Following the example of other European contexts which, at the turn of the century, sees a renewal of language, practice and systems in artistic production; in the early twentieth century Vienna extends its attitude of renewal and modernisation of the romantic and historicist model to all fields of artistic expression.
Vienna 1900 is a multidisciplinary exhibition, made up of about four hundred and seventy objects, that illustrates the purpose of Viennese artists, writers, musicians, architects and designers blurring the boundaries between art and life, taking as a reference the metaphorical turning point in the year 1900.
The tour starts in the 1890s and concludes on the eve of the outbreak of the First World War, the exhibition runs from ornamental idealism until the Expressionism crisis. The ornament is thus the largest of its axes, it manifests in painting, graphic arts or design in its broadest sense: ceramics, glass, jewellery, furniture, applied and industrial arts, illustration, and even architecture. In this regard, there are two institutions that set the artistic standards of the day: Secession (1898), understood as the temple of art -its motto being "To each period its art. To art its freedom"- and where the main roles are played by Joseph Maria Olbrich, Kolomar Moser and Gustav Klimt, and the Wiener Werkstätte (Viennese Workshops. Cooperative of Artisan Production in Vienna), founded in 1903 following the current Arts and Crafts model, in particular the Glasgow school directed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. In the field of design, this supposes a progressive shift from the ornament as a decorative and formal pattern (Otto Wagner’s first stage) to a certain geometric austerity (Joseph Hoffmann).
In painting, Klimt formulates the Vienna 1900 aesthetic expression, creating an imagination which is at the crossroads between religion and eroticism, as is evident in Judith (1901-1902) and Danae (1907-1908). In his works, says Franz Smola, curator of the exhibition, "the ornament can be perfectly interpreted as subliminal forms of expression of sexual passions." The other two painters who are fundamental to this moment are Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, who transform the decorative nature of lines into an expression of human rupture. The crisis of the lexicons -triggered largely by the crisis of identity and studies of the self conducted by Sigmund Freud in psychoanalysis- finds its musical expression in the work of Arnold Schönberg, with dodecaphonic music, and in his contemporaries Alban Berg and Anton Weber. Similarly, the architectural academic and natural language crisis and criticism is also worth noting, the former led by Adolf Loos and the latter by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Vienna being one of the strongest beginnings of modernity on all fronts.