1897 - 1918




23 previous members of the Kunstlerhaus

Klimt, Gustav
Olbrich, Joseph M.(1867-1908)
Moser, Koloman
Moll, Carl
Bacher, Rudolf
von Ottenfeld, Rudolf
Tichy, Hans
Nowak, Anton
Mayreder, Julius
von Hellmer, Edmund
von Myrbach, Felician



The Other Thirteen

Jettel, Eugen
Bernatzik, Wilhelm

Hoffmann, Josef (1870-1956)
Lenz, Max
List, Wilhelm
2 others?

Wagner, Otto

Additional Austrian Members

von Alt, Rudolf
Roller, Alfred
Kurzweil, Max
Hancke, Franz
Czeschka, Carl Otto
Forstner, Leopold

Foreign 'Corresponding' Members

Khnopff, Fernand, Begian
Klinger, Max, German
Hodler, Ferdinand, Swiss
Toorop, Jan, Dutch

see page 851

Contemporary Critics include Hermann Bahr and Ludwig Hevesi.

Artistic Climate Preceding the Vienna Secession of 1897

Nearly all established artists belonged to the Academy of Fine Arts (Akademie der bildenden Kunste) and the Kunstlerhausgenosssenschaft (Genossenschaftbildender Kunstler Wiens) which together exerted a stranglehold upon the artistic life of the capital. A private exhibiting society founded in 1861 under the presidency of the architect August Siccardsburg, the Kunstlerhaus owned the only exhibition building and displayed annual exhibitions which influenced the formation of public taste. Like the Academy, the Kunstlerhaus was conservative in orientation and did not offer a congenial meeting place for revolutionary artists. The Austrian Museum for Art and Industry established in 1868 the School of Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule), modeled after the satellite school of the South Kensington Museum in London rivaled the Academy, yet most artists of the future avant-garde studied at the Academy; many of the painters under the "awesome tutelage of renowned" Professor Christian Griepenkerl.1

The younger, progressive members of the Kunstlerhaus met at cafe Zum Blauen Freihaus in the Gumpendorferstrasse, home of an informal society named 'Hagengesellschaft' or 'Hagenbund', after the proprietor; and at the Cafe Sperl. The usual circle at the Blauen Freihaus included Rudolf Bacher, Adolf Bohm, Josef Engelhart, Johann Viktor Dramer, Friedrich Konig, Ernst Nowak, Alfred Roller and Ernst Stohr. The Cafe Sperl saw the attendance of the more exclusive 'Siebener-Club' (Club of Seven) including Max Kurzweil, Leo Kainradl and Adolf Darpellus, the designer and graphic artist Koloman (Kolo) Moser, and the young architects Josef Hoffmann and Joseph Maria Olbrich, both winners of the Prix de Rome at the Academy, and protégés of the greatest Viennese representative of the modern movement in architecture, Otto Wagner, whom also occasioned these gatherings. They would discuss the recent issue of the Studio, and Martin Gerlach's Allegories (1895-1900), a set of folio volumes of graphic reproductions contributed by the likes of Moser, Engelhart, Carl Otto Czeschka and Klimt.

Younger members of the Kunstlerhaus did have some success in gaining positions of importance on juries and committees. In 1894 the German Kunstgenossenschaft prevented the artists of the Munich Secession from participating in the Third International Exhibition in Vienna, but the Kunstlerhaus held a show in December. Artists from abroad including Uhde, Segantini and Rodin exhibited in Vienna during the mid 1890's. Segantini was awarded the large Gold Medal at the Society's annual exhibition in the spring of 96, together with Arthur Strasser. But then the arch-conservative Eugen Felix was re-elected president of the Kunstlerhaus in November 1896.

Secession Begins

Radical members of the Kunstlerhaus were irritated by discrimination of the plein-airiste and Impressionist faction especially painters Josef Engelhart and Theodor von Hormann, the later whom needed to beg, unsuccessfully for the showing of his work. The president Felix maneuvered to exclude younger artists from international exhibitions. Furthermore there was frustration over the commercial character of the society's exhibitions.

In the beginning of 1897 Vereinigung bildender Kunstler Oesterreichs (Secession) was formally inaugurated with Klimt as the elected president. A letter to the Kunstlerhausgenossenschaft said,

As the committee must be aware, a group of artists within the organization has for years been trying to make its artistic views felt. These views culminate in the recognition of the necessity of bringing artistic life in Vienna into more lively contact with the continuing development of art abroad, and of putting exhibitions on a purely artistic footing, free from any commercial considerations; of thereby awakening in wider circles a purified, modern view of art; and lastly , inducing a heightened concern for art in official circles.

