Art Nouveau - Jugendstil, Vienna
It looks a little strangely with this gold roof but it is very effective art deco facade. The Vienna Secession is also known as the Union of Austrian Artists and its was formed in 1897 by a group of Austrian artists who had resigned from the Association of Austrian Artists. The museum specializes on contemporary art. Often artists change the outside of the building by adding sculptures or changing the lightening. The idea of the 'gesamtkunstwerk' and of adapting the room/museum to add to the art work presented is still alive!
“At the MAK, the ideas of the artist and the intentions of the work are given free rein.”
— from the Mission Statement of the Museum of Applied Arts
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED Founded in 1864 as the Imperial and Royal Austrian Museum of Art and Industry, the Museum für angewandte Kunst, MAK (Museum of Applied Arts), exhibits decorative arts treasures ranging from Renaissance and Baroque lace and glass, to Italian majolica vessels of the High Renaissance, to furniture and household objects in the Biedermeier and Empire styles, to outstanding products of the Wiener Werkstätte; all are grouped by period, in their own rooms.
The MAK offers a fun look at everyday objects that, because of their fine design, added beauty to the lives of those who used them. It is important to surround ourselves with beauty, especially in the most mundane parts of life.
Three op-art stained-glass windows (see photos) decorate the landing of the MAK’s main staircase .
“What is impractical can never be beautiful.”
— Otto Wagner (1841-1918)
What delight it would be to walk out of the apartment building at Linke Wienzeile No. 40 each morning and return to it each evening. It was designed by Otto Wagner; it is known as Majolika House (1898-1899) for its façade (see photos #1 & #2) that is lavishly decorated with sheets of majolica painted with fuchsia and blue flowers, and their sensuously curving, climbing green leaves and stems. What a flight of fancy the designer, Wagner’s student Alois Ludwig, took with this building. Today Majolika Haus has retail shops at the ground floor level and private apartments on its upper floors.
Or I would settle for living next door, at Linke Wienzeile No. 38. Another exemplary piece of Secessionist architecture, a residential building also designed by Wagner, No. 38, is known as Medallion House, for the gilded medallions on the façade (see photos #3 & #4); they are the work of Kolo Moser (1886-1918), who founded Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) with Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956).
“Der Zeit ihre Kunst. Der Kunst ihre Freiheit” (“For every time its art. For art its Freedom”)
— Slogan that once appeared on the exterior of the Secession Building, removed during a 1908 renovation
A golden cabbage, that is how the snickering Viennese ridiculed the gilded laurel-leafed cupola above Josef Maria Olbrich’s 1898 exhibition hall. Built in a six-month period for the Association of Visual Artists Vienna Secession to display works of that modern movement, today it’s known simply as the Secession Building.
The gallery’s most famous work of art — other than the building itself — is the Beethoven Frieze, painted in 1902 by the leader of the Secessionists, Gustav Klimt. Just as I’m unsettled by most of Klimt’s work, so the Frieze too leaves me uneasy. The figures are so gaunt, ghostly, and downright ugly!
The Secession Building’s main decorative feature is the laurel leaf. It can be found on the pilasters of the front and the anterior wing, as well as in the entrance recess, and in the garlands on the building’s side. The most striking application of this natural motif is the 3,000 gilt leaves and 700 berries of the dome.
Representing architecture, sculpture and painting, three masks of the Gorgons decorate the recess above the entrance door (see accompanying photo). Owls (see accompanying photo), attributes of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, victory and the arts, are featured on the outside sidewalls; these are the designs of Kolo Moser. This Classical symbolism is used in a fresh interpretation by Joseph Maria Olbrich.
The Secessionist movement was formed in 1897 by 19 Vienna artists who, like their earlier counterparts in France and Impressionism, were tired of the official line with its traditional approach towards the promotion of the historical and classicism. It soon became better known as Art Nouveau.
With no specific uniting style, the group took their name from the Latin 'Secessio' - to cede from, to withdraw. They had their first exhibition in 1898 at a building built and designed for them near to Karlsplatz by Joseph Maria Olbrich, a building which came to be known simply as The Secession/Die Sezession. It is this very building that remains today and which is one of the highlights of any visit to Vienna.
