Julia Secklehner - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Julia Secklehner

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Julia Secklehner

PhD student

Thesis: Frontiers of Identity: Austrian and Czechoslovak Caricature between Tradition and Modernity 1918-1939;

Supervised by Klara Kemp-Welch

‘Je suis Charlie,’ is a small sentence that not has recently reminded us of the aggressions that a satirical magazine could provoke with just one caricature. In our everyday, we are confronted with an influx of drawings as markers of protest and action, and caricature is an especially apt medium for this, because it is accessible, can be widely circulated, and has a simplified pictorial language that appeals to a large audience. However, these qualities are also susceptible to exposing the medium’s negative traits: the power to offend and to be used as an ideological weapon, which finds its most powerful moments when tensions arise within any given community, today as much as in the past.

My research focuses on the ways caricature reflected national and ideological frictions at a time and place where socio-political pressures ran exceptionally high: interwar Austria and Czechoslovakia. The two republics, closely connected during the Habsburg reign, were marked by an array of conflicts relating to their new make-up as independent states. Austria, transformed from a multi-national empire into a small, largely homogenous country, was marked by conflicts along political lines, while Czechoslovakia inherited the multi-ethnic character of Austria-Hungary, which led to an intensification of national tensions. Through caricature, these issues can be explored particularly well, considering is its double function as a form of entertainment and an ideological weapon, which, as we have seen so recently, also contains the power to incite violence. Thus, my assessment of caricature in interwar Austria and Czechoslovakia examines how opposing factions employed public visual culture to confirm and redevelop national, social and political identities in the face of tensions leading up to the Second World War.

Looking at caricature as an indicator for the formation of rivalling identities shows how increasingly polarised national and political factions were played out in the visual culture of the day and give due to the development of a specific visual language from an art historical perspective. In this respect, the particular research questions I aim to answer are: How did satirical magazines and their readership change between 1918 and 1939? Which kinds of identity were manifested? How were they influenced by socio-political changes and the formation of the two new states? To what extent was the passage towards the far right and extreme left evident, and how did popular visual culture mediate between these political formations and artistic developments?


  • PhD Art History – The Courtauld Institute of Art 2014 – present
  • MPhil (Research) in Czech – The University of Glasgow 2013 – 2014
  • MA (Hons) Art History and Czech – The University of Glasgow 2009-2013
  • BA(Hons) English Literature – The Open University 2007-2012


  • Summer School Talk, August 2015: ‘Spectacle of Colour and the Melancholic Women in French Modernism’
  • Lunch Time Talks in the Courtauld Gallery: ‘Egon Schiele: the Radical Nude’ Autumn/Spring Term 2014/15

Research interests

  • interwar Central European photography, art and culture
  • art, architecture and design in the late Habsburg Empire
  • post-revolutionary Mexican art and photography
  • nationalism and post-colonialism in Central Europe
  • caricature and its historiography

Conference papers and lectures

  • ‘Capturing the Ordinary: Irena Blühová and Photographic Modernism in Slovakia 1925-1936’ at The Third Forum of Critical Studies: Asking Big Questions Again, 6-7 February 2015, Villa Vittoria – Palazzo dei Congressi, Florence, Italy
  • ‘Hybridity, Communism and the Avant-Garde: Tina Modotti in Mexico 1924 – 1929’ XII Symposium of Mexican Students and Studies in the UK, University of Leeds, 4-6 August 2014

Recent publications

  • Gender(ed) Revolution? Masculinities and Femininities in Irena Blühová’s work’ immediations, the Courtauld Institute of Art Journal of Postgraduate Research, vol.3, no.4 (2015) (forthcoming)




  • Association of Art Historians
  • Historians of German and Central European Art

Other academic activity

  • Organiser of the ‘Postgraduate Central and Eastern European Seminar Group’ at the Courtauld Institute
  • Research Assistant for the special option MA course (2015/2016) ‘Central European Art and Culture 1918-1956: A Minor Modernism?’ funded by the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust. (April-September 2015)

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