Twenty-three of the forty founding members were also members of the Kunstlerhaus and had not intended to resign. During the Kunstlerhaus meeting on May 22, 1897 the committee of the Genossenschaft passed a motion of censure upon the dissidents. Klimt and eight others left in silent protest. Two days later Klimt  offered a written resignation of himself, Stohr, Kramer, Olbrich, Moser, Carl Moll, Rudolf Bacher, Rudolf von Ottenfeld, Hans Tichy, Anton Nowak, Julius Mayreder, Edmund von Hellmer and Felician von Myrbach. Engelhart, Eugen Jettel and Wilhelm Bernatzik telegraphed from Paris to announce their solidarity. The resignations of Hoffmann, Kurzweil, Max Lenz and Wilhelm List, among others, followed. Kramer was formally expelled at the meeting on May 28. Otto Wagner, the last member of the opposition resigned on 11 November 1899.

Some secession artists represented the Jugendstil movement, the German variant of Art Nouveau, for example Olbrich. The terms Jugendstil and Secessionsstil were often used synonymously by contemporary writers. Other critics interpreted the Secession artists as a reaction to the prevalent naturalism of academic painting. Two writers at the time: Hermann Bahr and Ludwig Hevesi. Bahr's The Conquest of Naturalism.

The Secession had no program and brought together 'Impressionists', ' Naturalists', 'Modernists' and 'Stylists'. Also the fields of painting, design, graphic art, and typography were displayed at Secession exhibitions. Architects allied themselves with the association.

Ver Sacrum

The name means sacred stream. Cover for the first number, January 1898 is on page 41 designed by Alfred Roller. The publisher Gerlach und Schenk in Vienna began publishing Ver Sacrum. It was published monthly for the first two years. Considered an outstanding periodical from an artistic and literary standpoint. The editors, including Alfred Roller, "sought to realize new conceptions of layout and design, to create a unity out of the printed page, subordinating the individual processes of ornamentation and typography to a single purpose." Illustrative material played an important role including reproductions of works from abroad, photographs of the interiors of the exhibitions, Austrian poetry illustrations, proper graphic art such as Bohm's River of Tears, the fine series of sentimental allegorical subjects by Max Kurzweil, decorative vignettes and borders, and the design for the elegant picture frame by Hoffmann. The most distinguished poets of the day including Rilke, Hofmannsthal, Maeterlinck (Death of Tintagel in the Dec 98 issue), Knut Hamsun, Otto Julius Bierbaum, Richard Dehmel, Ricarda Huch and Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Arno Holz. Musical contributions from d'Albert, Conrad Ansorge, F. Klose and Hugo Wolf. The music and poetry was often surrounded by ornamental border designs by Hoffmann, Bohm, Roller, Jettmar, Konig, List, Muller, Friedrich, Bauer and Moser.

December 1898 entire issue devoted to Khnopff reproductions. Nov 99 includes an essay on Rysselberghe's work by poet Emile Verhaeren. In 1900 a whole issue devoted to Giovanni Segantini.

A de luxe edition was also issued with original drawings and graphics prepared largely by hand. The artists with the exception of the year the magazine was brought out by the firm of E.A. Seemann and Company in Leipzig, the contributing artists did so for nothing. Ver Sacrum ended up being published by the Secession itself. In 1900 the magazine began to be published every fortnight which decreased artistic quality.



The first issue of the "organ" of the Secession declared

We desire an art not enslaved to foreigners, but at the same time without fear or hatred of the foreign. The art of abroad should at upon us as an incentive to reflect upon ourselves; we want to recognize it, admire it, if it deserves our admiration; all we do not want to do is imitate it. We want to bring foreign art to Vienna not just for the sake of artists, academics and collectors, but in order to create a great mass of people receptive to art, to awaken the desire which lies dormant in the breast of every man for beauty and freedom of thought and feeling.

The statues of the organization (paragraph 14) state that the profit from its independently organized exhibitions will be used to purchase works shown and given to public galleries in Vienna. Between 1898 and 1905 as many as nineteen works by contemporary foreign masters including Segantini's Die Bosen Mutter and van Gogh's Plain at Auvers-sur-Oise.

The first exhibition took nearly a year of intensive preparation. They had to contact notable foreign artists and persuade them to lend their works and without a suitable exhibition building as of yet, acquaint the Viennese public with their ambition. Quote by Engelhart p. 27. Engelhart with knowledge of language traveled to England, France, Germany, and Belgium and met with sculptors Rodin, Bartholome, Lagae, painters Besnard, Boldini, Brangwyn, Carriere, Dagnan-Bouveret, Dill, Herterich, Khnopff, Klinger, Lavery, Meunier, Puvis de Chavannes, Raffaelli, Roll, Rops, Sargent, Swan, Uhde, Whistler.