Nowadays, it is the home of contemporary art exhibitions, but their is still, in spite of being badly damaged during WWII, plenty of the original to see, including one of the great pieces of 20th century art - Klimt's 'The Beethoven Frieze' (1902).
(Images taken during an installation at the gallery - normally it is painted white and gold!)
Open, Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm (open until 8pm on Thursday)
Of all the Art Nouveau buildings in Vienna this is probably the most unusual. Approaching, it looks more like a mosque or temple with ts huge golden dome. This striking feature is an intricately wrought globe of gilded bronze laurel leaves, known somewhat irreverently as the 'golden cabbage' by the locals. The building was completed in 1898 and was the headquarters of the artists in the Secessionist movement. Outside, in a plethora of decorative features, Klimt's door with writhing snake handles is probably the most beautiful.
Inside there is an upstairs hall which houses temporary exhibitions and downstairs in the basement is the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt. This wonderful piece of art is on permanent display but sadly I can make no observations on it as I didn't get inside to check it out. To my absolute fury I forgot that it was there and only remebered on the plane coming home. Perhaps I have here an excuse to visit Vienna for the third time !
Open Tuesday - Sunday 10-18hr, Thursday, 10-20hr.
Very close to Karlsplatz and the Naschmarkt, on Linke Wienzeile, are two of Otto Wagner's other most famous buildings. Right next to each other at nos. 38 and 40 they were part of Wagner's plan to transform the whole route to Schonbrun into a sort of Art Nouveau Ringstrasse. Both buildings have ground floors which are in commercial use and clearly seperate from the residential floors over head. No 38 is more low-key with gold palm leaves and medallions but no 40 is ( to me anyhow), much more striking. The tiles it is clad with are hard-wearing majolica - hence the name, Majolika House. On these reddish/pink tiles Wagner designed an elaborate flower/tree/vine motif and it is this that gives the house its freshness and charm.
Please click on photo 3 to see no. 38 Linke Wienzeile - you may prefer its gold embossed palm leaves to the red flowers of no. 40. It's hard to make a choice as they are both stylistically amazing.
The most outstanding feature in Karlsplatz, apart from Karlskirche is the bijou, green, gold and white pavillion by Otto Wagner. Wagner designed the city transit railway stations and the finest are these two at Karlsplatz (1898) and the one at Schonbrunn. The pavillion is a very fine example of secessionist architecture and the details on it are well worth examining. Flowers, leaves and loads of gilding break up the rather dull green. Unfortunately, the Pavillion is only open from April to October so I could only see it from outside. Opening hours in season are from 9 am- 6 pm daily except Monday.
Leaving Judenplatz and moving closer to Stepansdom, you come to the Hoher market . This square was once the centre of the Roman camp at Vienna but now it's a messy mishmash of cars and office buildings. It does have one fairly stunning feature though, its clock the Ankerhur. This is a massive piec eof tick-tockery and joins two buildings of the Anker insurance company. It's dark green and gold, designed in Jugendstil by by Franz Matsch in 1914. Every hour a figure moves across the clock but the big show is at noon. This reminded me very much of the glocken-und-figurenspiel displays I had seen in Germany and I was determined to be there. However we lingered too long in Judenplatz and arrived just in time to see Joseph Haydn bringing up the rear. The full quota consists of 12 figures who move across the clock rather slowly, accompanied by organ music. A pleasant diversion, worth seeing if you're in the area.
At the same time as the old Imperial regime was singing its swan song with buildings like the Neue Rathaus that harked back to the mediaeval past, a new movement was about to be born. All across Europe this new style was developing, taking on different forms in different countries, but always characterised by the use of forms taken from nature and for its rejection of the historical inspiration that informed so much of 19th century art and architecture. In Vienna the new style was to become known as Jugendstil - Youth Style - and there are wonderful examples all over the city, both in complete buildings and small details.
The most extraordinary example must surely be the Secession Building with its fantastic golden dome of leaves sitting on top of a stark white cube of a building. Built in 1898 it caused a huge controversy, and continued to do so as the artists who exhibited their works there broke all the bounds of convention.
