The Triumph of Beauty

Art Nouveau

Gustav Klimt „Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” 1907 (1)

ca. 1890 – 1910

Art Nouveau – Gustav Klimt on the Path to Modernity

The 1890s mark the close of a dynamic, productive century in Europe. The Franco-German War in the 1870s was followed by a long period of peace, which fostered an economic and cultural upswing. In 1896, the first Olympic Games of modern times are held in Athens. With the second wave of the industrial revolution, affordable mass-produced goods fill the stores – which at the same time has a detrimental impact on the sale of handcrafted goods.

Art Nouveau artists oppose the mass trend; they value and strive for individuality. They want art to be everywhere, combine function and aesthetics and celebrate nature with its uniqueness and sweeping forms. In addition to paintings from personalities such as Gustav Klimt, Franz von Stuck and Alfons Mucha, interior design during this period is new and unique. With elaborate decorations, natural motifs and floral elements, art celebrates its entry into everyday life.

At the end of the 19th century, many artists turned away from traditional art ideals and sought modernity in beauty and originality, inspired by the shapes and colors of nature. Among the most famous people in this movement are Alfons Mucha and Gustav Klimt. The latter founded the Vienna Secession art movement in 1897 and became an icon of Art Nouveau, which was the most important style of the movement. He focuses on beauty and femininity in his work. He is especially well-known for his “Golden Phase”, in which he surrounds his models with richly decorated decorations and ornaments. The highlight of this phase is his most famous painting “The Kiss”.

In preliminary studies, Wolfgang works on Gustav Klimt’s facial expression in his Swiss studio.

Five Facts – Art Nouveau

Gustav Klimt, Alfons Mucha and Franz von Stuck shaped the Art Nouveau movement in different ways. Their various techniques and approaches show that Art Nouveau does not specify a uniform style. The essence of the movement lies in the common belief of the importance of individuals.

The German name for the movement – “Jugendstil” – refers to the cultural magazine “Jugend” for young people, which presented art movements that contradicted the prevailing historicism of the time. In addition to other movements such as Impressionism, it paid particular attention to Art Nouveau. Outside of Germany, the names “Secessionstil” and “Art Nouveau” were also used for the movement. Various styles of Art Nouveau developed in different countries depending on their cultural background.

In addition to painting, Art Nouveau also influenced architecture, furniture production and handicrafts. The combination of aesthetics and functionality suddenly took center stage.

Art Nouveau is characterized by floral decorations with dynamic lines that have their own unique symmetry. Alfons Mucha, a Czech painter and graphic artist, is still the most renowned representative of this form of Art Nouveau to this day.

From artists’ workshops to art academies up to artists’ groups: Art Nouveau was the first time that an increasing number of artist groups emerged, separating themselves from existing institutions, among them the Munich Secession (1892) and the Vienna Secession (1897).

In Art Nouveau, entire exhibitions were arranged as overall concepts. The Beethoven exhibition at the Vienna Secession in 1902 is an example of this: works by 20 artists were arranged around the Beethoven statue by Max Klinger as a “Gesamtkunstwerk” (total artwork).

Alfons Mucha: Mucha Poster 1894 (3)

Gustav Klimt, Beethovenfries (4)

Karlsplatz Wiener U-bahn (5)


Image sources:

1: Gustav Klimt „Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” 1907.  © John Baran / Alamy Stock Foto.
2: Gustav Klimt „The Bride“ 1918. © FineArt / Alamy Stock Foto.
3: Alfons Mucha: Mucha Poster 1894. © World History Archive / Alamy Stock Foto.
4: Gustav Klimt, Beethovenfries. © Art Collection 3 / Alamy Stock Foto.
5: Karlsplatz Wiener U-bahn. © Michael Brooks / Alamy Stock Foto.
a: Lucas Cranach d. Ä. „Ungleiches Paar (Der alte Buhler)“. © bpk / Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen
b: Franz Marc „Ställe“ 1913. © bpk / The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation / Art Resource, NY
c: Gustav Klimt „Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” 1907.  © John Baran / Alamy Stock Foto.
d: Detail from „The oldest known icon of Christ, 6-7th C“ © Stock Foto
e: Detail from Hendrick Avercamp: Winter Landscape with Skaters, ca. 1608 © Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo
f: Detail from William Turner, The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, 1834 © World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
g: Ausschnitt aus Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer im Nebelmeer, 1818. © Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
h: Detail from Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, Jan Vermeer, 1557 © Archivart / Alamy Stock Photo