The Kunstlerhaus was intending to rent the premises of the then Horticultural Society on the Parkring, but Engelhart came a day earlier and unilaterally paid the exceptionally high 8000 Gulden for three months rent. This was to be the first exhibition in Vienna where citizens could view the work of the best French, German, Belgian and German artists of the time. It opened on 26 March 1898. Klimt designed the poster and cover for the catalogue. Works by Brangwyn, Bocklin, Rodin, Segantini, Klinger, Whistler lithographs, Stuck, Mucha, Puvis' cartoons for his St. Genevieve Triptych commissioned for the Pantheon in Paris, Walter Crane watercolors, drawings, book illustrations, and wallpaper and stained glass designs, nineteen paintings by Khnopff including Still Water (relation to Klimt's early landscapes).

Walter Crane was greatly admired by the Secessionists and featured frequently in Ver Sacrum. Khnopff and Whistler were major influences upon the early work of the Secession, especially Klimt. "...a certain transcendental melancholy which goes beyond both language and image" is evident in the works of Khnopff and Klimt. Khnopff's work is linked with the writing of Maeterlinck.

Hoffmann and Olbrich were charged with the arrangement and hanging. Nearly all paintings were hung at eye level as opposed to the "skying" that occurred at the Kunstlerhaus and pictures of the same artist were hung together. Matt white, dark red and dark green were the principal colors for the wall-coverings, and the decorations were of a dull gold including a frieze of stylized plant motifs, so that the setting 'might not become an end in itself'. Hoffmann created the Ver Sacrum room which exemplified the technique of display; the emphasis upon clarity and effective use of space, which characterized subsequent exhibitions.

Successful: 57,000 visitors and the eighth Ver Sacrum announced the sale of no less than 218 works including the last minute sale of Segantini's Alpenweide (Alpine Meadow) and Die Quelle des Uebels (The Source of Evil). Critics were favorable. Quote from Bahr's newspaper review p. 31.

The financial success did contradict the criticism Klimt and others threw at the art establishment in their commercialization of art, yet it afford the Secessionist the ability to construct a permanent exhibition building.


The mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger was in favor of the enterprise for a new building and Rudolf Mayreder, Julius' brother, was on Vienna's city council. The Secessionists were given the lease of the area of ground beneath the windows of the Academy of Fine Arts giving on to the Friedrichstrasse, where the Secession Building still stands. The first issue of Ver Sacrum announced the decree of 17 November 1897 that the City of Vienna had given permission to erect the building next to the Academy. The foundation stone was laid 28 April 1898, and the building was ready for the second exhibition in November 1898. The design was entrusted to Olbrich. The words of Hevesi, 'Der Zeit ihre Kunst, der Kunst ihre Freiheit' - to every age its art, to art its freedom, was inscribed on the facade. The "Mahdi's Tomb' was one of the nicknames along with "the Assyrian convenience', 'a cross between a glasshouse and a blast furnace, 'the golden cabbage.'

Rudolf von Alt had become honorary president much to the dismay of his former colleges whom he deserted at the Kunstlerhaus. Georg Klimt (brother) made the great bronze doors for the front entrance.

The second exhibition ran 12 November - 28 December, 1898. The poster and catalog cover of which featured a vignette of the new building as does a jacket of Bahr's volume of essays Secession. The foreword to the catalog read

May this house become a home for the serious artist as for the true art lover. May they both, creating and enjoying, seeking and finding, be here united in this temple in sacred service, so the Hevesi's words, which our building bears on its brow, may in truth come to pass: To every age its art, to art its freedom.

Further paintings by Khnopff and a section of works by the Swede Anders Zorn. There was a section devoted to a group of architectural studies by Otto Wagner, not yet a member, and his pupils for a new Academy of Fine Arts. Wagner continued to revise the project, without official acceptance until WWI. A room was given over to the applied arts which included  inter alia, wallpaper designs by Olbrich and Moser. Moser created the great circular stained-glass window Die Kunst in the vestibule of the building. Quote from Bahr on Moser p. 36.

We see this importance placed on applied arts, and the avant-garde questioning the difference between art and design also in Paris in 1891 at the Salon du Champ de Mars which displayed examples of applied art on equal footing with painting and sculpture. Henry van de Velde, Belgian designer, called for unification of art, the re-evaluation of the role of craftsman and designer, the recognition that we are able "to impress beauty upon every aspect of our lives, that the artist should no longer simply paint pictures, but rather crate whole rooms, or even whole dwellings, with wallpapers and furniture as well as paintings," in his early 90's writings. Quote from Ver Sacrum p.37.

These first two exhibitions provided an opportunity to judge the development of Klimt's art.

The success of the Secessionist Exhibitions in 1898 found a new concern, that the new concept of design would be plagiarized and mass produced. Moser and Hoffmann later founded the Wiener Werkstatte (see below), an exclusive craft workshop where "true" style in design was to be cultivated. Quotes p.39.


12 January - 20 February 1899. Each contributor had a room to himself. Klinger and Crane (old friends of association members) represented including Klinger's enormous, religious-allegorical painting Christ on Olympus and Crane's studies for his frieze on the subject of Longfellow's ballad The Skeleton in Armour. P. 44 has the description of Christ on Olympus from the catalog forward. Also shown: Belgium Impressionist van Rysselberghe, Constantin Meunier, and Eugene Grasset, A room to the work of the print-maker and graphic artist Felicien Rops who died the preceding summer. Engelhart quote on Rops impression on him p. 45.


