Archive for the ‘Austrian Secession History’ Category

As appeared in Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, Volume 19, freely translated by Mattia Moretti.

Commonly referred to be the minor art craft, design is now often in a critical economic situation, while the commercial art itself is undergoing a decided improvement process. By the point of view of the artisan it is therefore understandably how difficult is to recognize this last fact. It seems the actual artistic production tends to  eliminate the matter of the subject, and only point out the beauty of the constriction style. Alan has drawn contras with the mediating sentence: The art design is moving in a wavy line, the depth of the constructions form follows the height of the ornament.

This internal process can be seen when on the question: What is actually an ornament? – Reflect.

Our time is looking for the naked scope, pure form, the design, material-and specialty-use item!Outwardly, it seems as if they do it for the sake of fashion. But in reality it just by looking – the ornament.
That this effort meets us in the form of a dogma, we could easily understand if we consider that the despotism of the unreal hollow ornament was of course an extreme reaction yield. Basically hostility is only against the false Ornaments, the useless ornaments. The ornament is the non-purpose expression, opposed to the heightened artistic expression.

Any request to the aesthetic of usage, imposed by the practical man himself, attracts an aesthetic, artistic, therefore it is supposed to be the  goal of the artistic product by itself. The more civilized man, is the one who is completely involved in his way of life. And this indeed dictated the purpose of utilities. The more purified is the life style, the more so is the form of the object.
The shape is adorned in a clean way to enhance the functional form. Contrasts are then eliminated by Jewelry form and functional role. And all the argument about which of the two is the "right" is completely passing over.

Logically, the Ornament could – but should be part of a developed, healthy functional form – despite all the efforts made by craftsmen to avoid it. Empire and Biedermeier period are not our style. We have a different view of life than our fathers case, a different spirit. But our spirit and our view of life have emerged from those, and so must our style emerge from that time.

Thus it is clear that we end the bare preaching style, because we stay for the ornaments. The primitive functional form is no longer the expression for the nowadays selfish Aesthetics of enjoyment. We need to achieve the new Ornament! – We should all want the ornament. We fight for it as we defend the truthfulness of the utility object. And then, the battle cry: Here ornaments! Construction form here!

There is no overcoming in Ornament. Walt Whitman’s words: a thing is without ornament at its best! – Is only partly correct. To deal with things with and without ornament is in art actually impossible. The ornament we recognize from the thing itself is what we may safely pronounce, without any doubt that for us the spirit of embellishment which cannot reach the depths of our souls is hateful. – PAUL BROECKER (HAMBURG.)

Joseph Maria Auchentaller first contact with the Jugendstil movement was with the Secession in Monaco of Bavaria between 1892 and 1896, he collaborated with the famous magazine Jugend and complements the artistic maturity that will see him lead in the nascent movement in Vienna, which had been a member since its foundation.
The dedication to graphic art continues as far as he collaborated withl Ver Sacrum in Vienna, for whom he wrote some covers and a large number of illustrations inspired mainly floral, with a style heavily influenced by Japonisme. Other works denoted also the heavy influences of artists such as Gustav Klimt:

Copia di DSCF6969_ptCopia di DSCF6971_ptCopia di DSCF6972_ptCopia di DSCF6967_ptDSCF6964_ptDSCF6972_pt


In 1901 he moved to Grado, at that time a famous touristic resort of the Adriatic Coast. There, collaborating with architect On Julius Mayreder, Auchentaller fully decorated the Building of ‘Pension Fortino’. Also in Grado Auchentaller designed one of his most famous posters, "Seebad Grade.Österreichisches Küstenland, dated 1906 and printed in Vienna by A. Berger, an admirable example of Jugendstil atmosphere and charm.

Attentive to art of the billboard, which took the full force in society for the dissemination of ideas, messages and products, designed and created numerous posters in which speech and language base of Plakatstil marked by a strong stylization and summary graphics.
After 1902 the artist progressively detached from the Viennese melting pot scenario and from the aesthetic of Secession, devoting mainly to the portrait and landscape painting.


