During the fin de siecle (i.e., the 1890s), Vienna, Austria was enjoying an infusion of modernist ideas that infiltrated the creative studios of the city’s young artists (within the realm of the visual arts, music, architecture, graphic design, etc.). These young artists, thoroughly dissatisfied with the staid art establishment’s conservative taste and the seeming stranglehold grip it had on all aspects of creativity, embraced with enthusiasm the new modernist ideas and drew their energies and resources together in order to fund a series of advanced art exhibitions portending that the future had indeed arrived in Vienna. The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig wrote passionately about this energized period of time in his memoir, published as The World of Yesterday. A passage from Zweig’s memoir reflected on the utopian atmosphere engulfing the Secession artists who were unaware of growing nationalist tensions and a conservative backlash to the avant-garde movement: “We had eyes only for books and pictures…The city was aroused at the elections, and we went to the libraries. The masses rose, and we wrote and discussed poetry. We did not see the fiery signs on the wall, and like King Belshazzar of old we feasted without care on the precious dishes of art, not looking anxiously into the future.” If you lived in Vienna during this time period, do you think/believe you would recognize Vienna’s impending historic contribution to culture during the Secession period? Does Las Vegas have a similar energy now toward post-modern advanced art in our culture?
Photograph of Stefan Zweig
Joseph Maria Olbrich, Vienna Secession Hall, 1898