Jugendstil

Jugendstil (art nouveau, modern style), style of art at the turn of the 20th century, in Austria closely associated with the Vienna Secession and (see)  Wiener Werkstätte. Late phase of historicism and transition to Modernism. The span of Jugendstil ranges from simple household articles to large-sized wall mosaics, from jewellery and glass design to architecture.

The transition from the 19th to the 20th century in Austria was characterised to a great extent by an uncompromising rejection of the superficiality of mass-produced art. At the same time, while the quality of the work of artists such as H. Makart was much admired, there was also a demand for freshness and unceasing renewal, and a conscious orientation to the latest developments in England, France, Belgium, and Germany. This transition phase, which, in Vienna in the 1890´s, began in part with the establishment of the Secession (1897), was the start of a rapid and independent artistic development which was to gain great international significance.

The Vienna Secession was modelled after the Munich Sezession (1892) and the Berlin Sezession (1893). Its goals were to oppose the conservatism of the academies and to provide an alternative to the traditional ideas represented by the Vienna Künstlerhaus. Following the English example, one of the new ideals was a focus on arts and crafts (quality work with a limited number of pieces of each article) as well as the attempt to coordinate industrial production and handwork. Painting, architecture, and handicrafts were to be once again correlated both formally and conceptually in a closely-knit relationship that was not determined by industrial mass production. The goal was a synthesis of the arts under the supremacy of architecture. In the centres of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the new ideas flourished and were exchanged. Whereas Prague, Budapest, and Ljubljana absorbed new influences (such as those from Paris, Brussels, or Berlin) fairly directly, and gave Jugendstil a strong national character, in Vienna the brisk influx of artists from all parts of the empire led to the development of an "international" artistic style.

In contrast to the western countries, Vienna had no exclusive exponent of floral art nouveau. The school of Otto Wagner, which exercised a determining influence in architecture, employed more austere, classical lines, influenced to a certain extent by the popular architecture of Mediterranean regions. The geometrical variant of art nouveau preferred in Austria is characterised by clear and for the most part symmetrically arranged structures and spaces, precise axes, and well-organised spacial structuring; often combined with a predilection for flat roofs. The Secession building by J. M. Olbrich (1897-1898) strongly shows the influence of this style, despite its elaborate floral ornamentation.

For some time, ornament remained an important element of outer architectural surfaces. In fact, it was often excessively overdone (particularly in many unexecuted designs by Wagner´s students), attaining extremes of lavish opulence. Marble, glass, majolica, tiles, metal appliqués, colourful moulding, gilding, and other valuable materials were used for the decoration of architectural structures.

The most important architectural works of Vienna Secessionism include, in addition to the Secession building, O. Wagner´s architectural design of the Vienna Stadtbahn transit line (1899-1901), his apartment houses on Wienzeile (Majolikahaus 1899), the Postsparkasse (Postal Savings Bank, 1904-1906) and the Steinhof church (1904-1907), the Purkersdorf Sanatorium by J. Hoffmann (1904-1906), the business premises of Portois & Fix (1899) by M. Fabiani, Haus Brandstätte No. 6 by J. Plecnik (1903-1905) as well as numerous villas by architects such as O. Schönthal, R. Oerley, and E. Hoppe.

The new perception of architecture as the leading art form corresponded to a new self-awareness in the architects themselves, who expanded the aspirations of their field beyond the design and construction of buildings to the creation of an entire artistic ensemble, which included landscaping and gardens, interior design, and even the artistic design of small objects for the interior. Amongst the ranks of the architects with this comprehensive approach were O. Wagner, J. Hoffmann, J. M. Olbrich, J. Plecnik, L. Bauer, M. Fabiani, R. Oerley, O. Prutscher, J. Urban and others.

The founding of the Wiener Werkstätte by J. Hoffmann, K. Moser, and F. Wärndorfer 1903, the Wiener Keramik (Vienna Ceramics) by M. Powolny and B. Löffler in 1906, and the Wiener Mosaikwerkstätte (Vienna Mosaic Studio) by L. Forstner in 1908, as well as the existence of other specialised crafts studios, for example, for painting on glass (C. Geyling´s heirs) simplified the production sequence from design to fabrication, and so guaranteed the best possible quality.

