As my dedicated readers know, I am a museum addict.
One of the museums that I knew I wanted to visit in Prague was the Museum of Czech Cubism, which is located in the House of the Black Madonna. I must say, I was hoping for something a little more exotic than this building:
The cubist architecture in Prague is unique. Before WWI, nationalist Czech artists wanted to create pieces that were distinctly Czech. So it has an interesting historical legacy. However, applying the cubist style to a building is challenging. I thought some of the geometric shapes were interesting, but overall I wasn’t impressed. I much prefer the art deco style that came after WWI.
The building that I really fell in love with is Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunić’s Dancing House. Adding modern architecture to any European city is always controversial, but I think the Dancing House compliments its surroundings.
It was built on an empty lot that had been bombed in WWII (like I said, only about two bombs landed on Prague). The lot was also next door to President Václav Havel’s house. He was both a poet and a politician, and he supported the project, which was inspired by the dancing duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Gehry is most famous for his Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, which I haven’t visited, but I’ve seen his building on the Case Western campus in Cleveland and his pavilion at Millennium Park in Chicago. His style is very distinct, and is always interesting to look at–if you’re not blinded by the sun reflecting off his shiny metal surfaces.
I am never content with just one museum, so we also went to the Alfons Mucha museum. Mucha’s poster for Sarah Bernhardt’s “Gismonda” launched both his career and the Art Nouveau movement. I love the way curves, plants, and flowers are incorporated into his motifs. Art Nouveau was less about painting and more about applied arts: posters, textiles, buildings, and even mass-produced products.
Like the cubists, Mucha was a Czech nationalist. In the 1930s, he ran afoul of the Nazis and contracted pneumonia while being held for interrogation by the Gestapo. He died in 1939.
After seeing cubist paintings and Mucha’s posters, we couldn’t resist a little more art. The Municipal House had an exhibit called Tauromaquia, which included bullfighting paintings and sketches by Picasso, Dalí, and Goya. Although I am opposed to bullfighting, I really enjoyed seeing the same theme depicted by radically different artists. They also had a full-size cartoon sketch for Picasso’s Guernica.
With just a few brushstrokes, Picasso captured the violent energy of bullfighting:
Ironically, after seeing the Fred and Ginger building, my feet were too tired to walk, let alone dance. We took the tram back to our hotel, heads spinning with all the beautiful sites we’d seen.