18 March - 31 May 1899. More like the first two, mixture of Austrian Secession members and corresponding members from abroad. The plaster modello of Arthur Strasser's monument Mark Antony in his Chariot drawn by Lions. A bronze cast was shown at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900 and today stands beside the Secession building. Alfred Roller designed the poster also showed his large mosaic The Sermon on the Mount which was for the Breitenfelder-Kirche in Vienna. Two important works by Klimt, Schubert at the Piano, commissioned by patron Nikolaus von Dumba for his music room and the famous Nuda Veritas acquired by Hermann Bahr which bore the inscription a quotation from Schiller "If thou canst not please all men by thine actions and by thine art, then please the few; it is bad to please the many."

Subsequent exhibitions would become much more specialized with one man shows and others devoted to particular themes or kinds of art.


15 September 1899 - 1 January 1900. Exclusively drawings, graphics, largely French including Carriere, Renoir, Pissarro, Vallotton and Puvis de Chavannes. After two years as president, Klimt was replaced by Engelhart who 'reigned' for one year as did subsequent presidents. Engelhart describes the aim of this exhibition p. 46. Hoffmann, Bohm, Moser and Auchentaller each had a room which they designed the setting for the works displayed. Moser designed one of the most beautiful posters. Met considerable success.


20 January - 25 February 1900. Not a success. Devoted to Japanese art. Note in the Ver Sacrum regarding the low number of visitors. One of the first serious attempts to draw attention to the relevance to Oriental art.

The Years 1900-02 witnessed some of the most sensational shows in the early life of the Secession in the participation of many of the major figures of the European avant-garde.


March - June 1900. First major scandal. The debut of Philosophy, the first of Klimt's University paintings. See Klimt for the story. Also paintings by Khnopff and Toorop (The Three Brides), Stuck's famous Wild Chase, a number of works by Signac. Signac posed problems as he sent the secretary of the association Franz Hancke a letter a colored diagram explaining his vision of the relationship between various sizes and color tones of his pictures and argued for the inclusion of unasked for watercolors. He wrote, "I find, moreover, that there is in an exhibition of paintings nothing more agreeable than if the eye can find repose in the blacks and whites of drawings, or the pale tints of watercolors."


3 November - 27 December 1900. Devoted to the applied arts. Quote from Ver Sacrum p. 62. Hoffmann and Felician von Myrbach mainly responsible for the organization of the show. Myrbach the director of the Kunstgewerbeschule from 1899-1905. The layout of room X was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, of the Glasgow school, and his wife which was set aside for their collection. This began cordial relations between the Secession and the British artists. Letter from Mackintosh p. 63 to the Secession committee. Also from Britian, Ashbee's Guild of Handicrafts were represented. The British section made a profound impression on the Viennese public. Hevesi's comment p. 63. Also the van de Velde-inspired Maison Moderne from Paris. Details of purchases p. 64.

The next few shows, change of direction again, greater emphasis on Austrian members and work of individual artists.


13 January - 28 February 1901. Centerpiece a memorial show of Giovanni Segantini who had recently died. His last letter to Ver Sacrum showcased along with a spray of Alpine flowers he had sent as a gift. The plaster model for Rodin's Burghers of Calais among fourteen of his items.


15 March - 12 May 1901. Klimt's Medicine, the second University painting, made its debut. Purely an Austrian affair. First time no foreign contributions. The catalog explained, "If we appear on this occasion without foreign guests, it is not because we mean to celebrate a goal already attained, but because we wish to demonstrate our own origins, the point of departure of our own creativity."


1901. Only the work of painter Johann Viktor Kramer. The first one man show


1901. Works by Munch, Toorop, Hodler, Bocklin, and Emil Orlik. Hodler's The Chosen One


1902? Again works by Munch, Toorop, Hodler, and Emil Orlik. Orlik showed a number of pastels, watercolors and woodcuts from his recent trip to the Far East. Bocklin's Sea Idyll was bought by the Ministry of Education. Moser responsible for the arrangement with a move towards greater informality. Review in the Studio "soft and low old English couches in old red, and equally tempting armchairs, all hiden in niches, such as one would naturally seek for a tete a tete". A.S. Levetus' thoughts p. 65-6. including an excellent description of Klimt's style; on Gold Fish, "the colouring is particular to Klimt, the delicate airiness which seems as if no brush had ever touched it, only a whiff - a puff, and the colour is there." Klimt showed unfinished A Lady, A Forest of Fir Trees, Still Water, Seashore, and Gold Fish.


