Artel Cooperative

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(early 1900s–1924)

These Czech craft and furniture workshops, based in Prague, owed their inspiration to the Wiener Werkstätte and generated designs in ceramics, textiles, carpets, furniture, and metal with the intention of re‐establishing a more aesthetic everyday environment. Amongst keen purchasers of Artel's work was the novelist Franz Kafka, who lived in Prague. Artel's founders included Jaroslav Benda, Pavel Janák, Helena Johnová, Marie Teinitzerová, and Otakar Vondrácek. Early Artel designs included toys, boxes, beads, and buttons and the Cooperative sold its products through its shop, which moved several times during the life of the enterprise. It also promoted its wares through exhibitions, commencing in 1908 when it had a stand and display at the Prague Chamber of Commerce. A major source of inspiration was to become Czech Cubism, a style mainly associated with architecture that drew on the multifaceted ‘simultaneous’ forms of French Cubist painting, and there were close links between the designers associated with the Prague Artist's Workshops (See Czech Cubism) and the Artel Cooperative. Designers for Artel included architect, artist, and theorist Vlastislav Hofman, Ladislav Sutnar, and architect‐designer Rudolf Stockar, manager of the Cooperative's workshops before the First World War. Many of Artel's ceramics were manufactured by Rydl and Thon in Svijany‐Podolf and a number of their textile designs produced in a factory in Dvúr Králové. Before the outbreak of war in 1914 Artel products were also seen at the Deutscher Werkbund exhibition at Cologne, although the aesthetic flavour of their designs was far removed from the functional aesthetic of much progressive German design on display. In 1916 Rudolf Stockar and Frantis̆ek Kysela designed the interiors and decoration of the sweetshop in the Ligna Palace in central Prague, blending Cubist decoration with indigenous folk art motifs, a nationalist consciousness that was to become more pronounced after the establishment of an independent Czechoslovakian state in 1918. In the same year Artel had a major public display at the Prague Museum of Decorative Arts, where it sought to reconcile modern forms with tradition, an outlook that became increasingly important in the post‐First World War period. By this time the continued viability of Artel was becoming increasingly problematic and despite a major advertising campaign by Milena Jesenka, the position failed to improve and the organization came to an end in 1924.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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