ART LANDSCAPES. The Swiss critic William Ritter (1867–1955) and Central Europe

16/10/2020 to 07/02/2021
výstavní síň „13“
Markéta Theinhardt, Xavier Galmiche
Petra Kočová

William Ritter (1867–1955), a Swiss music and art critic, journalist, writer and a talented draughtsman too, was the first intellectual writing in French to take an interest in the culture of Central Europe as a whole. His writings presented Central Europe’s “art landscape” in words and images (including photographs), and they are a unique source of information on the epoch between the turn of the century and the first few years after World War II.

In his first period, in Paris, Ritter was associated with a decadent milieu that included Joséphin Péladan, Robert de Montesquiou and Elémir Bourges; the latter was Zdenka Braunerová’s brother-in-law. In 1888 Ritter visited Prague and moved to Vienna, where he was taught by Anton Bruckner. In the Balkans he discovered a subtly exotic landscape and a gradually vanishing rural civilisation. In Romania he met the Impressionist landscape painter Nicolae Grigorescu; he also met Marcel Montandon, with whom he then lived in Austria (1896–1900) while working as a music and art critic. He was greatly impressed by the Czechoslavic Ethnographic Exhibition held in 1895 in Prague, and he began learning about Czech culture from Jaroslav Vrchlický. He also made the acquaintance of Vojtěch Hynais, Miloš Jiránek and Zdenka Braunerová, and he wrote articles and literary pieces about Prague. He travelled Slovakia by train and on foot, and it was there, in Myjava, that he met his life partner, Janko Cádra. The two men lived together quite openly, and until 1914 they alternated between Prague, Munich, Myjava and Neuchâtel. They wrote criticism and made new friends, but they also entered into quarrels and polemics, among the best known of which was Ritter’s bitter opposition (as a champion of fin de siècle aesthetics) to an exhibition of works by Edvard Munch held in Prague in 1905. Other notable episodes included Ritter’s inspirational meeting with the young Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier, and his contacts with the composer Leoš Janáček.
The exhibition presents personal documents, photographs and notes from Ritter’s travels, together with works by the artists he wrote about and knew personally. It is also an opportunity to highlight hitherto overlooked means of communicating and mediating Central European neo-romantic culture, and to illustrate the sociocultural phenomena that were typical of gay subculture in Central Europe at the turn of the century.