Gustav Klimt ? Still Making Waves In Vienna
Famous for his nudes, Gustav Klimt, was one of the most innovative and influential artists of his generation. But he was also one of the most controversial, as we explain our mp3 tour of Vienna, and that controversy has been revived.
Klimt's Beethoven frieze, at the Secession Building in Vienna, was painted at the start of the last century, in honour of the great composer and it caused huge offence with its images of naked bodies.
That outrage has been revived as real live naked bodies are encouraged to parade around the Secession building as part of new a celebration of the Beethoven frieze.
But, as our new guide to Vienna and its Imperial city explains the Secession was all about shock value. At the end of nineteenth century, a group of artists and architects led by Klimt 'seceded' from or left the main artistic grouping in Vienna.
They rejected the heavy ornamental style of the city's great buildings such the Opera house. Instead, they looked for something unashamedly modern with clean lines and minimal decoration. In Britain and France the movement was called Art Nouveau and in Germany Jugendstil or 'youth style.'
Gustav Klimt was commissioned to create a work of art for the university to celebrate Medicine - his mass of sickly, tangled bodies was not what the authorities had been expecting and he was attacked and vilified because of it.
The Secessionist movement might not have lasted long but it had a profound impact on art, architecture, furniture and industrial design.
The Secession building with its understated decoration and strong, clean lines is typical of the Vienna Jugendstil look. Where adornments were allowed they were simple, understated and set against plain walls.
In contrast to these stark, straight lines is the exuberant decoration on top. It looks like a cabbage and that was how it was described by the Viennese when it first appeared. In fact, it's a huge globe of delicately intertwined laurel leaves.
The legend below it reads: "To every age its art, to art its freedom," and next to the building is a statue of Mark Anthony. It's open from 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Saturday.
I write city walking tours that you can download on to a mp3player or iPod. I tell you where to walk and tell you about what you're seeing as you see it.
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