Art Nouveau In Prague

Prague is most famous for its Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, but the Art Nouveau style (known as Secese in Czech and Jugendstil in German), which you should look out for while sightseeing, also helps give the city centre its special character.

Art Nouveau developed in the late 19th early/20th century and became very popular throughout Europe and beyond. The movement was inspired by natural forms, resulting in elegant flowing lines and an abundance of curves, in architecture, art and furniture design. Famous exponents of the style include Victor Horta in Brussels, Gustav Klimt and Otto Wagner in Vienna and Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow. Each of them interpreted the style in slightly different ways, and distinctive local branches of Art Nouveau emerged.

The Municipal House

The Municipal House

In the Czech lands Art Nouveau was associated most of all with the artist Alfons Mucha (see Bohemia Apartments blog article on Alfons Mucha), whose poster designs are synonymous with the style. Art Nouveau architecture was equally important, and architects such as Osvald Polívka, Antonín Balšánek and Josef Fanta enthusisatically embraced the style. 

The most famous examples of Art Noveau architecture in Prague include the Municipal House (Obecní dům) on Náměstí Republiky, the adjacent Hotel Paříž, the K&K Hotel Central on Hybernská, Národní třída numbers 7 and 9, and the main railway station (Praha hlavní nádraží). The most well-known piece of Art Nouveau sculpture is the Jan Hus statue on Old Town Square, designed by Ladislav Šaloun. Ironically, by the time the memorial was unveiled, Art Nouveau was already out of fashion. Šaloun also designed the grave of the most famous Czech composer, Antonín Dvořák, at Vyšehrad Cemetery, where many other leading Czechs are buried.
Jan Hus Memorial on The Old Town Square

Jan Hus Memorial on The Old Town Square

As well as grand public buildings, Art Nouveau architects designed many private apartments, notable examples of which can be seen along the riverbank south of the National Theatre (Národní divadlo), and in the inner suburbs such as Vinohrady.

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