15 April - 27 June 1902. Differed dramatically. Presented a single work, Max Klinger's monumental polychrome sculpture of Beethoven. From the forward of the catalogue p. 67 Hoffmann responsible for the artistic organization. He converted the Secession building into a kind of temple, using a three-naved arrangement which allowed glimpses of the Beethoven through apertures in the walls of the side rooms but which forced entry into the central room by a roundabout route which in the words of J.A. Lux, Otto Wagner's biographer, created a "sanctuary... which the visitor may not enter unprepared." The catalogue was an outstanding achievement meant to show deference to Klinger's role as an educator included a long extract from his treatise Malerei und Zeichnung (Painting and Drawing). A private showing for Klinger played strains of Mahler's rearrangement of the last choral movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Hevesi visited the exhibition before opening and found the Vienna Philharmonic practicing full blast in the room containing Klimt's Beethoven-frieze. The showing was followed by a 'Klinger Banquet' at the Grand Hotel with Klinger and Klimt at the head of many artists and friends of the Secession.

While there was little evidence of profoundly revolutionary content, the use of materials such as ivory, mother of pearl and semi precious stones and the mixture of techniques used to create the sculpture we may understand the overwhelming enthusiasm Klimt and others had for Klinger's monument. Somewhat abstract in the absence of music paper, a music stand, a lyre, or anything to denote the musician. (good quote top p. 69)

The additional works displayed are, as stated in the catalogue, solely as background to the Beethoven. A number of non-representational sculptures by Hoffmann, the great murals by Roller (including Sinking Night featured on the wall behind Beethoven), Bohm (Dawning Day decorated the front wall of the central room) and Andri were destroyed after the exhibition, and are now known only from photographs (in Ver Sacrum). Amongst others, Hevesi offered strong opposition to the destruction of the Beethoven-frieze by Klimt. See Klimt.


January - February 1903. "The Development of Impressionism in Painting and Sculpture"

The most important exhibition of Impressionists and Post-Impressionists in Austria. Bernatzik, then president of the association, spent weeks in Paris seeing Durand-Ruel and other dealers, the art historians Richard Muther and Julius Maier-Graefe assisted, and private collectors were approached. Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, Sisley, Cezanne, van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Vuillard, Bonnard, Denis, Redon, Whilstler, Gauguin, and representatives of German Impressionism including Liebermann were shown including Renoir's Loge de Theatre, Manet's oil sketch for the Bar at the Folies Bergeres and Whistler's Violinist. Van Gogh's Plain at Auvers-sur-Oise was presented by the Secession to the Moderne Gallerie. Herman and Gottfried Eissler acquired a number of paintings on this occassion. The other pubic collections and private collectors did not take advantage. Works by Dutch and Venetian masters such as Vermeer and Tintoretto, the paintings of Velazquez, El Greco, and Goya, as well as Delacroix, Daumier, Monticelli, and a room of Japanese woodcuts were also included. This intended to express a definition of Impressionism as "the natural laws which govern the process of seeing, and of the painter's desire to reporduce this process." Thus the artists' which anticipated Impressionism were exhibited. The Japanese room marked the transitionto the final section entitled Durchbruch zum Stil (The Triumph of Style). Here the Jugendstil-oriented artists, alternatively known as the 'Stylists': Klimt, Moser Hoffmann and their colleagues were displayed in contrast to the 'Naturalists' and landscape painters of Engelhart's circle.


November - December 1903. The second one man show. A retrospective in honor of Klimt. 78 works including 30 drawings and studies and many of the star paintings from earlier exhibitions such as Pallas Athene, Schubert at the Piano, and Die Musik II. Quote from poet Peter Altenberg on Klimt's landscapes p. 79. Several portraits including that of lifelong companion Emilie Floge (painted 1902, first time exhibited). Marks move away from earlier impressionist-naturalist manner (ex. Sonja Knips of 1899 which was also shown), towards a flatter, more geometrical style. Emilie Floge displays a distinguishing characteristic of Klimt painting, garments with an abstract patter from which "the more naturalistically rendered figural details, the hands and face, emerge with a surprising intimacy." Shows appreciation of Art Nouveau and Jugendstil (more geometrical-decorative tendencies).

The setting was spacious and economical; designed by Hoffmann and Moser. The poster and catalogue cover reproduced Klimt's vignette Arts. In the forward of the catalogue Ernst Stohr wrote... p. 79-80.

Jurisprudence, still considered unfinished at this time, presents a striking contrast to the first two, which were also shown. See University Paintings on the Klimt Page.


1904. Holder, Amiet and Munch


1905. (?) Wagner's projects for the church 'am Steinhof' and for the ill-fated Stadtmuseum


January-February 1913. Shows six of Schiele's works.


