Vienna and the Secession Artists at the Turn of the Century

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

Vienna Secession Building


Joseph Maria Olbrich, Vienna Secession Hall, 1898


Gustav Klimt and Vienna Secessionist Painting at the Turn of the Century

Gustav Klimt, the brilliant Austrian symbolist painter and muralist, was a founding member of the Vienna Secession movement.  As such, Klimt found himself positioned to be a leader of a movement which responded to the energy and vitality of a new century by persuasively arguing that the next generation of Austrian artists needed to turn their back on the conservative Vienna Kunstlerhaus.  By turning the gaze away from the constancy of the past, Klimt and the other founding members of the Vienna Secessionist group no longer pursued aesthetic compositions which responded first and foremost to historicist themes.  The motto of Klimt and the other founders, conspicuously placed above the front door of their group’s headquarters by the structure’s architect Joseph Maria Olbrich, states the following:  “Der Zeit ihre Kunst. Der Kunst ihre Freiheit.” (“To every age its art. To art its freedom.”).  What are your thoughts on this Vienna Secession motto and do you see any relevance for this motto in our time?

Vienna Secession Building


Joseph Maria Olbrich, Vienna Secession Building, 1897

Photograph of Gustav Klimt 1914

Photograph of Gustav Klimt, 1914


Welcome to Art 473-673 for the Fall 2013 Semester!

Hello and Welcome to Art 473-673!  This Fall 2013 semester we will explore the sustained cry for artistic freedom and its connection to the outpouring of creative energy between 1890 and 1960.  Although much of this visual material may seem “old” to you, in reality the pitched battle by the artist for expressive freedom is a recent phenomena from a historical context.  An exhibition catalogue entry written by critic Clive Bell, published in the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition (1912), states:  “We all agree now that any form in which an artist can express himself is legitimate, and the more sensitive perceive that there are things worth expressing that could never have been expressed in traditional forms.”  Clive Bell began his catalogue entry with the following exclamation:  “The battle is won.”  Do you believe that “the battle is won”?  Your thoughts?

Picasso Les_Demoiselles_d'Avignon


Pablo Picasso, Women of Avignon, 1907

Pollock No._5,_1948


Jackson Pollock, Number 5, 1948