Art Nouveau was an exquisite form of art movement flourishing from 1890 to 1910, revolutionizing American and European art. It was an upheaval against academic art’s dominant styles, eclecticism, and historicism. Hence, it mostly utilized sinuous, long, asymmetrical lines.

A group of foresighted artists freed themselves from the conservative understanding of art dominating the 19th century. Art Nouveau was the first to get inspired by what was present, alive, and natural. It focused on the “now” rather than feeding itself from historical ideas.

Art Nouveau in Austria as “The Vienna Secession”

The Vienna Secession was a result of Art Nouveau. The adoption of modern art in Vienna, a city, previously strongly committed to ideas rooted in conservatism, tradition, and commercial taste, came an international, new, idealist way of conducting art. It represents a timestamp for the beginning of modern art in Austria – influencing architecture, design, jewelry, illustrations, and many more expression forms. Art Nouveau went under the name Sezessionstil (Vienna Secession) in Austria in 1897.

The movement was led by Gustav Klimt in Austria at the beginning and led by artists such as Paul Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Europe, partially inspired by Japanese patterns in print. Art Nouveau print, architecture, jewelry, and making glass heavily focused on asymmetrical, curvy lines in harmony depicting forms of nature: animals such as insects and especially butterflies, birds, deers branches filled with arrangements of flowers, the female form, and other delicate depictions of organic shapes in nature. It used primarily muted and somber colors such as different shades of green and brown, lilac, peacock blue, and white.

Ver Sacrum Magazine and Art Nouveau in Vienna

In Austria, more notably in the city Vienna, Art Nouveau was officially introduced by the magazine “Ver Sacrum” (Sacred Spring). Published from 1898 to 1903, founded by Gustav Klimt and Max Kurzweil, it was the first concrete step in introducing the city to a forward-thinking, original movement. With the contributions of artists such as Alphonse Mucha, Fernand Khnopff, Alfred Roller, Rainer Maria Rilke, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the magazine fuzed Secession style art literary work by writers all over Europe.

The first issue illustrated a blossoming tree, with its roots breaking out of the old, broken, restraining pot. It was a clear message by Vienna’s artists to the public: artists in Vienna have broken free from the former conservative restraints on art in Austria, and a revolutionary, hopeful, romantic mindset was now in place. The opening of the Joseph Olbrich Secession House followed the magazine. And also, the exhibition was housed by the Horticultural hall. “Sacred Spring” meant a euphoric, fresh start. Where art did not “belong” to the rich or poor, the conservative, old or young, but it was merely a time of change – rebirth, where previous calls for revolution influenced, proving modern art and classical art could coincide in peace.

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The Austrian National Library’s published the first two covers of “Ver Sacrum” (January and February 1898) in digitalized editions. Both covers focus on natural elements, flowers, roots, flowing lines, the female form. The first issue stated, “We see no difference between ‘high art’ and ‘minor art,’ between art for the rich and art for the poor. art is common property”. A reference to academic art, the artists waged war on the traditional understanding that art “belongs” to the wealthy, arguing that art is for everyone.

Art Nouveau Style Architecture

Majolikahaus by Otto Wagner, from wikimedia.org

Majolikahaus, an apartment building in Vienna (opened 1898/1899), by Otto Wagner, is a beautiful representation of Art Nouveau – The Vienna Secession in Architecture. The exterior – made up of tiles forming together a mesmerizing image of flowers, flowing lines of and vines with dominant colors of green, gold, and rose.

Otto Wagner’s Stadtbahn Pavilion © WienTourismus, Christian Stemper

Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station, a former railway station by Otto Wagner (opened 1899) i is a beautiful representation of Art Nouveau – The Vienna Secession in Architecture. The exterior shows flowers and organic images flowing together. Typical to the movement, Otto Wagner uses white, gold, and green tones.

As the Vienna Secession in Vienna, Austria, Art Nouveau provided a channel for the artists of Austria to express the need for a modern, original, international art that focused on “now.” It was an argument against the conservative, elitist, and traditionalist values of art in Vienna. It gave artists a physical demonstration and location to proving there was a need for rejuvenation of art in Austria and encouraged graphic arts to be prominent in other forms of fine art, administering communication between different art forms.

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Culture Trip, ‘An Art Nouveau Architecture Tour Of Vienna,’ Culture Trip, April 2017.

Megan Sveiven, ‘AD Classics: Majolikahaus / Otto Wagner,’ ArchDaily, April 2011.

Philipp Hindahl, ‘A short springtime,’ SCHIRN KUNSTHALLE FRANKFURT, August 2016.

‘19th Century Art,’ Artsy.

‘Art Nouveau,’ Encyclopedia Britannica.

‘Homes – Design – Art nouveau period style,’ BBC.

‘Jahresauswahl – Ver Sacrum,’ ANNO (Austrian Newspapers Online), 2011. 

‘New Trends in the 19th & 20th Centuries,’ History of Art: Modern Style – Art Nouveau.

‘The Vienna Secession Movement Overview,’ The Art Story.

‘VER SACRUM,’ HOME –, September 2020. 

Majolikahaus by Otto Wagner, retrieved from commons.wikimedia.org

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