Art and Visual Culture at the Turn of the Century

“To the Time its Art. To Art its Freedom.”

Monika Schwärzler-BrodesserFebruary 7 - 184 ECTS


The course will deal with the cultural and intellectual achievements of a number of prominent representatives from the fields of fine art, applied art, and photography. It is the aim of the course to provide a multifaceted picture of what happened when art slowly embarked on the project of modernism. The course will draw a line from historicism, the style prevailing in the second half of the 19th century, to art nouveau, the style of the young, and will end with an outlook on the Austrian type of expressionism. All these phenomena and developments will be viewed in the wider context of European art production at the time.


The course objectives are:

  • To provide students with art-historical knowledge about Historicism, Art Nouveau and Expressionism.
  • To develop students' ability to deal with the cultural phenomena of this time period in a critical and knowledgeable way.
  • To increase their understanding of present day Vienna and contemporary Viennese society as being molded by the past.


The following topics will be covered in the course:

  • Highlights and iconic images of Fin-de-Siècle art.
  • Historicism: its stylistic features, the Vienna Ringsstraße, characterization of the class that adopted historicist style.
  • Hans Makart: as a 19th century “influencer” concerning matters of taste and life style; his portraiture, history paintings, and interior design projects.
  • Art Nouveau (Jugendstil): the “new art” and “art of the young” as the counter movement and antithesis to historicism.
  • The Secession movement in Vienna: its artistic program, its motto, its periodical, and the financial backers; the Secession building by Joseph Maria Olbrich.
  • Gustav Klimt as the head of the heretics: his faculty paintings and the scandal they caused.
  • Egon Schiele as a representative of Austrian Expressionism: his artistic response to the social and cultural conditions of pre-war society.
  • Oskar Kokoschka, rebel, agitator against bourgeois values (Murderer, the Hope of Women), as well as emphatic painter of psychic realities.
  • Richard Gerstl
  • The Vienna Workshop: its ideal of craftsmanship, its economic structure; Palais Stoclet as its main commission; the concept of the total work of art.
  • Adolf Loos and his attack on the aestheticism of the Viennese society (Ornament and Crime).
  • Pictorialism: the photographic style prevailing at the turn of the century.

  • Madame d'Ora: fashion photographer and chronicler of the society of her time.
  • Circumstances of female art production at the time: the role and status of female artists in society; their limited access to art education.

  • The notion of the femme fatale as a cultural phenomenon of the turn of the century and its psychoanalytical implications.
  • Art Nouveau Revival in the 60s


Recommended Reading: A. Janik and S. Toulmin: Wittgenstein´s VIENNA. New York: Touchstone (1973); E.R. Kandel: The Age of Insight. New York: Random House (2012); C.E. Schorske: Fin-de-siècle Vienna. Politics and Culture. New York: Alfred A. Knopf (1980); K.A. Schröder: Egon Schiele. Eros and Passion. Munich and New York: Prestel Verlag (1995).


Requirements: Attendance and active class participation (20% of the grade), reading (10%), summary of a class discussion on one course unit of choice including the student's own viewpoints (30%), and final exam (40%).