Wien Museum

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Portrait of Emilie Flöge, Gustav Klimt, 1902, oil on canvas. Byzantine in its use of paint and patterning.

I didn’t fancy the likely crowds at the Belvedere or the Kunsthistorisches, so I headed for the Wien Museum, where you can look at a couple of Klimts and Schieles in peace. There was also a big exhibition on Otto Wagner, so I was glad I went.

Wagner was incredibly prolific as an architect, designer, teacher, town planner and would-be engineer.  (He wasn’t a civil engineer, but he had very decided views on what the new Stadtbahn and its bridges should look like and argued with the civil engineers.) Most of his plans for the city came to nothing; he was rather too modern for Franz Joseph and Franz Ferdinand, who preferred the baroque as the national style. Wagner began conventionally enough, working within the historicist idiom, but he became convinced that architecture and town planning should reflect and enhance modern life: the use of new materials, new construction methods, functionalism and hygiene. So, for example, the invention of the lift swept away the hierarchy of floors (piano nobile, servants in garrets). Roads needed to be straightened out and development unified. 94518AE1-E6FD-4217-BCC9-39C1A697A890He still went in for decoration – he joined the Secessionists after their formation in 1897 and his houses on the Wienzeile are full-on Jugendstil – but within a few years he was turning to a more modernist style. He was influential also through his students: Josef Hoffmann (Wiener Werkstätte), Joseph Maria Olbrich (Secession building), Karl Ehn (Karl-Marx-Hof), Hubert Gessner (Reumann-Hof) and Max Fabiani (Portois & Fix).

My goodness. I certainly haven’t wasted my three days in Vienna! To illustrate that, here is a vitrine from the Wien Museum. Designed by Josef Hoffmann (of Sitzmaschine fame) in 1901, clearly inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, made by Portois & Fix, whose building in Ungargasse was designed by Max Fabiani.

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