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Vienna Secession and Vienna modernism

Related: Art Nouveau - Palais Stoclet - Vienna - Adolf Loos - Gustav Klimt - Josef Hoffmann - Egon Schiele

Era: fin de siècle

Palais Stoclet (1905 to 1911) - Josef Hoffmann, Brussels, Belgium

The Vienna Secession

The Vienna Secession or (also known as Secessionstil, or Sezessionstil in Austria) was part of that highly varied movement that is now covered by the general term Art Nouveau. Sezessionstil architects liked to decorate the surface of their buildings with linear ornamentation in a form commonly called whiplash or eel styles. Otto Wagner's Majolika Haus in Vienna (c1898) is a significant example of the Austrian use of line. Otto Wagner's way of modifying Art Nouveau decoration in a classical manner did not find favour with some of his pupils who broke away to form the Secessionists. One was Josef Hoffmann who left to form the Wiener Werkstatte, an Austrian equivalent of the Arts and Crafts Movement. A good example of his work is the Stoclet House in Brussels (1905).

Other figures of the Vienna Secession include:

--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vienna_Secession [Feb 2005]

Josef Hoffmann

Josef Hoffmann (December 15, 1870 Brtnice—May 7, 1956 Vienna) was an Austrian architect and designer of consumer goods. He studied with Otto Wagner. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_Hoffmann [Feb 2006]

Wiener Moderne

The Wiener Moderne or Viennese Modern Age is a term describing the culture of Vienna in the period between approximately 1890 and 1910. It refers especially to the development of modernism in the Austrian capital and its effect on the spheres of philosophy, literature, music, art, design and architecture. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiener_Moderne [Nov 2005]


The architect Otto Wagner wrote a book titled Moderne Architektur von 1895 (en: Modern architecture of 1895), in which he declares the era and predominance of the historic style (especially the buildings on the Ringstraße in the neo-greek, neo-roman and neo-baroque) to be over. He did not know of the term "Moderne" yet, he only spoke of the necessity for architecture to keep up and adapt to new technological developments. Otto Wagner himself would make use of new building materials such as steel and iron and encompass it into his work. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiener_Moderne#Architecture [Mar 2006]


Untitled Cubist Sculpture (1902) - Josef Hoffmann

Wiener Werkstaette Style
With the foundation of the Wiener Werkstaette in 1903, a new artistic style was born that came to be known as the Wiener-Werkstaette-Stil (literally, the Vienna Workshops Style). Beginning with the 14th Exhibition of the Vienna Sezession in 1902, the radical distinctiveness of certain Viennese artists began to emerge, setting a foundation for the widespread Modernist movement. Among the innovators was the Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann. His cubist sculpture created in 1902 marked a break into independence for many Viennese artists. His works from this period are especially remarkable when one considers that the term "cubism" only found its way into the art lexicon around 1907 to describe the work of Pablo Picasso.

With its avant-garde, artistic, yet timeless designs, the Wiener-Werkstaette-Stil influenced generations of architects and designers in the 20th century. Bauhaus in Germany, Art Deco in America from 1920 to 1940, Scandinavian design from 1940-1960 (see for example Arne Jacobsen), as well as Italian design (see Mario Bellini) between 1960 and 1980, are all strongly influenced by the Wiener Werkstaette. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiener_Werkstaette_Style [Mar 2006]

See also: avant-garde - Vienna - design - Cubism - 1902

Vienna Modernism and its place in history

Intensive academic interest in Vienna Modernism, the artistic and cultural developments of the two decades between 1890 and 1910, started in the 1960s. In the time immediately following the Second World War, artefacts from this period could be acquired on the art market at relatively low prices. Architecture was undoubtedly the discipline which aroused most interest and the appreciation for this fin-de-siècle architecture had been shown even earlier on. The momentum for the booming interest in Vienna Modernism came from abroad, aided greatly by the work of cultural scholars such as Carl E. Schorske, who taught in the United States.

It is Schorske, in particular, who can be called the pioneer of research into Vienna Modernism. His magnum opus, “Fin-de-Siècle Vienna“, is still a standard reference work on this period. The next phase in the evolution of in-depth research was triggered by the largescale exhibitions on the subject which were organised in the 1980s: Arte in Vienna in Venice (1983), Traum und Wirklichkeit in Vienna (1985) and L’Apocalypse joyeuse in Paris (1986). In all three exhibitions, an enthusiastic public was given insights, through an unusually comprehensive selection of exhibits, into the historical developments and the artistic achievements of the epoch as well as the ensuing trends leading up to 1938.

Vienna Modernism became the research topic par excellence. The nearer we moved to the end of the 20th century, the more interest centred on the glamour of the era 100 years ago. The question of “How could there be such a concentration of unsurpassed excellence in art and culture in only two decades?” became the decisive question for researchers. It also induced many tentatively to examine the possibility of such a climax reoccurring in our days. Scholars sought and still are seeking to identify the conditions that allowed this “status of excellence”.

Vienna Modernism and its place in history
Although scholars agreed that Vienna was not the only place where Modernism achieved sweeping successes, it was still common practice to regard “Vienna as the focal point of European Modernism” (Nautz/Vahrenkamp). Scholars consider that European Modernism reached its purest and most concentrated expression in Vienna at the turn of the century. The foundations of 20th century thought were not created in Vienna alone, but what would this century have been without Freud’s psychoanalysis, without Arnold Schoenberg’s twelve-tone music, without Arthur Schnitzler’s “soul-scapes” or without Gustav Mahler’s music and his interpretation of the music of his contemporaries.

Even after almost two decades of intensive research, the debate on the status of Vienna Modernism has by no means been concluded. Recent publications, written under the impression of Post-Modernism, which is generally regarded as the outcome of a crisis, convey a different picture of Modernism. For the French Germanist Jacques Le Rider Modernism also contains aspects of uprooting and crisis. Le Rider calls it the crisis of liberalism, the crisis of masculinity and the crisis of Jewish identity. After the stock-exchange crash of 1873, liberalism – to which all the major proponents of Vienna Modernism were committed – had lost ground and had been ousted from power by the political parties for the masses. Men were put into a state of uncertainty both by the ideas of the theoretician of matriarchy, Bachofen, who prophesied that there would be a clearly noticeable return to the feminine element in culture, and by the vehemently expressed striving for emancipation of a contemporaneous women’s movement. The reaction was a hatred of women in all shades and colours. The crisis of Jewish identity was a product of the constantly increasing anti-Semitism of the German- Nationals and Christian-Socials.

It was also during the era of Vienna Modernism that crisis was accepted as an element of development, as a potential way of life. More recently, scholars have ceased to believe in continuous progress, in the final achievement of harmonious uniformity in some far-away future. They have begun to consider the conscious acceptance and appreciation of diversity, contradiction and heterogeneity as valuable in their own right. This changed outlook is also a lesson drawn from what has been experienced in the history of the 20th century.

Not only are findings formulated more precisely now, the focus of research is also increasingly placed on the Viennese phenomenon of multi-culturality and on the coexistence of highly contradictory mindsets. After all, Modernism met with severe resistance on the part of conservative contemporaries. At any rate, the discussion on Modernism in Vienna is obviously going to continue for a while yet, which can only benefit the exploration of the many areas which have not yet been adequately studied and documented. --http://bkacms.bka.gv.at/2004/4/29/modernism.pdf [Oct 2005]

See also: modernism

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