ... same object could serve different functions; example, black veil ... symbols worked hard in a society where written word had limited purchase ... objects were used in everyday life as signs, as well as on holidays; two excellent anecdotal examples of the uses put to a handkerchief and a tablecloth ... "gay dress; empty belly" ... peasants sacrificed food in order to be able to have beautiful things ... peasant women can name the color of crockery used forty or fifty years before, though it is broken ... objects in rituals had a stabilizing effect ... significance of objects dramatically demonstrated when social structure disintegrated; examples: clothing, housing, crockery ... peasants showed pride of authorship, marked objects to show authorship and date ... influential innovators ... objects have lines of decent ... roles of: artisans, guilds, peddlers on foot, e.g. "cambric Slovaks" ... elements change; others survive ... main motif of eighteenth century: fruit and floral design ... churches inspired folk art ... churches and peasant housing, differences and similarities over time ... church may have served as "best room" ... animals in folk art ... gentry homes and costumes ... gentry were the first to abandon traditional life for new fashions ... embroidered frieze coats are good examples of other folk art, in terms of diffusion and development ... discouraged by gentry as it marked peasant self awareness ... peasants would occasionally steal to get one ... economic changes that lead to upswing in folk art ... actions of Marie Theresa and Joseph II ... changes from self sufficient farming to market farming ... peasant folk art was a show of faith in an illusory peasant future ... "factory made products increased the range of materials used in folk art" ... material prosperity changed mental attitudes ... linguistic reform and peasant verbal expression ... Romantic nationalism ... folk music, not dependent on trade in material goods, changed radically about the same time as folk art ... Bela Bartok ... peasant art superseded work of urban origin ... large social schisms contributed to flourishing of folk art in Eastern Europe ... two waves of folk art ... first half of nineteenth century; its features, inspirations, favorite themes ... art and work of herdsmen ... second wave ... 1860's and 1870's ... divergence between rural and urban grew more pronounced ... luxuriant coloring was followed by restraint in coloring ... technical modernization on the farm and reorganization of farm life and their role in art ... gender differences in choice of folk or urban costume ... the appearance of folk art in urban homes ... mass produced work for sale; cheapening of aesthetic qualities ... nostalgic folk festivals divorced from original functions ... sumptuary decrees in Mezokovesd ... how peasants compensated ... signs of "decadence and distortion" of folk art ... how signs have changed over time; what once was viewed as slavish imitation of urban trends, is now "folk art" ... time lag in flowering of folk art across various countries and political/economic conditions that caused it ... why there is no folk art in the continental sense among the English ... "The task of the ethnographer...[is] 'translating' or making comprehensible, the phenomena of certain ways of life and of cultures for men living in other cultures...As a result of this attitude, these objects have been described in the context of the peasant's life in his village, of weddings and funerals, of struggle, sacrifice, and joy."

 

Hofer, T. 1983. "Peasant Art 1800-1914: Tendencies of Separation and Convergence" New Hungarian Quarterly. 24:133-9.

Overview:

Dense discussion of the economic, political, and historic forces that contributed to the flowering and decline of folk art in Hungary.

Main Points:

The flowering of the folk arts of Hungarian peasants in the 19th century happened when they were becoming, as agricultural producers, players in an international capitalist market ... rural life was breaking down ... peasants migrated to cities or foreign countries ... were exposed to national consciousness, literacy, and "rational thinking" ... their arts' flowering under these conditions goes against theories of Peter Burke and Robert Muchembled ... rather than having their culture be replaced by a mass culture, they developed artistic expression specific to their strata ... folk art was "an expression of peasant self awareness, and also a tool and a symptom of the peasants' acculturation and integration into a national society" ... Zoltan Kodaly and Bela Bartok carefully and exhaustively recorded a dramatic change in Hungarian folk music ... their term for this music, "new style" was adopted by ethnographers to discuss a rapidly evolving material culture ... women went from being "white folk" to being "fancy as the birds of God" ... rapid change in material culture, great importance attributed to folk art, and aristocratic resistance exemplified by a discussion of the embroidered frieze coat ... three forces in the explosion of folk art: 1.) relaxation of norms; increased opportunity for self expression; the rise of an innovative and entrepreneurial type; 2.) with more intense contact between peasant and non-peasant, more exact role identification and articulation was needed -- e.g., intense expressions of folk art were often found near urban centers; 3.) orientation toward a rural, rather than urban, elite.

 

Horvath, Ildiko Kriza. 1980. "Historical Strata of Hungarian Folk Art" pp. 33-56 in Kolar, ed.

Overview:

Very quick review of various factors over the centuries that have influenced Hungarian folk art. Not many examples given.

