Monday, March 22, 2010

A Brief History of Art v. Craft: Part 2

Secession Style in Austria

After Ruskininan ideals permeated England, they hopped across the Channel and filtered through Europe. In the late 19th century, society underwent great changes and this was reflected in art. Art Nouveau is the name given to the movement that grew out of this desire for change, most closely associated with France and Belgium's "whiplash" lines, like we saw here with Guimard.

But it was Austria and the Secessionists who best embraced the ideas of the artisan-craftsmen. After pulling away from the state-sponsored fine art program (thus the name "Secession") Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser, Otto Wagner and others created the Wiener Werkstatte to give students of the Secession a place to practice their craft, much like Ashbee's Guild of Handicraft. The leaders of the movement overlapped from fine arts--such as Klimt--and the decorative arts--like Moser--and worked together to created gesamtkunstwerks. Their building in Vienna is imposing, yet with a sense of forward-thinking classicism. With it they combined architecture, fine art, and decorative arts and promoted the ideals of new art that would elevate society. Unlike Morris, the Secessionists realized the expense of handcrafted objects was a limiting factor. Rather than elevate all of society, they specifically targeted the middle class and promoted their quality works to elevating this sector to a greater plane of well-decorated existence. The goal was to "produce good, simple domestic requisites" that would "redeem middle class taste" while simultaneously "proclaiming the nature of the material." (Greenhalgh, Art Nouveau, 305-306)

They were able to do much of their work as a group through the Wiener Werkstatte. As a group, they were given commissions to create homes, furniture, and art that embraced their specific style. The Purkersdorf Sanatorium, built 1904-1905, was designed by Josef Hoffmann, but the furniture (pictured above) and interior decoration were designed by other members of the Werkstatte. They also worked as individuals, each with a unique decorative style that embraced not the ideas of art or craft, but the idea of being artisans. There is no line between the two for the Viennese Secession, they are equal parts of a whole that must work in tandem to produce beautiful and functional objects.

Image from here.

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