The Vienna Secession, Art Nouveau, and Kuchen

By: Belinda Labatte

Apr 22, 2022

The Vienna Secession

1897 marks the year that a group of Austrian artists started a modern art movement away from the standard of traditional, extremely conservative, and religious art of the Habsburg empire. This movement was led by a younger generation of artists, brought together by Gustav Klimt. The works of Josef Hoffman, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele took the movement in an exciting direction which still stands the test of time as being stimulating and shocking. The works of the Secessionists are dramatic, expressionist in nature, and show a disregard for traditional and conventional aesthetics.

The Secessionist movement was contained inside Vienna between 1897 and 1905. Klimt was the inspiration that encouraged and launched Kokoschka and Schiele into new directions never seen before. Whereas Schiele worked with ideas of death, decay, and misery as well as overt sexuality; Kokoschka worked with the ideas of a rebellion against the bourgeois class with exaggeration of lines as well as figures, and clashing colours. Klimt, like Schiele, had women as his favorite subject and was known to engage in many affairs and scandals with the wealthy women of Vienna, many of whom he painted. The studio was used for things other than portrait sits!

Egon Schiele, Liebespaar (Selbstdarstellung mit Wally), 1914-15

Translates to: Lovers (Self-portrait with Wally)

Oskar Kokoschka, The Elbe Near Dresden, c. 1921

Gustav Klimt, Bildnis Gertrud Loew (Gertha Felsőványi), 1902

Translates to: Portrait of Gertrud Loew (Gertha Felsőványi)

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau was a reaction to the Victorian era of cluttered and over-stuffed interiors. It was influenced by Japanese art and in my view, repositioned the Austrian Habsburg design era into something timeless and unique. Art Nouveau can be identified by many curves and fluid linework, ornate flowers combined with mechanical elements such as geometric shapes and angular lines, as it led into the Art Deco era. In the world of design and interiors, we frequently see Art Deco, Danish post-modernism or other movements used as reference points, but Art Nouveau seems to be often left behind, and yet, inspirations can be seen in Kelly Werstler’s works and other current designers who forgo minimalism. The bentwood chair by Joseph Hoffman (December 15, 1870 – May 7, 1956) is a perfect example of an Austrian Art Nouveau design that we see is so many modern homes now. Josef Hoffmann (15 December 1870 – 7 May 1956) was an Austrian architect and designer and the originator of the beautiful bentwood chairs. Having seen the original chairs at the Vienna Museum of Applied Arts. The first photo on left depicts the chair and the second photo on right features the chair replica now in our home.


Original bentwood chair at the Vienna Museum of Applied Arts

Kuchen (Cake)

The Vienna café scene deserves its own article to fully explain the cultural significance of the cafes and the fine pastries served within. For you, the reader, the café is the perfect match to visiting one of the many museums in Vienna that house the artists above. The Museum Quarter and Museum of Applied Art are within walking distance but not without a stop at a konditorei or café, where you will see elements of Art Nouveau as you look up from your kuchen or strudel.

In Vienna, a coffee is always served on a silver tray with a glass of water, and must be accompanied by something sweet. Vienna is perhaps my favorite European city for its elegance, modesty and accessibility and oh yes, sahne (cream or whipped cream) on everything, especially on the strudel.


Your Art Journey

We come to every art piece with a sense of curiosity and adventure. Join us: we will ask you questions to understand how you can incorporate fine art into your life and living in a way that you can best express yourself.

Contact us for a consultation and personal appointment, or virtual viewing of any of our available art works and personal collection.


We look forward to having you join us on our own evolving journey.