The Art of Vienna 1890 – 1914

Two decades of Viennese architecture, painting, music & decorative arts

The end of the Habsburg Empire was marked by a huge increase in the population of Vienna and an extraordinary flourishing of the city’s café life. This talk will explain the links between the Secession artists and the achievements of Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss and Arnold Schoenberg. It will compare the architecture of Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos and explore the ‘culture of nerves’ that came to define its artists’ response to the speed and movement of the rapidly changing capital.

The talk will also explain how the artists’ escape into ‘the nervous, the artificial, the monstrous and the mystical’ had analogies with much earlier traditions in German art. It will compare Klimt’s disturbing female allegories and Schiele’s double-portraits to the work of Cranach. It will also unpick the prejudices and tensions behind contemporary critics’ comparisons of the decorative quality of the Secession to the ‘sickly sweetness of the Viennese Orient’.

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