Message by the Austrian Consul General
Gerhard Alois MAYNHARDT
Around 1900, the Viennese Secession and the Wiener Werkstätte turned Vienna into the birthplace of modernism. The present exhibition on Viennese modernism (1890–1918) in Hong Kong’s Visual Arts Centre focuses on the famous ornamental works by Gustav Klimt and depictions of the human body by Egon Schiele.
Gustav Klimt was among those artists who founded the Vienna Secession in 1897, and he served as the institution’s first president. He played a major role in the development of international Art Nouveau in Vienna around 1900. His cultivation of the ‘pure line’ as an expressive vehicle and his new approach to composition were developments that exerted a decisive influence on the next generation of painters among them Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele.
Klimt generously mentored younger artists and he took a particular interest in the gifted young Schiele, buying his drawings, offering to exchange them for some of his own, arranging models for him and introducing him to potential patrons. He also introduced Schiele to the Wiener Werkstätte, the arts and crafts workshop connected with the Secession. Klimt also invited Schiele to exhibit some of his work at the 1909 Vienna Kunstschau, where he encountered the work of Edvard Munch, Jan Toorop, and Vincent van Gogh among others. Once free of the constraints of the Academy’s conventions, Schiele began to explore not only the human form, but also human sexuality. At the time, many found the explicitness of his works disturbing.
The present exhibition serves as an introduction to Schiele, Klimt and the “Jugendstil”. Reproductions of such famous works as Klimt’s The Kiss, Adele Bloch Bauer I and II or Judith I are juxtaposed against Schiele’s works Cardinal and Nun or Lying Woman.
If this exhibition has whetted your appetite for Art Nouveau masterpieces than let me suggest coming to Austria and visiting the Leopold Museum in Vienna. Within the span of a few decades, the physician and collector Rudolf Leopold assembled a collection of more than 5,000 carefully selected artworks. Masterpieces by Gustav Klimt, the world’s largest Egon Schiele collection and key works by Oskar Kokoschka provide fascinating insight into the art of the 20th century. One can hardly think of another museum in which the passion for collecting is manifested as strongly as in Vienna’s Leopold Museum.
Enjoy your journey through turn of the 20th century art life in Vienna.