Gustav Klimt: Painting, Design and Modern Life in Vienna 1900: Room guide, The Foundation of the Viennese Secession

Gustav Klimt Two Girls with an Oleander c.1890-92

Gustav Klimt
Two Girls with an Oleander c.1890-92

Courtesy Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT. The Douglas Tracy Smith and Dorothy Potter Smith Fund and The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund

Gustav Klimt Nuda Veridas (detail) 1899

Nuda Veridas (detail) 1899

Courtesy Österreichisches Theatermuseum, Vienna, Nachlass Bahr-Mildenburg

The Foundation of the Viennese Secession

The Viennese Secession was founded in 1897 as a protest against the established Viennese Artists’ Society, whose outlook was regarded as stiflingly traditional. Gustav Klimt was the first elected president and other founding members included the painter Carl Moll (1861–1945), designer Koloman Moser (1868–1918), and architects Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner (1841–1918) and Joseph Maria Olbrich (1870–1956). For Klimt and his associates the foundation heralded the ‘hour of birth of a new era’. Under the rallying cry ‘To Every Age its Art, To Art its Freedom’, they aimed to redefine the relationship between art and society. The Secession staged its first exhibition in spring 1898 in temporary premises, its own Olbrich-designed exhibition building opening in November 1898.

The Secession was distinguished by its intense engagement with architecture and design, pushed to the extreme in the groundbreaking design of its exhibitions. The Secession’s sophisticated public manifestations seamlessly blended art, decoration and typography, constituting both a ‘Secession style’ and a form of brand identity. Its journal Ver Sacrum established new standards in graphic design. Klimt provided the visual expression for the Secession’s lofty ambitions, designing the posters for the first exhibition with goddess of the arts Pallas Athene as the association’s guardian. His painting Nuda Veritas 1899 exemplifies the rebellious self-confidence of the Secession, committed to confronting the public with the naked truth.

This room also includes early works by Klimt such as Fable 1883 and Two Girls with an Oleander c.1890–2, both based on themes from classical antiquity, already demonstrating his interest in allegory evident in later paintings. Likewise, Portrait of Rose von Rosthorn-Friedmann 1900–1 anticipates Klimt’s later sensual portraits.

Works on display

  • Gustav Klimt Catalogue of the First Secession Exhibition 1898
  • Gustav Klimt Catalogue of the Klimt Exhibition at the Viennese Secession 1903
  • Gustav Klimt Ex-Libris of the Wiener Secession with Pallas-Athene Logo circa 1900
  • Gustav Klimt Fair drawing for the Allegory of Sculpture 1896
  • Gustav Klimt Fair drawing for The Fairy Tale 1884
  • Four Postcards with Views of the Viennese Secession 1898-1901
  • Gold Laurel Leafs presented to Rudolf von Alt on the Occasion of the Foundation of the Vienna Secession circa 1898
  • Model of the Viennese Secession 1898
  • Gustav Klimt Nuda Veritas 1899
  • Gustav Klimt Portrait of a Lady (Frau Heymann) circa 1894
  • Gustav Klimt Portrait of Helene Klimt 1898
  • Gustav Klimt Portrait of Joseph Pembauer 1890
  • Gustav Klimt Portrait of Rose von Rosthorn-Friedmann 1900-1901
  • Postcards for the Secession with views of Exhibition Installations 1900-1903
  • Postcards showing the Viennese Secession 1898-1901 
  • Joseph Olbrich Postcard with a View of the Secession after a Drawing by Josef Maria Olbrich 1898 
  • Gustav Klimt Poster for the First Secession Exhibition 1898 
  • Gustav Klimt Poster for the First Secession Exhibition - censored version 1898 
  • Gustav Klimt Poster for the First Secession Exhibition – Uncensored Version 1898 
  • Gustav Klimt Poster of the Klimt Exhibition at the Viennese Secession 1903 
  • Josef Hoffmann Stool made for the 5th Secession Exhibition 1899 
  • Gustav Klimt Study for Portrait of Rose von Rosthorn-Friedmann 1900-01
  • Thirteen Viennese Secession Postcards with Views of Exhibition Installations 1900-1903 
  • Gustav Klimt Two Girls with Oleander 1890-1892
  • Ver Sacrum - Organ der Vereinigung bildender Künstler Österreichs, volume 1, number 5, 1898 1898
  • Gustav Klimt Seated Man from Rear, Study for Strife (for ‘Medicine’) 1901-1907 
  • Gustav Klimt Ex-Libris of the Viennese Secession with Pallas-Athene-Logo 
  • Postcard with a View of the Secession after a Drawing by Ferdinand Andri 1906