In addition to O. Wagner´s Steinhof Church, another monumental Gesamtkunstwerk of this era is the Stoclet Palace (1905-1911) in Brussels, an unparalleled architectural ensemble created by renowned artists such as G. Klimt, L. Forstner, R. Luksch, and F. Metzner, headed by the architect J. Hoffmann, together with studios for applied arts (crafts).

The course of architectural development in the 20th century was strongly influenced by A. Loos, who, in numerous essays and in his own architectural works, opposed ornament and insisted on functionalism in architecture. The dignified simplicity and noble austerity of the outer structure was complemented in the interior by choice materials, such as marble, rare types of wood, and precious metals, all used to advantage with highest quality workmanship. Examples of Loos´ work are the Café Museum (1899), the Kärntner Bar (1907), the Goldman & Salatsch Building on Michaelerplatz square (1909-1911), and several entranceways and business premises in Vienna, as well as private residences throughout the entire region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

As in architecture, Loos also fostered an approach of functional simplicity and the use of the best materials in the applied arts. He believed that instead of unnecessary decoration, the material - the grain of the wood, for instance - should speak for itself. Closely related to architecture and the applied arts was Jugendstil sculpture. There are only a few examples of free-standing outdoor sculptures, such as the Mozart Fountain (1905) by K. Wollek or the Karl Borromäus Fountain (1909) by J. Engelhart and J. Plecnik in Vienna. The majority of sculpted works either fall into the category of architectural sculpture or are small pieces, more in the character of applied arts. Among the most notable sculptors of this era were F. Barwig, J. Engelhart, A. Strasser, F. Metzner, K. Wollek, R. Luksch, and M. Powolny.

The founding of the Vienna Secession and, in particular, the construction of its exhibition hall, provided the art world with an alternative to the conservative approach of the Künstlerhaus, and an opportunity to reach a broad public. Not only Secession members, but also numerous artists from abroad (such as C. Meunier, M. Klinger, A. Rodin, F. Hodler, C. R. Mackintosh) were able to exhibit their works there. The leader of the group and its first president was Gustav Klimt. In 1900 another group of artists broke away from the Künstlerhaus and founded the Hagenbund. In 1902 this group opened its own exhibition building, the Zedlitzhalle, designed by J. Urban.

With more opportunities for artists to display their works, painting was able to evolve more freely. In contrast to the applied arts and sculpture, which were relatively dependent on architecture, the art of painting developed independently. The leading figures in Jugendstil painting and graphic arts in Austria were such artists as G. Klimt, C. Moll, W. Bernatzik, F. v. Myrbach, J. Engelhart, E. Schiele, R. Jettmar, M. Kurzweil, W. List, K. Moser, F. Matsch, O. Kokoschka, F. Andri, L. H. Jungnickel, A. Roller, R. Geyling, and L. Forstner.

The involvement of certain artists with impressionist (G. Klimt, C. Moll, W. Bernatzik) or symbolist (R. Jettmar) forms stood in contrast to first expressionist efforts, particularly among the younger artists (E. Schiele, R. Gerstl, O. Kokoschka). Of great significance was the decorative character of the pictures, areas of which were filled with highly ornamental figural, floral, or abstract geometric patterns. The influence of Japanese applied arts such as coloured woodcuts is particularly noticeable in the graphic arts. Advertising and posters, illustrations and illuminations, as well as script and textile design all became important disciplines within the field of graphic arts.

Notable Austrian artists such as A. Roller or R. Teschner also worked with great success in the field of theatre, designing sets and costumes.

The end of Jugendstil in Austria came with World War I and the breakdown of the Empire. In 1918, the year in which the war ended, four of the greatest J. artists died: O. Wagner, G. Klimt, K. Moser, and E. Schiele.