Bruxelles constitutes a sort of capital city of the new style. The Belgian capital was the city where, at the beginning of the last decade of the XIX Century, the new concept of architecture of the Line, developed by architect such as Victor Horta, Paul Hankar, Gustave Strauven, Armand Van Waesberghe, beyond others; the city where the symbolism in painting began to widespread trough the entire Europe after the works of the artistic society such as Les XX and La Libre Esthetique; the city where the Austrian Workshop Wiener Werkstaette designed and realized maybe the most complete example of Gesamtkunstwerk (Total Work of Art) ever realized.

The central common concept of these realization in Bruxelles has to deal with the concept of Symbol. Compared to other form of meaning, the symbolic is characterized by an inner energy movement and an external complexity. Considering the meaning in literal sense, it stays in a one-to-one relationship with one sign. Even in case of plastic art, dealing with allegoric representations, the relationship between an image and its meaning is based over an accepted iconic vocabulary (as in the baroque glyphs and gryphon style, for example) and thus quite easily recognizable by who share that vocabulary. Allegory is then possible to be translated into other term, into other vocabulary using the meaning’s bridge.

Stoclet Palace nowadays

The case of the symbol is definitively different. The symbolic representation is not based on any vocabulary. The artist’s own creativity and freedom is capable to create relationship between an iconic image and a particular meaning, choosing the iconographic device in a different manner, time by time. The same subject, the same icon could be depicted with different attitude and then charged with different meaning. The meaning – symbolic (iconographic) relationship in Symbolism is not fixed rather than fluid: Symbol is conceived by the artist within a particular moment, within a particular state of the mind, within a special mood.

Stoclet Palace, details

As a consequence, the interpretation of symbolic art is as complex as its creativity act. More, the interpretation of the symbol is a creative moment per se, when the spectator exploiting his own symbolic heritage he achieved during the time, with previous sensitive experiences, with previous artistic experiences, within his cultural, philosophical, religious, social milieu.  The hermeneutic of the symbolist art spectator should be as complex and rich as the creativity engine of the artist himself, as the act to approach and interpret the symbolic work of art follows the proceed of the artistic production, overcharging the work itself by a plethora of other complimentary meaning. The power of symbol is then complete: it continues to suggest new reading, new interpretation, revitalizing the work of art, providing a beyond-the-time living and inspiring concept of art.

Stoclet Palace, façade details

The key work is complexity. From Latin complicatio, ethimologically the word means “put together several different things”. The movement of complexity happens either when composing a specific work of art, as well as when interpreting symbolically that work. And a further level of realization of a complex art is the so called Gesamkunstwerk, the Total Work of Art. There the complexity is not just realized with the combination (again Latin, combinatio) of meanings rather than with the widespread adoption of a particular style trough the entire composite elements of the work. The stimuli of such a pervasive artistic production achieves the goal of unity in complexity, in which the application of the same style is bound with different declinations of it by the symbolic development of its application. In other terms, this sort of Heraclitean approach provides within the style the eon, the Unity and within the symbolic artistic freedom of its application the multiply meanings.

In Stoclet palace, the expressive power of the Line pervade every single element, from the architecture of Josef Hoffmann, the decoration of the façade with its geometric and clean lines, the inner decoration and furniture design due to the works of Hfmann but also Gustav Klimt, Bertold Loeffler, Carl Otto Czecha, Leopold Forstner, Michael Powolny, Franz Metzner, Koloman Moser.


Stoclet Palace, the roof under restoration

Every single detail, from the decorations to the furniture, from the garden to the kitchen tools, were conceived with a unity of style; every single detail represents a stylistic declination of the line, providing an overall synesthetic for the inhabitants of the villa. Everything in the palace is charged with aesthetic value, every single object represents a key to the Garden of Meanings, the structure, its interiors, its decoration constitute a Symbolic and Aesthetic Forest detached from the everyday, human, villain life.

One should be an aesthete to walk through this Forest and being excited by this trip rather than  scared by it; one should have the same cult of Beauty and of Art as a Des Essaintes or a Gabriele D’Annunzio to fully enjoy the unique experience of an aesthetic life within a Total Work of Art; one should have such a feminine attitude towards the Mysteries to use these tools, to look at these decorations as what they are, single small piece of art. Living surrounded by art without such an aesthetic passion could become a nightmare or an annoying task, such as taking care of old fragile objects.