Jugendstil found its way into all aspects of design in the city in the years before WWI. Even street furniture was influenced. The Anker Clock on the Hoher Markt is a favourite example with locals and tourists alike, but two of my favourites are the mosaic nymphs on the Engel Apotheke shop on Bognergasse, the sole survivors of the many similar works that once adorned many of the city's shopfronts and a another building with flower-decked maidens - though I can't remember on which street I saw them,
While we are talking "Jugendstil" I have to add one more sight (that most of you might not call a sight ;). The toilets at "Graben", one of the posh shopping streets in the center of Vienna. Even if you don't need a toilet, make sure to walk down the stairs to have a look at this wooden beauty.
After you have paid your 50 ct to use the toilet the friendly lady closes the doors behind you and you are left alone behind frosted glas wandering if she will open the door again for you when you're finished. No worries, she doesn't have to. Inside you have a handle to open the door yourself...
Otto Wagner designed the tram stations at the end of the 19th century. When they were built trams were pulled by horses still and went through Vienna on a basement level, not underground though. Today the subway along the line U6 uses bits of the old infrastructure, e.g. the stations over ground and the beautiful bridges.
The stations at Karlsplatz are maybe the nicest of them. As far as I remember one is still used as an entrance to the subway. The other one hosts a cafe nowadays. Unfortunately underground it's not as beautiful at Karlsplatz. The stations here are full of drug dealers and other dodgy people.
Close to Naschmarkt you find my favourite building in Vienna, the very stylish Secession. It was built in Art Nouveau style in 1898 by Joseph Maria Olbrich. It used to be the house of the Secessionists, a group of young artists in the end of the 19th century. Today it houses changing exhibitions as well as Klimt's "Beethoven-Fries". Unfortunately we didn't have time to have a look inside but the outside views are nice as well.
On top of the building there's a golden dome out of laurel leaf. The locals call it "Goldener Krauthappl" (golden cabbage). All around the building you will find golden decorations and writings. The most famous one is located above the front door. It says "Der Zeit ihre Kunst, der Kunst ihre Freiheit".
When the building was finished the people of Vienna hated it and wanted to tear it down immediately. Common opinions were that the Secession looked like a "Temple for Bullfrogs", "A Temple of the Anarchic Art Movement" or "A bastard between temple and warehouse". Today it is one of the attractions of Vienna. And it even found its way onto the Austrian 50 cent coins!
The Secession Building is one of several Art Nouveau buildings which are a welcome change from the overwhelming Renaissance style of Vienna. It has been nicknamed the "Golden Cabbage" by locals for obvious reasons. Unlike many other of Vienna's Art Nouveau masterpieces, this one was not designed by Otto Wagner, but rather by one of his pupils: Joseph Maria Olbrich.
We were fortunate to pass in front of it several times. If you do visit it, take the time to appreciate the green curvy lines of the building and the mosaic tiles of the tree pots at the entrance.
There are also exhibitions inside, but given Vienna's wide array of museums, we chose to skip this one.
It is good fortune that the secession still survives - even if it has now been immortalized on the Austrian 50 cent coin. The Secession was built in 1897-8 and was designed by Josef Olbrich. After severe damage in World War II it was not until the 1980s that it was restored to its original glory.
In its centenary year, it was sponge painted red. Its dome (cupola) of golden laurel leaves has been ornately restored - it is a sight to behold being an orgy of gold-plated leaves. The entrance is also grand - with the motto "Der Zeit ihre Kunst, der Kunst ihre Freiheit" - "To the age its art, to art its freedom" as well as three gorgons above the door representing Malerei, Architektur and Plastik - painting, architecture and sculpture. Above the entrance you can read the motto of the secessionist: "Der Zeit ihre Kunst. Der Kunst ihre Freiheit."
Inside there is the very controversial and famous Beethoven frieze - which looks remarkably unfinished and which was conceived as a homage to the composer for a 1902 exhibition, which was Gustav Klimt's contribution to the exhibition. Otherwise the Secession has now become a home to contemporary art - there are a range of constantly changing exhibitions - as well as a customary over-priced souvenir shop.