With this publication and its related exhibition, the Neue Galerie New York sheds new light on the subject of Vienna 1900 by revealing a common thread running through the fine and decorative arts of the period: the redefining of individual identity in the modern age. In fine art, decorative arts, and music, this entails both a dialogue between surface ornamentation and inner structure, and a search for a specifically modern, Viennese sense of self. Both the exhibition and the catalog also explore the new attitudes towards gender and sexuality that surface in Viennese literature and psychology at the time.
With an interdisciplinary approach that covers not only art and design, but also music, literature, psychology, philosophy, and social history, a group of leading international scholars in the field reflects upon preoccupations of identity and how Vienna came to lead the way in so many fields. The book also treats the rise of modern and independent-minded patrons at the fin de siècle.
Vienna in 1900 was home to a thriving arts and intellectual culture that included many important thinkers and a substantial group of prominent artists, including the founder of the Secession Gustav Klimt. A common thread throughout music and the fine and decorative arts was the redefining of individual identity for the modern age, as the search for a specifically modern Viennese sense of self prompted a dialogue about ornamentation and inner truth in the arts of the age.
Edited by distinguished curators Christian Witt-Dörring and Jill Lloyd, "Birth of the Modern" explores new attitudes—particularly those toward gender and sexuality—that surfaced in Viennese culture in the early twentieth century. The book features essays by, among others, Philipp Blom on the question of identity, Claude Cernuschi on psychological portraiture, Alessandra Comini on music in imperial Vienna, and Jean Clair on the “joyous apocalypse,” alongside images of works by fine and decorative artists, including Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, and Koloman Moser. There is an additional emphasis on fashion with illustrations of important clothing and accessories from the period.
A fascinating exploration of the early days of Viennese modernism and a pivotal moment in the development of Austrian history and the arts, "Birth of the Modern" will be of interest to anyone curious about literature, culture, and intellectual history in turn-of-the-century Vienna.