1918. Exhibition devoted to Schiele and his friends: Faistauer, Jungnickel, Merkel, Gutersloh, Melzer, Kubin, Peschka. Schiele showed nineteen paintings and a number of watercolors and drawings including: The Family, Recumbent Woman, Mother with Two Children, Death and the Maiden, Portrait of Edith Seated, portraits of Karl Grunwald, Johann Harms, and Ritter von Bauer, several townscapes, a number of later views of Krumau. S's first major success in Vienna. Roessler wrote in the Arbeiter-Zeitung on March 23: 'Fate has decreed that he should become famous, not merely notorious, in his own lifetime. For Vienna, an unthinkable occurance.'

Split within the Secession

A lack of enthusiasm during the other exhibitions of 1904-5 . Growing rift between two groups: Klimt's circle (Klimt-gruppe) which included Moll and several other painters and a significant number of architects and designers including Wagner, Hoffmann and Moser; (H and M were the founding members of the influential Wiener Werkstatte.) and the remaining members, the Nur-Maler (pure painters) with Engelhart at the head, whom felt applied art was an incidental concern and that the Raumkunstler (decorative artists) where seeking to further the cause of architecture and design at the expense of easel painting.

The origins of the jealousy may have begun with the 1904 World's Fair at St. Louis debacle. Belatedly, the Secession had been invited to exhibit by the Austrian Ministry of Education. According to a special booklet published by the Secession in connection to the invitation: there was a heated debate over whether to exhibit purely paintings or to create a more 'monumental' display. The committee decided on a room to be designed by Hoffmann which would display Klimt paintings including Philosophy and Jurisprudence, a few works by sculptors Metzner and Luksch, and very little else, Ultimately, after much debate in the press, the Secession was prevented from exhibiting at all.

The Galerie Miethke, the Durand-Ruel of Vienna, had upon the death of its founder, sought artistic policy advice from Moll who seemed to have the ambition to run the gallery as a commercial outlet for Secession artists. Quote from Engelhart p. 84. This involvement was put to jury and the Klimt (Moll) group lost by one vote. Thus twenty-four members announced their resignation leaving possession of the building to the newly dubbed 'rump Secession'.

Certainly the Secession had succeeded in bringing a great number of the European avant-garde to Vienna and exposed Viennese art to the international scene. Moving forward though the Nur-Maler offered "nothing more progressive than a rather watered-down version of French Impressionism." While Klimt's group "tended towards monumental art, ceramics, mosaics and stained glass, rather than easel painting."

The exhibition standards were not maintained and "the first 'eight years of the Secession', of which Hevesi wrote, had come to an end."

Architecture and the Applied Arts

Otto Wagner (1841-1918)
his pupil Joseph Maria Olbrich (1867-1908)
Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956)
Adolf Loos (1870-1933)

"Both painting and architecture had as their goal the triumph of modernism, the rejuvenation of Austrian art; both involved a determined reaction against the recognized establishment... against which they subsequently rebelled; ... they were nevertheless very far from eliminating from their work all traces of the tradition from which they sprang."1

Otto Wagner may be criticized as never completely departing from his training and the popular style of his time. His followers Hoffmann and Olbrich's work also invites comparison with 19th century Viennese school of design. Adolf Loos on the other hand, "with his distain of elaborate ornament, his search for an astringent purity, does one find the beginnings of a wholly modern style." It is the circle around Loos: Kraus and Trakl, "as the representatives of the true revolution in Austrian culture." Architects such as Hoffmann, writers such as Hofmannsthal as the product of the fin de siecle movement from which the pictorial art of the Secession also springs."

Loos allied himself with the newly found Secessionist movement for a few months, but quickly became one of its strongest critics of the "elegant aestheticism" of Hoffmann and his circle which he found "irrelevant to contemporary life." However the facade of his house on the Michaelerplatz (1910) faintly echoes the classical pomp which left a deep imprint on the face of nineteenth century Vienna.

All of them were responding in various degrees to Historicism. European cities that underwent extensive re-planning in the nineteenth century displayed the styles of Neo-Gothic, Neo-Classical and Neo-Baroque. December 1857 Emperor Franz Joseph directs the Minister of Interior, Freiherr von Bach to dissolve ramparts and fortifications around the city center which separated it from the new suburbs to the north and west and build in its place a Ringstrasse. Ludwig Forster submitted the most ambitious plan for the 'regulation and adornment of the Imperial Capital and Residence... of Vienna.' Here we find a list of buildings which combine qualities of old styles and and are thus criticized for being as such.

Bahr wrote, "Without Otto Wagner there would be no Secession... For it was Wagner who created the atmosphere in which all this first became possible." Wagner saw three stages of architecture in Vienna the last of which he is credited with being the father.

The Wiener Werkstatte (Viennese Workshop?)

