These two Vienna 1900 walks below follow the likes of Sigmund Freud, Stefan Zweig, Gustav Klimt, and Otto Wagner. They are wrapped in two day itineraries, ready for your travel agenda.
Vienna 1900: Designing The Viennese Style
“Nothing that is not useful can be beautiful.” (Otto Wagner)
On its journey to modernism, fin-de-siècle Vienna sparked a dozen ground breaking concepts in art, architecture, design, music, literature and the human psyche. The most powerful idea is for all these areas to blend into one holistic artwork uniting art and function (Gustav Klimt, Kolo Moser, Josef Hoffmann). The result is a very particular Viennese ‘Jugendstil’ Style, different from German, Scottish, French, or Belgian Art Nouveau. You will find it in various places, such as at Gustav Klimt’s frieze of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, or Otto Wagner’s obsessively functional Austrian Postal Savings Bank.
Vienna 1900 Art, Architecture, Writing: Day 1
Vienna Secessionists And Expressionists At Museumsquartier
The Leopold Museum at Museumsquartier holds two exciting ‘Vienna 1900’ collections: The permanent exhibition Vienna ‘1900’and the world’s largest Egon Schiele collection in what many call the Egon Schiele Museum. Seeing the Vienna 1900 exhibition early on will help you align the different ways Vienna expressed itself during this era: richly ornamental fabrics next to stripped-bare human portraits; mystically allegoric paintings next to functionalistic furniture, glass and silverware; a life-embracing curly-haired boy in white marble next to a faceless kneeling body. Egon Schiele’s portrays souls, not humans. Most have their faces and bodies bulged with anxiety and despair. His art is raw and intense, and allows you to like no other to see the flipside of Vienna’s Imperial glamour of that time.
Gustav Klimt At Vienna Secession
Vienna 1900 is rooted in a white cubistic building a ten minutes walk from Leopold Museum. Before you follow Gustav Klimt into the basement, wander around this odd box that forms the Vienna Secession. I love the groups of owls on the outer walls, the tortoises carrying the large mosaic vases at the entrance, and not least the gigantic globe formed of hundreds of golden leaves that crowns the building.
The basement unfolds more than 30 metres of Klimt’s frieze. It visualises German composer Richard Wagner’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: the suffering mankind encourages the well-shielded warrior to fight against the evil forces of nature. The human ‘genies’ (art, poetry, music) hover over them, until love fulfills mankind’s desire for happiness. I find the frieze powerful because it tells a universal story of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (even Klimt’s Ugly look pretty good).
Otto Wagner At Naschmarkt
Linke Wienzeile is the place to go for Vienna 1900 architecture. The three buildings created by Art Nouveau and modernist architect Otto Wagner along Naschmarkt carry a strong lesson: ‘Simplify the structure, leave space for ornamental decoration.’ Baroque-style chubby cherubs, yearning madonnas and beefy atlases give way to glazed tiles, simple cascades of painted flowers, and cast iron balconies displaying neatly lined up leafage. Likewise, the female roof sculpture calling out to the market people beneath got the message: Simple shapes win.
Read more about the houses in Otto Wagner.
By the way: Naschmarkt is a great place to stop for lunch.
Klimt, Schiele And Kokoschka At National Gallery
An aesthetic eroticist, an ‘enfant terrible’ and a savage: The National Gallery of Belvedere Palace exposes Vienna 1900: Compare Klimt’s otherworldly ladies wrapped in gold swirls and flowery ornaments with Schiele’s brute females exposing their wounded souls, and with Kokoschka’s intense portraits and landscapes. This place is probably the best to see two artistic perspectives of the world clash: those of the Viennese Secessionists (Gustav Klimt, Josef Maria Olbrich, Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser, and others) and those of the Expressionists (such as Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka).
Don’t miss the Gallery’s key piece: Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’. (Visit the Klimt Villa to see his last studio.)
Sigmund Freud Museum And Walking Tour
Vienna 1900: Fin de siecle Vienna wasn’t only architecture, but a world of thoughts. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, and his social environment are a great way to get close to the various mindsets that dominated Vienna at that time. I toured parts of Vienna that were crucial in Freud’s life (and sat on his favourite table at his favourite coffeehouse). The savvy route was put together by tour guide Gertrude. I liked the way she weaved Freud’s life, family, friends and acquaintances, and favourite places into a pleasant walk. It ended with a visit to Sigmund Freud museum, Freud’s former apartment and practice.
Learn more about the Sigmund Freud museum and my tour.
Stefan Zweig And Thonet At Café Central
Fin de siècle writer Stefan Zweig not only portrayed Vienna’s tumultous changes at the turn of the century like no other in . He was one of the key intellectuals of Vienna 1900’s vibrant coffeehouse culture. One of his favourite places was Café Central, where he wrote books and essays, and debated with contempory writers and artists such as Joseph Roth, Friedrich Torberg, Franz Kafka and others. You will also find another famous design item of that era there: the Thonet chair, that revolutionised affordable furniture for everyone and turned into a design icon of Vienna coffeehouses.