Main Points:

Magyar tribes had distinctive art upon arrival in 5-6 century A.D. ... in the Middle Ages folk art was influenced by European culture ... Medieval elements in folk art listed, by color, design, balance ... Turkish influence ... silk caftans were produced in Hungary ... Renaissance elements in folk art ... Baroque, Rococo, Classical influences ... Social background of the flourishing of folk art in the 19th century ... typical elements discussed, e.g., the embroidered frieze coat ... contemporary Hungarian folk art.

 

Hughes, Robert. 1993. "Dark Visions of a Primal Myth" Time June 7, 141:64+.

Overview:

Time's art critic provides art lite for folks too busy or unsure to form their own reaction to a work of art. Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowcz's work, we are assured, is "powerful, feeling, political, huge." Compares her work to myth.

Main Points:

Philip Roth: "In America, everything goes and nothing matters; in Central Europe, nothing goes and everything matters" ... sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz, 63, lives in Warsaw ... "ought to be seen by anyone who cares about today's sculpture" ... work draws on myth ... "without the clever-clever flittering of post modernism" ... MA: 'My whole life has been formed and deformed by wars and revolutions of various kinds, mass hatred and mass worship' ... wrote of post-Soviet era in 1990: 'Hand to hand fighting has begun. Each against each, zealously trying to drag everything toward a private nest' ... RH: "How can you imagine a monument in a culture that has been ideologically corrupt for half a century?" her work answers this need ... works in resin stiffened burlap ... brings to mind "prison lines and victims of firing squads" ... chief metaphor: the enchanted forest of animistic people ... mourns Poland's lost forests with Polish tree trunks ... "through the organic, myth is repaired."

 

Husarska, Anna. 1994. "Post no Bills" The New Yorker January 10, 69:62+.

Overview:

The end of communism and the arrival of capitalism have produced conditions that have ended poster art in Poland.

Main Points:

Poster art flourished under the Communists in Poland ... internationally recognized ... first poster art museum in the world ... state patronized artists ... didn't understand their art so gave them "carte blanche ... a madman's papers" ... no pressure to create effective advertising ... technology too primitive to use photography ... now American films come with their own photographic posters; poster makers not needed; state no longer a patron.

 

Jackowski, Aleksander. 1979. "Folk Art: Relic or Living Value?" Polish Art Studies 1: 161-177.

Overview:

Elitist, contemptuous, doomsday take on the traditional European conception of the folk and folk art. The folk are illiterate peasants living in hermetically sealed conditions away from any influences not created in the village; their art is gesunkenes kulturgut, cheaper copies of the arts of local elites. Folk art is the anonymous expression of group consciousness and a product of nature. Both, the folk and folk art, are tragic expressions of deprivation and squelching of individuality. The elite can appreciate them for their naive appeal, their echoing of the past, and their expression of the soul of the nation. Items touted as folk art today are cheap and also tragic. In fact, everything is tragic. How Polish!

This article made me newly grateful for vocal and powerful scholars like Henry Glassie and Alan Dundes. Glassie has successfully refuted, through material he has gathered in the field, all of these notions, most recently in a class in Folk Art on the IU campus. Folk art is not dead; it is created everyday. Folk art is not the anonymous expression of group consciousness; Turkish weavers or plate calligraphers and New Mexican carvers, for example, can identify works by location, workshop, or individual. Innovators feel proud of their innovations. Artists are not proto-human creators who can only be appreciated and understood by urban elites, but full human beings in their own right, with lives equally valid as those of the elite. Alan Dundes, in his article, "Who Are the Folk?" educated folklorists about the nature of communities. Folk communities do exist today. In any case, hermetically sealed villages are more products of fantasy than history.

Includes fourteen photos of Polish folk art.

Main Points:

Folk art was an expression of local identity and an opposition to surrounding cultures ... its forming influences were poverty, politics, and illiteracy ... folk art consists of "cheaper and simpler" copies of works "seen in the court, in the town, or in the presbytery" ... ignorance and illiteracy lead to stability of forms ... art was an expression of "the consciousness and subconsciousness of the culture group" ... there was little freedom of choice ... "affiliation with the group determined their psyche" ... art was collective and anonymous ... anyone creating new or innovative art was an oddball and an outcast, a "cripple or dull wit," who had no affect on anyone else's art ... there is no one best papercut or other folk form; all are equal and all are communal property ... "the creativity of the enlightened class" can be differentiated from folk art ... there is no more folk art in the village, because illiteracy has disappeared and the village is no longer forcibly separated from the enlightened classes ... "folkpeople" are now being reached by media ... there are remnants of folk art practiced by old people ... women in Poland today who still weave are tragic evidence of pockets of economic backwardness ... Cepelia sponsors and sells the artwork it judges and chooses ... in the early part of this century, folk art curators like Antoni Buszek and Eleonora Plutynska tried to protect folk art from the world; Buszek did not tell the peasant women he worked with that their batiks won a gold medal in Paris; Plutynska tried to protect "her" weavers from literacy and resisted the introduction of radio ... folk style today is a matter of conscious decision, while earlier artists were not conscious ... Cepelia has increased demand, which has lowered the level of art ... newer forms, like decorations on the cars of the newly married, are not folk art ... miners who carve sculptures in coal are not folk artists ... folk art gives us a tie to the past and to national identity ... a plea for the integration of village people into modern society.

