FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY GRAPHIC DESIGN PROFESSOR AND STUDENTS COME TO THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU TO SEE VIENNESE SECESSION AND OTHER MATERIALS
Last Wednesday, Florida Atlantic University Professor Lina Weiss and 10 graphic design history students traveled all the way down to South Beach on a field trip to visit the Wolfsonian museum and library. After guiding them through the fifth floor galleries, I brought them to the library where Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi made a presentation of materials pulled specifically for the class. Here is his report:
The students had the opportunity to view several artifacts signed by the personalities they had already learned about in this course, as well as to see other materials illustrating the major aesthetic trends and movements that defined art in the first half of the twentieth century.
This time, I will confine myself to sharing with the readers of this blog, several printed materials exemplifying the movement that aimed to rejuvenate artistic expression in the decades that preceded World War I, and which went by multiple names: Secession (Austria-Hungary), Jugendstil (Germany), Art Nouveau (France), Nieuwe Kunst (the Netherlands), Stile floreale (Italy). In connection with the Vienna Secession many items had been exhibited several years ago in the foyer of the library and can still be viewed online.
In addition, I selected a 1904 publication of the Austrian Imperial Printing House celebrating its 100 years of existence.
Several important artists of the time collaborated in the production of this volume: and the work features illustrations by Carl Otto Czeschka, special type design by Rudolf von Larisch, and ornaments layout and book design by Koloman Moser. The rich decoration bordering the pages and use of specially designed initials bring to mind the books published by the Kelmscott Press in England, with one significant difference, though. The wavy, undulating vegetal motifs are so Art Nouveau. I find it to be a telling case of cross contamination (intertextuality, the literary theorists would say) between two contemporaneous aesthetic movements: Arts & Crafts, on the one hand, and Secession/Art Nouveau on the other.
While showing the students several pages of the periodical Ver sacrum, (published and illustrated by the artists of the Vienna Secession), we came across a black and white illustration by Koloman Moser which immediately recalled in my mind a painting by American artist Evelyn Rumsey Cary, (on display on the fifth floor of the museum in the permanent collection exhibition).
Both artists employ as central image a woman with raised arms ending in boughs. Moser’s illustration was published in the first issue of Ver sacrum, in January 1898; Cary’s painting, Woman’s suffrage is dated 1905. Perhaps the American artist drew her inspiration from the Viennese artist/periodical – a question to be answered by our museum’s curatorial department .
Of course, while leafing through the issues of Ver sacrum we came across several illustrations by Gustav Klimt, the painter eminently associated with the Vienna Secession; one of the goals of this FAU class visit to enable students to see works by renowned artists which are not commonly included in monographs or online selections.
Following their visit to the library, the students had the opportunity to experience yet another Viennese artistic “immersion” when our curator Silvia Barisione brought them up to the current exhibition Postcards of the Wiener Werkstätte: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection.