The Secession Museum of Vienna:
Jeder Zeit Ihre Kunst (an art for every era) - Part I

Jugendstil or Art Nouveau ornaments on the Secession Museum in Vienna

Towards the end of the 19th century, the world of fine arts was a process of changing seriously: Starting from France, new movements spread that destructed conventional ideas of formality and the very purpose of art. Vienna was in the middle of an economic boom period and ruled by the reactionary Emperor Franz Joseph I.

The temple-like Secession building

Despite of his very conservative taste, Vienna proved to be a very fertile ground for new ideas in art - without having asked an art historian about that, I would assume that this was due to the longstanding tradition of collecting art and supporting artists as a noble habit. With the "Gründerzeit" ("Founder′s Age"), as the late 19th century is often called due to the rocket-like rise of many Viennese industries and corporations, this hobby was picked up by non-noble industrialists who spent a lot on those who graduated from Vienna′s excellent art academies.

The most influential association of artists at this time was the Künstlerhaus which had its own building near the Academy of Fine Arts on the Karlsplatz Square. In 1897, a group of primarily young artists proclaimed their break with the scholarly tradition propagated by the Künstlerhaus.

A New Way of Creating Art in Austria

They protested against the arty establishment which they blamed to be outdated, conservative and hostile to innovation, by founding their own association: The "Secession" was born. Since several of the participating men were already quite established, the uproar in the art scene was rather loud.

Ornaments above the entrance of the Secession Building

Money was collected for the construction of an own exhibition hall and the city of Vienna provided a piece of land just behind the Academy of Fine Arts and near the Künstlerhaus. The railway and steel tycoon Wittgenstein, the father of the philosopher Ludwig and one of these self-made millionaires of this entrepreneurial era, was a aficionado of modern art and donated a substantial amount of money towards the erection of the exhibition rooms.

Gustav Klimt served as the first president of the new association, Otto Wagner as a fierce opponent to the architectural disasters of the Ringstraße became another leading figure. Josef Hoffmann and Kolo Moser were key figures in publishing "Ver Sacrum", an Art Nouveau or Jugendstil journal for Vienna. The spirit of the day was to get rid of the heavy ornaments used both in architecture and painting, and move back to natural, plain, simple and young motives.

Hoffmann, Moser and Klimt later left the Secession over some argument - Klimt was big enough to stand by himself, Hoffmann and Moser co-founded the highly successful Wiener Werkstätten (Vienna Workshop) in 1902. Learn more about the workshop in the museum of applied art MAK.

Continue with "The Secession - Part II"

back to "vienna travel guide"

Vienna by District

District Overview - 1st (Innere Stadt) - 2nd (Leopoldstadt) - 3rd (Landstraße) - 4th (Wieden) - 5th (Margareten)- 6th (Mariahilf) - 7th (Neubau) - 8th (Josefstadt) - 9th (Alsergrund) - 10th (Favoriten) - 11th (Simmering) - 12th (Meidling) - 13th (Hietzing) - 14th (Penzing) - 15th (Fünfhaus) - 16th (Ottakring) - 17th (Hernals) - 18th (Währing) - 19th (Döbling) - 20th (Brigittenau) - 21st (Floridsdorf) - 22nd (Donaustadt) - 23rd (Liesing) -  Ringstraße - Surroundings

Further Reading

Jugendstil Sightseeing in Vienna

Official website of the Vienna Tourist Information

Wikipedia on the Vienna Secession

Strange, but official website of the Secession Art Museum