 

Johnova, Helena. 1986. Sperk. Bratislava: Tatran.

Overview:

Wow! Eye-popping photos of gorgeous and varied Slovak folk metalwork: jewelry, belt buckles, buttons, combs, frogs. In Slovak with an English summary and English language captions. Three hundred thirty-one photographs, many full page and in color.

Main Points:

There is more jewelry for clothing in Slovakia than for the body ... there are typically Slovak folk jewels for clothing ... "the predominance of jewelry for garment of characteristic practical nature is one of the specific features of Slovak folk jewelry" ... "Folk jewelry had a considerable impact on the people's mental culture. It took over some secondary functions in the sphere of customs, superstitions, and magic" ... silver jewelry was a substantial part of family property ... brass jewelry was made by "folk autodidacts" "beaten artifacts from sheet metal were the most numerous" ... engraved, embossed, and chased ... in Liptov, small motifs were cast by black paste ... in Zvolen, embossers inlaid work ... silver was not folk; originally belonged to burghers and aristocrats and common people could not wear it; folklorisation took place at end of eighteenth century ... filigree became more popular than cast ... lead and tin imitations of silver ... costume jewelry became an inseparable part of folk costume ... only silver can be dated precisely, thanks to craftsmen's standards, but even this changed with popularization of silver ... goldsmith's trade marks aid in dating ... oldest artifact of non-ferrous metals dates from 1875+ ... older artifacts were not kept, but used to make new ones ... some artifacts have been found in medieval graves ... rings have high symbolic value ... necklaces ... earrings rare in Slovakia, simple when they do occur ... bracelets rare; leather wrist protectors more common, sometimes with fancy buckles ... pins and combs sometimes were inseparable parts of hairstyles ... men fastened their long hair with combs ... frogs (clasps) ... typical frogs have heart shaped openings ... boat shaped brass belt buckles typical of Slovakia ... spherical buttons can be traced back to the Middle Ages ... "traditional folk jewelry does not exist any longer."

 

Jurkovic, Dusan. 1913. "Slovak Popular Art." pp. 352-361 in Seton-Watson.

Overview:

A Slovak architect who made his career designing Slovak peasant - inspired commissioned architecture in Bohemia and Moravia in the early part of this century offers a very general, not very detailed overview of Slovak folk art. Four black and white photographs of home interiors and exteriors; one of lace.

Main Points:

The most typical Slovak dwelling is "a lonely hut girt by forest and mountain, far from the world, far even from their nearest neighbors" ... they live "much the same primitive life which his ancestors led a thousand years ago" ... "The dwelling house is at the same time workshop and school" ... "The dower of a bride consists ... in cash and clothes, and indeed the latter are often worthy of a place in a museum of arts and crafts" ... black rooms described: they "retain a permanent shiny black color" ... "Above the vestibule [Slovaks] are wont to fasten little statues, whose meaning the present generation can no longer explain" ... "houses are decorated with branches of palm and lime, juniper flowers and berries of various plants -- a custom which has doubtless some primeval meaning which is now lost to us" ... men designed and built their own homes ... white rooms discussed ... underclothes are made of hemp ... saffron, willow bark, wild pears used as dye ... churching cloths take a whole lifetime to prepare ... division of Slovaks into white and red by clothing cut and color choice ... Slovak art is misnamed as "Hungarian" art in exhibitions ... Hungarians retard modernization in Slovakia ... "The stream of modern day pseudo culture is undermining the work of our people" ... authorities wish to either Magyarize or exterminate the Slovaks ... Jewish tradesmen buy Slovak art and ship it to German museums; peasants have no knowledge of the value of their creations.


 

[1]Glassie, Henry. 1973. "Structure, Function, Folklore, and the Artifact" Semiotica 7:313-351.

 

Copyright 2004, Danusha V. Goska

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