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Pioneers of Modernism at the Belvedere Museum

The Belvedere houses the world’s largest collection of paintings by Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) and will be presenting this renowned artist in the autumn of 2011 together with the congenial architect and designer Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956).  The exhibition will be devoted to their collaborative work, which began with the founding of the Vienna Secession in 1897 and ended with Klimt’s death in 1918.

Their first joint projects are indicative of a transitional phase from the decorative and floral Art Nouveau to a stark formal principle primarily oriented towards orthogonal structures. Thus Hoffman designed the rooms entrusted to him for the 1900 Paris World Fair similarly to the flowing curvilinear style of the Vienna Secession that represented a liberation from Historicism.

Whereas one had spoken simply of “arrangements” in terms of that exhibition concept, at the first Secession show to be designed by Hoffmann, it was already being called “modern spatial art”. The radical change in style that took place in less than a year will be graphically demonstrated at the Belvedere show through a juxtaposition of the two spatial principles.

The wall designs for the Paris World Fair will be placed for comparison with those planned and realized by Hoffmann for the 1902 Beethoven exhibition at the Secession. A replica of the Klimt Room, which accommodated Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze, and a true-to-scale architectural model of the entire exhibition area will illustrate Vienna’s first Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art). Compositional sketches for Klimt’s frieze and studies by other artists who contributed to the mounting of the show will shed light on its genesis.

Significant impulses for the development of Viennese Modernism came from such Belgian artists as George Minne and Fernand Khnopff, who celebrated triumphs at shows in Vienna. At no point in time has there been such a close exchange between influential figures of the two countries in art, architecture, and literature that could be compared to the one that took place around 1900.

This circumstance will be taken into account in the Belvedere show through a juxtaposition of works by Khnopff, Minne, Jan Toorop, and Klimt. That Belgian architecture also played a role in this reciprocal influence will be seen, for instance, in a model of Khnopff’s home and studio, which he built in 1901.

The close relationships between the artists of the two countries, and in particular the amicable contact between Khnopff, Fritz Waerndorfer (director of the Wiener Werkstätte), Hoffmann, Klimt, and Adolphe Stoclet, an art lover living in Vienna at the time, finally culminated in 1905 in the Gustav Klimt,   idea and, shortly thereafter, the realization of the Stoclet Palace in Brussels.

To celebrate its one hundred years of existence, this palace, which was delivered to its owners in 1911/12, will form the focal point of the show. In collaboration with the owner family and Belgium’s Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels, this outstanding structure and its fascinating interior decoration will be presented. A detailed reconstruction of the hall, an architectural model, numerous plans and preparatory drawings for Klimt’s Stoclet Frieze, as well as ceramics from Leopold Forstner’s Wiener Mosaikwerkstätte will shed light upon the creation of the palace.

Exhibition projects for the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, the Mannheim International Art Exhibition of 1907, the Kunstschau of 1908, at which Klimt’s masterpiece The Kiss was publicly displayed for the first time, and the Internationale Kunstschau of 1909 will additionally demonstrate the nature of the collaboration between Klimt and Hoffmann which will also be explored in relation to the Wiener Werkstätte. Hoffmann’s exhibition designs are still regarded today as trailblazing in the development of Viennese Modernism and will be made comprehensible in the show with the aid of drawings and documentary material.  Hoffman designed the interior of Klimt’s last studio, located in Vienna’s thirteenth district, which  now preserves parts of Klimt’s ethnographic collection. The spatial impression of the studio will be recreated with original furniture.

Klimt’s death brought an end to the relationship between these two pioneers of Austrian Modernism, who together strove to achieve a union between the visual and the applied arts and whose collaboration in the domain of the Gesamtkunstwerk set new benchmarks in Europe.

The Exhibition


Pioneers of Modernism

Lower Belvedere / A-1030 Vienna, Rennweg 6

25 October 2011 to 4 March 2012

Daily 10 am - 6 pm, Wednesday 10 am - 9 pm


Editor's note:  We acknowledge the expertise of Vienna Tourism on the topic of Gustav Klimt and extend our gratitude for allowing us to publish these materials.  Furthermore, we encourage you to utilize the following links for further information.

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