Viennese Secession

The Viennese Secession (German: Sezessionsstil or Wiener Secession) is an art movement that flourished in Austria, especially in Vienna, between 1892 and 1906.

This current is, by convention and post, attached to the Art Nouveau and Jugendstil, huge momentum of renewal of artistic forms that knows all the West in the late xix th century Vienna Secession nevertheless has its own characteristics, manifestos, exhibitions and artists, with Vienna as an anchor, but also Prague, Budapest and other cities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The first Secession takes place in Munich in 1892 and is, in its beginnings, mainly pictorial. A group of artists, forming around Fritz von Uhde, Wilhelm Trübner, Franz von Stuck, Eugene Spiro and Arnold Böcklin, refuses the conformism gradually installed in the artistic conceptions of the time. This group is centered around the Munich magazine Jugend from 1896, then around the magazine Pan, appeared in stride.

The Viennese Secession, meanwhile, develops in the wake of the German artistic turmoil, but in a different way, in the form of a group of architects and visual artists created in 1897 by Josef Olbrich, Josef Hoffmann and Gustav Klimt, who will be the president, under the name of Secessionsstil. It develops around the magazine Ver sacrum, which is the “official organ of this group of Austrian artists”, as indicated by the subtitle of this monthly launched in January 1898.

The Viennese Secession was officially founded in Vienna in April 1897 as part of the Association of Visual Artists of Austria which aimed to:

bring together the creative forces of this country;
establish contacts with foreign artists;
advocate an international exchange of ideas;
to fight against the nationalist impulse of the European countries;
renew the applied arts;
create a total art;
to put a new, genuine artistic expression to the faded art of Viennese official salons.

In order to achieve their goals, they will create their own exhibition space, the Secession Palace, built according to the plans of Josef Maria Olbrich.

For these young artists, art must be at the origin of a new conception of existence. The literary critic Hermann Bahr defines the objectives of the Secession in the first issue of the journal Ver Sacrum:

“Our art is not a struggle of modern artists against the ancients, but the promotion of the arts against peddlers who pretend to be artists and who have a commercial interest in not letting art flourish. Trade or art is the challenge of our Secession. This is not an aesthetic debate, but a confrontation between two states of mind. ”

At the same time, artistic centers were created in different cities of Germany, especially in Munich, Berlin, and especially in Darmstadt. The German Jugendstil does not come from a single point and the exchange of ideas between these different poles contributed to its development.

The voice of the movement was heard through several magazines:

The main one, Jugend (Youth), advocates new ideas on architecture, drawing and decoration. The name Jugendstil comes from this review.
The most representative magazine, official organ of the Viennese Secession, is Ver Sacrum, founded in 1897. Its publication stops in 1903.
Other magazines have participated in the rise of the current, such as Pan, Simplicissimus, Deutsche-Kunst und Dekoration…
In 1902, some artists, thinking that Ver Sacrum was too cosmopolitan and could favor a foreign “artistic invasion” that prevented the emergence of Viennese artistic identity, would create the foundation of Hagenbund.

Paintings like Judith of Gustav Klimt or The Sin of Franz Stuck is at the time. Considered a crime against artistic creation.

The movement was as much philosophical as aesthetic. Unlike other movements, there is no one style that unites the work of artists who were part of the Vienna Secession. The Secession building most nearly represents the movement. Above its entrance is the phrase “Der Zeit ihre Kunst. Der Kunst ihre Freiheit.” (“To every age its art. To every art its freedom.”). Secession artists were concerned, above all else, with the possibilities of art outside the confines of academic tradition. They hoped to create a new style that owed nothing to historical influence, in keeping with the spirit of turn-of-the-century Vienna (the time and place that also saw the publication of Freud’s first writings).

The Secessionist style was exhibited in a magazine that the group produced, called Ver Sacrum, which featured highly decorative works representative of the period.

Along with painters and sculptors, there were several prominent architects who became associated with the Vienna Secession. During this time, architects focused on bringing purer geometric forms into the designs of their buildings. Even though they had their own type of design, the inspiration came from neoclassical architecture, with the addition of leaves and natural motifs. The three main architects of this movement were Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich, and Otto Wagner. Secessionist architects often decorated the surface of their buildings with linear ornamentation in a form commonly called whiplash or eel style, although Wagner’s buildings tended towards greater simplicity and he has been regarded as a pioneer of modernism.

In 1898, the group’s exhibition house was built in the vicinity of Karlsplatz. Designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich, the exhibition building soon became known simply as “the Secession” (die Sezession) and became an icon of the movement. The secession building displayed art from several other influential artists such as Max Klinger, Eugène Grasset, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Arnold Bocklin.

Otto Wagner’s Majolika Haus in Vienna (c. 1898) is a significant example of the Austrian use of line. Other significant works of Otto Wagner include The Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station in Vienna (1900), and Austrian Postal Savings Bank in Vienna (1904–1906).
Wagner’s way of modifying Art Nouveau decoration in a classical manner did not find favour with some of his pupils who broke away to form the Secessionists. One was Josef Hoffmann who left to form the Wiener Werkstätte. A good example of his work is the Stoclet Palace in Brussels (1905).

The Secession movement was selected as the theme for a commemorative coin: the 100 euro Secession commemorative coin minted on 10 November 2004.

