Plzeňské sympozia

Pavla Machalíková – Tomáš Winter

The Birth of Country Folk

pp. 7–11 (Czech), Summary 10–11 (English)

The decisive factor in the choice of theme for the interdisciplinary Pilsen Symposium

in 2019 was topicality. The issue of nascent country folk in nineteenth-century Czech

culture touches not only the past. Taking into consideration the specific phenomena

included and the layers of associations aroused, there are strong resonances in the

present. The concept “folk” presents an interdisciplinary theme that can be grasped

by different disciplines from different points of view.

Folk are, as a rule, considered to be a particular type of society whose nature is

determined by a common language, culture or history. In the nineteenth century

the folk were often associated with the middle and lower classes, or simply with

the traditional rural population. In this way village people were often identified

with the nation. Moreover, the countryside was an environment distinct from the town,

mythologised from antiquity and at the same time connected to the “golden age”

of mankind, which was projected into the way country folk were perceived.

In the Bohemian Lands, as elsewhere in Europe, a highly stereotypical image of

the nature, bearers and meaning of the phenomenon of folk culture was gradually

created. On the other hand, the artistic reflection of traditional rural visual culture and

artistic work connected to the indisputably specific visual appearance of the countryside

shows what a range of inspiration this environment offered. It seems that in the case

of this theme, nationalist concepts were quite often mixed up with theories about

the origin and nature of authentic artistic work, and that these reinforced each other.

As a consequence, a conglomeration of frequently incompatible ideas and opinions

emerged which resulted in not only the long lasting attractiveness of the “folk” and

“rural” theme at an artistic level, but also its misuse for emotionally formulated

requirements of national society, including those of the present day.

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