Universal Artist between Gustav Klimt and Josef Hoffmann
MAK, Stubenring 5, 1010 Vienna
19 December 2018 – 22 April 2019
Tue 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Wed–Sun 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
To commemorate the centennial of his death, the MAK is honoring #kolomanmoser (1868–1918), one of the great visionaries of Viennese Modernism, with one of the most comprehensive solo shows on his diverse oeuvre to date. The MAK exhibition KOLOMAN MOSER: Universal Artist between Gustav Klimt and Josef Hoffmann delves deep into the creative work of this exceptional artist and demonstrates just how instrumental Moser was in influencing the search for a new, modern language of form in fin-de-siècle #vienna. This is the first time that many of the 600 or so exhibits, largely taken from the MAK Collection, have been made accessible to the public. Structured chronologically, the MAK exhibition recalls every step of Moser’s unusual career: from painter to all-round designer and finally back to painting.
His oeuvre holds an enduring attraction that continues to this day. As a universal artist, Moser demonstrates mastery of the disciplines of painting, graphic art, arts and crafts, and interior #design as well as fashion and scenography. Moser is an impressive living example of the Gesamtkunstwerk or total work of art that is propagated by the #vienna Secession. He is considered one of the most important pioneers of Viennese Modern- ism, one of the most influential artists of Viennese Art Nouveau, and is—alongside Gus- tav Klimt and Josef Hoffmann—one of the leading proponents of Vienna’s artistic re- newal.
Divided into five chapters, the MAK exhibition—curated by Christian Witt-Dörring, Guest Curator, and Elisabeth Schmuttermeier, Curator, MAK Metal Collection and Wiener Werkstätte Archive—contextualizes Moser’s work against the backdrop of the development in art theory in #vienna from 1860 to 1918.
Entitled “Vienna as a Stage for the Arts,” the introductory chapter of the exhibition is dedicated to the milieu that leaves its mark on the young Moser. From 1860 to 1890 #vienna experiences rapid social and economic development. A strengthened upper class enables artists to venture into new fields of activity. Moser grows up with a vi- brant generation of artists who can build on a fine artistic tradition. Particularly influ- ential on Moser is Historicism’s claim to Gesamtgestaltung or total #design, which brings together architecture, painting, and sculpture to realize furnishing projects. Works by Hans Makart and the Viennese “Künstler-Compagnie” (Franz Matsch, Gustav and Ernst Klimt) among others hang at the entrance of the MAK exhibition alongside early oil paintings and graphic works by #kolomanmoser that are still very much mod- eled on Naturalism.
The second chapter, “The Unity of Form and Function” (1889–1895), is dedicated to the architect and “father of Modernism” Otto Wagner as well as his influential role in Moser’s career. Wagner criticizes the use of historical styles and coins the so-called Nutzstil (utility style). The unity of form and function—“form follows function”— becomes the credo of Modernism. Wagner’s ideas have a great impact on the founding members of the Secession, Gustav Klimt, #kolomanmoser, Carl Moll, Josef Hoffmann, and Joseph Maria Olbrich among others. It is also Wagner who recommends Moser along with Josef Hoffmann for a professorship at the School of Arts and Crafts at the Imperial Royal Austrian Museum of Art and Industry. Ultimately, however, the Seces- sionists align themselves with the Arts and Crafts movement, which gives the realiza- tion of the artistic idea precedence over function.
“Koloman Moser’s Early Years” (1886–1896), the third section of the exhibition, pre- sents the young Moser as a freelance artist. To finance his painting degree under Franz Matsch at the School of Arts and Crafts (1893–1895), Moser works intensively as an illustrator of books and newspapers from 1888. Together with fellow young artists who are increasingly dissatisfied with the Viennese art world’s commitment to Naturalism, he joins forces with the Siebener-Club, which later gives rise to the Secession. A draw- ing by Gustav Klimt of the Allegory of Sculpture, which he produced for Martin Ger- lach’s pattern book for producers of arts and crafts, Gerlach’s Allegorien. Neue Folge [Gerlach’s Allegories: New Instalment], inspires Moser to adopt a new, curvilinear mode of expression, from which he ultimately develops the so-called Viennese Flächenkunst (planar art) influenced by Japanese art.
The fourth chapter, “The Unity of the Arts,” shows Moser as a founding member of the Secession and universal artist. Inspired by the Secession’s concept of the Gesamtkunst- werk, Moser now dedicates himself exclusively to exhibition, scenic, and interior #design as well as fashion. In collaboration with Josef Hoffmann, he produces interior concepts that achieve international fame as Viennese Raumkunst (interior #design, literally “room art”). One famous example are the furnishings designed by artists for the city palace of the industrialist Nikolaus Dumba. Hans Makart furnishes the study (1871– 1873), Gustav Klimt the music salon, and Franz Matsch the dining room (1897/98).
Around 1900 there is a marked stylistic caesura. A planar, geometrically reduced mode of expression now dominates Moser’s designs; the square ornament becomes one of his trademarks. The so-called Viennese style is born. Together with Josef Hoffmann and the patron Fritz Waerndorfer, #kolomanmoser finally founds the Wiener Werkstätte (1903), which enables the uncompromising realization of the Gesamtkunstwerk. As a highlight of the exhibition, this exhibition area immerses visitors in the staggering abundance of timelessly beautiful interior designs, furniture, metal objects, leather- work, and jewelry created in the Wiener Werkstätte.
The increasing dependency on a small circle of patrons induces Moser to leave the Wiener Werkstätte in 1907. He starts a new stage of his artistic career, dedicating him- self almost exclusively to painting until his death in 1918. The final chapter of the exhi- bition, “Farewell to the Unity of the Arts,” presents an overview of Moser’s late painted work, with which he returns to the starting point of his creative career. Like a thread running through the show, a richly illustrated chronology of Moser’s creative work supplements the exhibition.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a comprehensive catalog. Press photos are available for download at MAK.at/en/press.
Premium Sponsor ÖSTERREICHISCHE WERKSTÄTTEN
For his generous support we would like to thank Richard Grubman
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