My tip: Slice an hour off your sightseeing agenda to read a novel of Stefan Zweig (‘The World Of Yesterday’) or Friedrich Torberg (‘Tante Jolesch or the Decline of The West In Anecdotes’)
Adolf Loos At Loos Bar
Vienna’s most prominent and landmarked fin-de-siecle bar goes on the account of much disputed architect Adolf Loos. Responsible for a list of shockingly bare buildings such as the bank opposite the Spanish Riding School, Loos measured a tiny 30 square metre bar that he filled with four tables, a counter, and onyx and marble panelled walls. Cleverly placed mirrors widen up the ceiling area. This is a wonderful place for an design-inspired chill out, but hold off (especially on week ends) if you are claustrophobic.
Vienna 1900 Design and Architecture: Day 2
Austrian Postal Savings Bank
You may not have much banking to do while on a city break. But you will never feel calmer and more inspired when dealing with money (or watching others dealing) at Otto Wagner’s Austrian Postal Savings Bank. At first glance, the stern building looks ordinary, until you take a closer look. This is a ground breaking piece of modernist architecture in Vienna, if not in Europe. Inside the postal savings bank, not a single iron spike is left to occasional ugliness. Learn more about Wagner’s ultimate architectural statement in Austrian Postal Savings Bank.
Wiener Werkstätte At MAK
Whether you adore modernist furniture, have a hang for ornamental prints, love geometrical shapes or simply want to find out where Viennese classics end and modernist style starts: The Vienna 1900 permanent exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art will sharpen your interest and knowledge. What I find most fascinating there is comparing the Secessionists’ flowery style to Modernist ‘practical-is-king’ creations. Equally, you will gain tremendous insight from tracing the Viennese style from Japanese arts and crafts and popular European art to where it starts to merge with international modernist styles.
Otto Wagner At Church Am Steinhof
If you think you know how a European church looks like, take yourself a step further. Otto Wagner’s Kirche am Steinhof, the first modernist church in Europe, could be taken from an interior design magazine (if those ever covered churches).
It teaches us a lesson about great church design, about feeling welcome, reassured and spirited. The church is off the beaten path, conceptually and logistically, and definitely worth the journey. I did a guided tour through the wonderful compounds of Steinhof where the church is located. Read more in Otto Wagner church.
Jugendstil Shopping Tips
Go beyond the Klimt mousepad and reward yourself with originals or authentic remakes of the best Vienna 1900 designs. Here are a few of the best objects to buy and where to find them in Vienna (the Vienna Shopping Guide has all the addresses).
- bar set of glasses designed by Adolf Loos; from traditional glass manufacturer J.L. Lobmeyr (Kaerntner Strasse);
- Melon porcelain mocca service designed by Josef Hoffmann; from Augarten porcelain manufactory and MAK Design Shop;
- Ver Sacrum bags, wallets and scarves, based on a fabric design by Hoffmann (see photo); from Vienna 1900 store;
- glass vases based on designs by Josef Hoffmann; from Österreichische Werkstaetten;
- silver tableware based on designs by Hoffmann; from Wiener Silbermanufaktur and MAK Design Shop;
- 20th century decorative art such as paintings, drawings, glass and silverware; from Dorotheum auction house (over the counter);
- Jugendstil paintings, drawings, arts and crafts, vintage jewellery; occasional auctions at Dorotheum auction house.
Vienna 1900 Music At Wiener Konzerthaus
Sink into your concert hall seat and float along with fin-de-siecle Vienna music. Vienna 1900 music is as split as its art, pointing backwards and forwards in history, seducing and challenging you. Take the sweet operetta melodies of Franz Léhar, Emmerich Kalman and Carl Michael Ziehrer that conjure Imperial traditions and values. In contrast, the likes of Gustav Mahler, Alban Berg, Arnold Schönberg and Anton Webern
Vienna musical and operetta calendar
Search for Gustav Mahler, Alban Berg, Arnold Schönberg, Anton Webern and other composers’ concert music in Vienna. (use ‘artist’ search box on the left in the link).
The most beautiful Vienna Art Nouveau-style concert hall is the Wiener Konzerthaus. It is very Jugendstil with its (subdued) ornamental decorations though the columns at the Grand Hall and other elements are clearly Historistic (very ‘Ringstrasse’). The geometrical lampshades in the Foyer, the Tiffany windows and the decorated balcony of Mozart Saal will remind you of other modernist art in Vienna.
Vienna 1900 and its particular architecture expressed a powerful ideology. The expert guide who conducts this Art Nouveau walk has a reputation of immersing people into the different art movements and their political and social backgrounds. He will take into accounts your individual interests during the walk, if you want to visit a museum, walk into a building or down a particular street. Find out more about this guided Vienna Art Nouveau walk. (photo: Vienna Secession’s ‘cabbage head’)