How the conservative and culturally quite sedate city of Vienna of the 19th century could be one of the most creative cities in the world at around 1900 is still up to discussion. One reason could be that compared to relatively closed groups in other European centres, the cohesion of the elite in the capital of the Habsburg Empire was quite strong until the early 20th century. The achievements of the “Moderne” could therefor easily spread to all different areas, beginning with paintings, literature and music right up to medecine and jurisdiction, and bestow one last great rebellion on the battered Habsburg Empire.
In Austrian art the year 1897 with the foundation of the Vienna Secession marks the birth of modern art. Nineteen artists led by Gustav Klimt pulled out of the traditional Künstlerhaus on 24 May 1897 and founded the “Association of visual artists Austria, Secession”. They did not want to submit themselves to the historicist taste and the political will anymore. The journal Ver Sacrum was a far-reaching voice for modern art and the building of the Vienna Secession, opened in 1898, provided the young artists with the possibility to present their art works to a large audience. They wanted to actively teach the inhabitants of Vienna modern art, organized big international exhibitions and for the first time brought artists like van Gogh or French impressionists to Vienna. The entire life was meant to be penetrated with art. Art handicrafts were put on a level with paintings and sculptures. Architects as well as painters used their talents over and over as designers of various objects. Thus the Vienna Jugendstil soon could be seen on billboards, designed entire churches and embellished private apartments. The final aim was an artistic synthesis, which would embellish life and set people in the best case into a veritable paradise.
Since paper works are very light sensitive, all different kinds of drawings, water color works and prints cannot be exhibited permanently. Besides special exhibitions where paper works are exhibited temporarily, the art works are preserved at the depot of the museum and are not publicly accessible. We apologize for the inconvenience and kindly ask for your understanding. If you are interested in a particular paper work, please feel free to ask at the museum if it is currently exhibited.
„In the beginning we of course had to struggle with the strong conservatism of big Viennese companies. We literally had to force our designs upon them, didn’t ask for any remuneration but only for royalties. But suddenly the public seemingly took pleasure in the new type of furniture and materials and book covers and so also the shop couldn’t get enough of the secessionist stuff.“ This is how Kolo Moser remembered the exploding demand for art nouveau motifs at around 1900.
This „Jugenstil“ (as art nouveau is referred to in Austria) was part of a pan-European art trend that was referred to as „Modern Style“ in Britain an das „l’art nouveau“ in France. Art nouveau was seen as a countermotion to past historicism which only copied past art styles. By elegantly curved lines and floral decorations they didn’t only create single art works but entire artistic synthesis. Art nouveau buildings were furnished with art nouveau furniture, wallpapers, carpets and tableaus by people wearing art nouveau clothes and art nouveau jewelry that ate from art nouveau crockery. The complete blend of art and everyday life was their aim - nothing was neglected.
Being a versatile designer, Kolo Moser coined the Austrian Jugendstil, worked as a graphic artist of the journal Ver Sacrum and even designed the letter head and the signet of the Wiener Werkstätte. However the poster for the first exhibition of the Vienna Secession was designed by Gustav Klimt and by its reduction it is one of the pioneer art nouveau prints. The influence by Gustav Klimts is also very present in early works of the Wiener Werkstätte, which from the beginning developed revolutionary jewelry designs hat radically broke the mold: what counted was not material value but the artistic idea. Gustav Klimt, who designed patterns and ornaments for applied arts himself, often bought elegant jewelry of the Wiener Werkstätte which he liked to make Emilie Flöge a present of, who is also because of that one of the iconic figures of art nouveau.
Go to the exhibition Vienna 1900.