Charlotte Ashby, ‘Art Journals as Transnational Spaces’

In this paper I will present an exploration of how art and design periodicals functioned in Europe as transnational spaces in the decades around 1900. Looking at examples from across Britain and Europe, this paper will reflect on the extent to which, despite the greater or lesser representation of national/nationalist concerns, the content of these journals was based on an implicit understanding of the art world as a transnational community. Though the proliferation of such journals can be seen as a manifestation of a nationalist urge for art discourse in the mother tongue, the contents speak equally eloquently of a burgeoning sense of participation in a new vision for art that transcended national boundaries.

It is clear from the contents of these journals that they were concerned not with flow of information from centres to peripheries but the transnational flow of information among art and design practitioners. The periodicals themselves, as designed spaces, evince a commonality of format that reflected the foundational influence of The Studio, but also the implicit sense of the common relevance of such an arrangement. The contents of the journals mixed national and international art and design with no attempt to maintain a distinction between these two geographic categories. The intentional erosion of all categories – mixing fine and applied art, high and popular culture and national, European, and non-European – is evidence of the creation within these journals of a space where a new world of art was conceptualised and a new community of those engaged in this practice were brought together.

Though these journals were not utopian spaces and various forms of chauvinism persisted, in both form and content they spoke to a cosmopolitan understanding of art. Even where journals expressed their mission to their readers in explicitly national terms, this was never considered at odds with participation in the international project of art and design reform. Their pages indicate that to be an artist, architect or designer was to be a member of an international community whose practice and concerns transcended national boundaries.

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