Vienna marks 100 years since artistic heyday | DW Travel | DW | 23.01.2018
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Vienna marks 100 years since artistic heyday

100 years ago in Vienna, the artists Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele and architect Otto Wagner all died within a few months of each other. Their works shaped Jugendstil, Viennese art nouveau. They remain unforgotten.

Bildergalerie Gustav Klimt Der Kuss AUSSCHNITT

Gustav Klimt "The Kiss", 1907/08

Not only did Austria's most famous artist, Gustav Klimt, die in Vienna (on February 6 ) in 1918; so did the painter Egon Schiele (October 31), architect Otto Wagner, (April 11) and craftsman, graphic artist and painter Koloman Moser (October 18). That same year, with the end of World War I, the Habsburg empire disintegrated. A century later, the Viennese are commemorating that historic turning point with what promises to be an unprecedented series of exhibitions. 

Pioneers of Modernism

The artists Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Koloman Moser and architect Otto were leading lights in the revolutions in art, literature, architecture, psychology, philosophy and music that made the imperial city on the Danube the buzzing intellectual hub of the world at the time.

"It was a unique collision of all forms of art and science - the literature of Hofmannsthal, the atonal music of Schoenberg, psychoanalysis with Freud and even economics with Schumpeter," Hans-Peter Wipplinger, director of the Leopold Museum, told. "Vienna was not always a trend setter, but always good at making something special out of something which already existed," said art historian Alexandra Brauner. "We made something really special out of it."

Österreich Wien - Eckhaus Nummer 38 (picture alliance/R. Hackenberg)

Wienzeile 38: Apartment block by Otto Wagner with façades by Koloman Moser

The Leopold Museum kicked off the anniversary year on January 18 with the first of its six special exhibitions - in Vienna and around there are around 20 - focusing on Klimt, Moser as well as Richard Gerstl and Oskar Kokoschka. It also showcases examples of classic 1900-era design such as furniture, artisan craftwork and posters created by Moser and others in the Wiener Werkstaette community of artists that he co-founded.

From February a special Leopold show shines the light on Schiele, whose tortured eroticism still causes blushes to this day - as witnessed by the prudish covering up genitals on advertising posters in London last year.

Egon Schiele - Selbstbildnis (picture-alliance / akg-images)

Egon Schiele, Self Portrait, 1911

The Belvedere Museum is first showing "Klimt is Not the End - Awakening in Central Europe," from March 23 to August 26, and then "Egon Schiele - Pathways to a Collection," from October 19, 2018, to February 17, 2019 .

With about 1.4 million visitors annually, the Belvedere is Austria's most frequented art museum. The Baroque palace complex is home to the world's largest collection of oil paintings by the art nouveau painter Gustav Klimt ("The Kiss"), with 24 works. 

From March 15 to October 7,  the Wien Museum will present a major exhibition of the visionary urban planner and architect Otto Wagner.

The Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) shows off some of its Wiener Werkstaette treasures and from May 30 looks at the influence of Wagner's influence on contemporaries, pupils and subsequent generations of architects and designers.

The Kunsthistorisches Museum will next month (February 13 - September 2) erect again its "Stairway to Klimt" allowing visitors to examine up close some of the works painted by the artist between the pillars and arches of the building early in his career.

Klimt Adele Bloch-Bauer (AUSSCHNITT: picture-alliance/Heritage Images)

Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, 1907

Nazi-looted art

The Bank Austria Kunstforum will explore Japanese influences,the Jewish Museum will from May hark back to the artistic salons of the time, while the Klimt Villa will look into the looting of many works by the Nazis and what happened later. Vienna's thriving Jewish community were big drivers in the city's flourishing intellectual, scientific and artistic scene, not least in buying up artworks to fill their homes.

In his later years Klimt's studio had "two separate entrances. One for models who would then wait in an antechamber, often with next to no clothes on, and another for his rich customers," said Baris Alakus, director of the Klimt Villa.

By 1918, Vienna was already starting to be eclipsed, and 20 years later Hitler - rejected as a young man by the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts - annexed his native country, first robbing and then destroying the Jewish population.

The postwar restitution of artworks to their former owners' descendants, now spread around the globe, has been tortuous and in some cases incomplete, with many paintings controversially ending up in state hands. It took until 1998 for the Austrian parliament to pass a law allowing some 10,000 works to be returned. In one of the biggest cases, five Klimt masterpieces were returned in 2006 to the descendant of the Jewish family they were stolen from after a legal battle with Austria's Belvedere Museum.

is/ks (afp, dpa)

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