Formerly establish in June 1903. Hoffmann, Moser and Warndorfer were sitting in the Cafe Heinrichshof talking about W's latest trip to England and the English workshop movement when W asked how much such a project would cost. Moser replied 'For a start, one could manage with five hundred crowns.' W put the money down on the table. Within 24 hours Moser had rented a flat in the Heumuhlgasse and furnished the necessities. Immediately needing more money, upon M's request W came back with the promise of fifty thousand crowns after discussing the matter with his mother. They moved to more spacious quarters by October in the Neustiftgasse and included bookbinding and work in gold, silver and leather, furniture and joinery. The workshops and studios were color coated, described by Moser, "in the metal workshop everything in red, n the bookbinding department everything in grey, in the carpenter's shop everything in blue and so on."  There was also an architects' office for coordinating production of whole decors and the building of houses as entire projects.

Warndorfer from a wealthy family was a patron of Hoffmann and Mackintosh. He was a link between Austrian and British design.

Hoffmann's comments on the aesthetic aims of WW p. 132-4. This workshop saw as its origins that of William Morris and even Ruskin as well as Mackintosh and Ashbee. (See Pre-Raphaelite Movement)

The first phase of building the Sanatorium Purkersdorf took place during 1904-5. Built of iron and concrete, it was free of period influence, lacked ornament, had a cubic design, a flat roof, windows without molding, a tall, narrow staircase window. This and his Palais Stoclet in Brussels, remain Hoffmann's most famous creations. Quote by Hevesi p. 135. Everything in the house was designed by Hoffmann and executed by the WW, the upholstery in particular by Backhausen.

Contrast of early WW work to Jugendstil, quote from Hevesi p. 138. Difference and similarity of Hoffmann and Moser's styles. Moser was invited to an exhibition in Moscow in 1902 of architecture and applied arts.

A special exhibition at Hirschwald's Kunstgewerbehaus Hohenzollern in 1904. This became the Berlin outlet for WW goods. Especially the silverware became the craze in Germany for awhile. Exhibition in London summer 1906. Also in Frankfurt and Dresden. In Vienna: 1905: exhibition of fine buildings, 1906: showing of priceless silver box for the Skoda factory in Pilsen to commemorate the visit of Emperor Franz Joseph designed by Czeschka. Czeschka was a professor at the Kunstgewerbeschule, his pupil Kokoschka. Was known for his illustrations for Keim's Nibelungen and for the album celebrating the jubilee of the Imperial Hof- und Staatsdruckerei in 1904. Fine examples of Viennese Jugendstil. Responsible for a generation of draughtsmen and printmakers through his courses in drawing and graphics. ect. p. 141. Another 1906 exhibition entitled Der Gedeckte Tisch presented examples of table settings. The WW had taken over space in neighbooring building decorating the rooms in famous 'black and white' manner. Quote on the exhibit p. 141-2.

The Palais Stoclet - The Stoclet-frieze

End of 1904 the WW receives a commission from the Belgian millionaire Adolphe Stoclet for the design, execution and decoration of entire mansion on the Avenue de Tervueren in Brussels. Quote from their son p. 143. They were inspired when stumbling upon the home of Carl Moll and his wife. Upon his father's death and subsequent inheritence, the sky was the limit in terms of expense. This provided the opportunity to create the vision under which the WW was begun. The architects realized the concept down to the silverware. Each room was first assembled in Vienna to gauge the total effect before being dismantled and shipped to Brussels. The decoration of the building was completed in 1924. Members of the original Secession, not part of WW were also called upon including Carl Otto Czeschka, Leopold Forstner, and Ludwig Heinrich Jungnickel (not listed above). Bertold Loffler and Michael Powolny, founders of Wiener Keramik-Werkstatte designed ceramic decorations and tiles.

Klimt's huge mosaic frieze for the dining room became known as the Stoclet-frieze. Page 147.

Kabarett Fledermaus

An intimate theater in Vienna at No. 33 Kartnerstrasse which opened in October 1907. Its self-advertised purpose in the programme was 'to serve the cause of a true entertainment-culture by means of an organized, unified synthesis of all relevant artistic and hygienic elements.' This became the new haunt of the circle which had frequented the Cafe Central including Bahr and the poet Peter Altenberg, friend of Warndorfer. It is said it was mostly for the sake of Altenberg that the WW took on running the Cabaret. The plays, poetry-reading, etc that occurred reflected Warndorfer's taste. Performances included  interpretations of Maeterlinck, poems by Wedekind, dancing to 'themes' of Beardsley, works by Altenberg, Egon Friedell, Hollitzer; Kokoschka's 'shadow drama' The Speckled Egg, a proto-cinematographic allegory, first performed at the Fledermaus. A flight of stairs led to the subterranean cavern of two rooms, the small semicircular auditorium with limited seating and the famous bar room with walls of white plaster.