Considering the actual status of the exterior of the Stoclet Palace, such an annoyed attitude could probably suitably describe what the actual property is feeling towards this Masterpiece. Accepting to live there is accepting to live surrounded by living Suggestions. Entering or, worst, living there is not a task for everyone: paraphrasing Plato, shouldn’t dare to enter there who is not an aesthete …



The Moorish styled Synagogue in Rumbach street, Budapest, is often presented as the sole work due in Hungary by the Austrian turn of the Century leading architect Otto Wagner.  Well, strictly sense it is not exactly true, if we consider the plan for a beautiful Pest (Stadtverschönerungsplan für Pest with Hungarian architect Antal Honvery) and the plan for the Budapest Parliament presented in 1883 together with architects Moriz Kallina and Reszö Bernd. Anyway these two latter project never became reality and remained just projects.

On the Austrian Architectur Lexikon there’s also another building in Budapest attributed to Wagner. Accordingly to the site (

um 1900 Miethaus „Industriehof“, Budapest, H, Bajcsi-Zsilinszky utca (mit Moriz Kallina)

Well, honestly I couldn’t find any evidence on the existence of such a building. I tried even on my copy of “Budapest epiteszeti topografia” but I wasn’t able to find any evidence of Otto Wagner’s works in Bajcsi-Zsilinszky utca.

Anyway, regardless of that phantom building (if someone has further information, please keep in touch and share :) ), the Synagogue in Rumbach utca (which actually really exists) is very interesting piece in the history of art.

Well, maybe it is not so outstanding per se: but it actually is considering it was one of the first important project executed by Otto Wagner (1868).

Surrounded by relatively small buildings, in a very strict street, the Moorish overall style of the façade (anyway without any baroque excess nor eclectic taste), the light red/yellow colors, the tall towers, constitute all contrasting elements.


While the façade is in an overall good shape and status, entering the Synagogue is a more painful experience. Just passed the entrance door, this is what we could see (really, no comment):


The entrance to the main lodge:


Looking upside, to the roof, quite impressive is the hexagonal cupola:


Again, colors are outstanding and the abstract floral decoration look like an anticipation of later development of Austrian Secession. Even more abstract form, which look like Wiener Werkstaette wallpaper (of course, ante litteram) fully decorate the interior walls of the Synagogue:


Once again, the wall, including decorations, is seriously damaged in some parts:


Light trough the Synagogue is filtered by some large decorated window: the overall luminosity is really good, considering the lack of other light sources other than the outside, and considering how much is strict Rumbach utca:



The pavement is completely gone: some marbles are collected in the angle of the Hexagonal structure:


The poor condition of the Synagogue is something which touch the hearth of art lover. We understand that actually the building is under reconstruction, and it is ok. Glad to hear this ? Well, there is a problem, actually. I paid visit to this Synagogue as late as  summer 2007 and I took some pictures with an old Casio camera. Well, fortunately something is going better: at least, the box with the script “made in USSR (in Russian !) is finally disappeared:

Anyway is really frightening the fact that the stair is still there, and in about the same position !


Honestly, we are confident that the restoration will happen, one day. We rely on it, to finally being able to fully admire the early work of a future genius of modern architecture.

Dear readers. I would thank you very much for these three years in which this Hungarian Art Nouveau oriented blog has continuously grown and developed. I really hope you ‘ve enjoyed reading and viewing the many photos I published here. Was really a great effort to try to maintain healthy and alive the blog. Believe me :)

And now, since I believe in the Heraclitean dynamic of the eternal changing, I am ready for a new challenge. An extended blog which will not be only Hungarian oriented but really open to all the declinations of the Secession, Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Liberty, Modernismo, Secese. Obviously, the name is, melting together the Belgian/French term to call the turn-of-the-century artistic movement, with an Austrian domain :)

The welcome onboard party wouldn’t include any snack nor vodka (unfortunately for this latter) rather a good lecture: the First Catalogue of the Wiener Secession Ausstellung (Exhibition). Prosit !



Ferdnand Khnopff vs Otto Eckmann

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013

Basel 2013