On the obverse side there is a view of the Secession exhibition hall in Vienna. The reverse side features a small portion of the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt. The extract from the painting features three figures: a knight in armor representing Armed Strength, one woman in the background symbolizing Ambition and holding up a wreath of victory, and a second woman representing Sympathy with lowered head and clasped hands.

On the obverse side of the Austrian € 0,50 or 50 euro-cent coin, the Vienna Secession Building figures within a circle, symbolising the birth of art nouveau and a new age in the country.

The Viennese Secession organized from 1897 a series of exhibitions, several times a year. The most significant is the VIII. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs Secession (1900) 1, under the artistic direction of Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser, and Leopold Bauer. It appears as one of the key moments of Viennese modernity as it hosts works by German, English, Belgian and Scottish artists or architects. It intersected Julius Meier-Graefe’s “Modern House” opened in Paris, the architect Henry van de Velde, Charles R. Ashbee and the Guild of Handicraft,Charles Rennie Mackintosh and James Herbert MacNair.

First split
In 1903, the creation by Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann of a new association, the Wiener Werkstätte (“Viennese workshops”) was an essential factor in this renewal. It was the gathering place for applied arts. This is where the Viennese applied arts found their own identity.

Second split
In 1905, a conflict broke out between secessionist “naturalist” artists (including ” academics “) and artists such as Gustav Klimt, Josef Hoffmann or Koloman Moser. The latter no longer wanted to be associated with naturalists because they rejected the concept of a total work of art.

The Presidency in 1906 and 1907 is provided by Anton Nowak (in), but the revolutionary spirit of previous years is no more.

Sources of inspiration
Art Nouveau was created thanks to several influences. The symbolist movement allowed a new reading of the thought of the time, notably thanks to the rise of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis.

The Japanese print is an art that nothing belongs to European styles of the past. Modern decorative art will draw from this cultural universe many of its strengths.

The Secession and the Jugendstil will also be inspired by the English Arts & Crafts movement and Gothic decorative motifs.

Graphics Features
This style is characterized by:

organic forms and the representation of themes such as fish, birds and vegetation;
stylized floral compositions;
an abundance of curves;
a strong relationship between text and image;
an absence of perspective and, with it, an absence of time.

The Secession posters will use a mixture of graphic languages drawn from illustration, decoration and typography. A clear distribution of the text and the image had as a final requirement the readability of the text. The text is autonomous, sometimes inscribed in a cartouche, but always in correspondence with the decorative elements. It will be posters for exhibitions, plays, books, but rarely for advertising industrial products.

In 1907 the Wiener Werkstätte decorated the Cabaret Fledermaus, according to Hoffmann’s plans. Interior decoration and graphic design represent one of the peaks of the Viennese Secession.

Secession and Jugendstil have their own typography. The characters of the most representative font (that of Otto Eckmann) are defined by a calligraphic feature, an organic and fluid appearance. The influence of Gothic characters is essential in the typography of this current.

This typography was considered at the time as illegible (by the public). The independent publisher Insel Verlag plays with the creation of the magazine Insel (1899) a key role in the development of new typography. Inspired by English research, it results in very free creations, representative of the secessionist identity. Behrens and M. Leitcher have created characters of the same type as those of Eckmann (from the Rudhard foundry).

Main Artists
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), painter and engraver, is the main founder of the Viennese Secession. In 1897, he co-founded the Secession and Ver Verrum magazine. He was president of the Secession and exhibition director at the Secession Palace until 1905. His themes are mostly women’s nudes, allegories of ancient myths and images related to Freud’s psychoanalysis.

Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956) studied architecture in Vienna. After his studies, he made a trip to Italy that inspired him a lot, which gave him a clear, geometrical and ornate style. He was one of the creators of the Secession. His main work is the Stoclet Palace in Brussels.

Otto Eckmann (1865-1902) is a painter and engraver. It is one of the main representatives of the floral Jugendstil. He has contributed to Pan and Jugend magazines. In 1899, Eckmann created an alphabet for the Rudhard foundry, which became the classic printing character of the Jugendstil. He inspired all subsequent typographical research.

Josef Maria Olbrich (1867-1908) is one of the founders of Art Nouveau. He was an architect. He was a teacher and a member of the artists’ colony in Darmstadt. He is a versatile artist who harmonizes architecture and art by using different materials that give his works their artistic value. His most important works are in Darmstadt.

Koloman Moser (1868-1918) studied at the Vienna Fine Arts to become a painter and designer. He is one of the founders of the Secession but especially of the Wiener Werkstätte. He is the scenographer for a large part of the Secessionist exhibitions.

We can also mention Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele, Otto Wagner Leo Putz, František Bílek, Alfred Roller, etc.

The architectural masterpiece of this artistic movement is probably the Stoclet Palace, built in Brussels around 1906 by Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstätte.

Some remarkable works are visible at the Belvedere Palace in Vienna:

Gustav Klimt: The Kiss (1907).
Gustav Klimt: Judith I (1901).
Egon Schiele: Der Rainerbub (1910).
Oskar Kokoschka: Bildnis of the Malers Karl Moll (1913).
Koloman Moser: Self-Portrait (1916).

Source from Wikipedia