Kunstschau 1908

Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1890)
Richard Gerstl (1883-1908)
Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

There were thoughts of founding a new association as early as 1906. An organization Oesterreichischer Kunstlerbund (Union of Austrian Artists) appears in the city records as a registered society. In the summers of 1908 and 1909 exhibitions were held by Klimt and friends on an area of land just off Vienna's Lothringerstrasse of which the lease was unexpectedly offered to them. Today the Konzerthaus stands there. Before 1913 it was open ground and Hoffmann, Otto Schonthal, Karl Breuer and Paul Roller rapidly erected a prefabricated building which embraced terraces, courtyards, gardens, a cafe and fifty-four exhibition rooms. There was also a small open-air theater where short plays were performed on warm, light summer evenings. These two exhibitions of revolutionary contemporary art were financially disasterous.

Klimt's speech on opening night of the first exhibition 1908, p. 179. An exhibition of Austrian artists including a room for Klimt, two rooms for the sculpture of Metzner, work by Roller, Czeschka, the Wiener Werkstatte, Loffler, Moser, Wagner, Hoffmann and the still student Kokoschka. See the Klimt page for a discussion of his work displayed.

The critics bashed the ultra-modernistic character of the whole show and its participants, particularly Klimt and Kokoschka. "Writer and friend of the Klimt-gruppe Bertha Zuckerkandl recorded how she, Muther and Hevesi sat day after day at the exhibition's cafe discussing how to best counter the outrageous and often libellous attacks which appeared in the popular press. 'It's no use', she remembered Hevesi saying. 'But in twenty years, people will see we were right'."

Internationale Kunstschau 1909

Brought a comprehensive review of European avant-garde painting, particularly French: van Gogh, Gauguin, the Nabis Bonnard, Vuillard and Denis, Fauves Vlaminck and Matisse. Swiss Cuno Amiet, Norweigan Munch, German sculptor Ernst Barlach.

Klimt showed Judith II (Salome 1909) with its decorative intent and mordant use of line, it remains the epitome of the artist's Jugendstil manner. Hope I (1903) coming from Fritz Warndorfer's specially constructed shrine for this very personal Klimt work, presents a overtly erotic image of pregnancy. Schiele makes Viennese debut with four paintings.

Death of Art in Vienna

The financial failure of both the Kunstchau exhibitions did not allow for a third. From this time to World War I Vienna found itself culturally barren. This was warned of by Bahr in 1901 in his defense of the Klimt University Paintings, quote p. 202. Klimt withdrew into isolation and refused to exhibit in Vienna; namely the completed Stoclet-frieze. Quote p. 205. Myrbach resigned as head of Kunstgewerbeschule and returned to France. Luksch and Czeschka went to Hamburg. Klimt's friend and collaborator Jungnickel moved to Frankfurt. Berlin drew a number of artists and was to eclipse Vienna as a cultural center. Orlik took a post as a professor at the school attached to the Museum of Applied Arts. Kokoschka joined Herwarth Walden, editor of Der Sturm.

Schoenberg moved to the Prussian capital, after living for years in abject poverty. Mahler and Goldmark eventually secured him a position teaching at the Conservatory but then his courses were designated 'optional' and extra-cirricular'. After the move, he was offered a professorship, which he refused, quote p. 205. Olbrich died in 1908 and had been one of the first to move to Germany and spent his final years in the service of the Grand Duke of Hesse. Mahler resigned as director of the Imperial Opera in 1907 and moved to America in December. He came back a dying man in 1911 and died 18 May. Hevesi commits suicide in 1910. Gerstl, Otto Mahler (famous composer's brother and composer in his own right), Weininger, and Kurzweil also commit suicide. Quotes from Kraus and Bahr p. 206.

Klimt honored at the International Art Exhibition in Rome in 1911 where many important works including The Kiss, Jurisprudence and the Portrait of Emilie Floge were shown. An impressive Austrian contribution at the German Werkbund exhibition in Cologne in 1914.

With the outbreak of WWI Austrian artists were limited to exhibiting abroad in Germany, Switzerland and the other neutral countries. "There was no longer any possible contact with the majority of the European avant-garde, and any serious interchange of ideas, or even group manifestations of modern art, came to a standstill. Wagner was having difficulty finding drawing office staff. Along with Schiele, Berg, Schoenberg, and Kokoschka were called to fight. Klimt was least affected.

There was great German recognition of a leading Austrian artist up to the end of WWI: Egon Schiele. He started the New Art Group which held an exhibition in 1910. He then left for Bohemia in 1911. He returns in 1912 and is imprisoned for producing pornographic drawings. He is conscripted in 1915. In 1917 he founds the Kunsthalle (Hall of Art) with Klimt to stop the flight of talent abroad, but nothing came of it. Schiele’s The Family shown and purchased at the forty-ninth Secession exhibition in 1918.

Klimt dies in February, Wagner in April from erisypelas, Moser in October from cancer of the jaw and Schiele the same month from Spanish influenza.



1)    Art in Vienna 1898 - 1918, Peter Vergo Phaidon Press Limited, Oxford, Second Impression 1986. First Published 1975.
2)    The Expressionists. Wolf-Dieter Dube, trans by Mary Whittall. Thames and Hudson, 1972.