Vienna at the turn of the twentieth century was a city in ferment – a bastion of the established order, a hotbed of radical politics, a crucible of intellectual and artistic revolution.
As the capital of a multinational empire, residence of Europe’s premier monarchy, centre of an omnipresent bureaucracy and headquarters of a formidable army, Vienna projected an image of unshakeable power and respect for tradition. Lift not the painted veil: behind it lay widespread discontent, a crumbling moral order and myriad cracks in the coherence of empire. With remarkable suddenness, there emerged from this complacent, decadent and artistically stagnant society a brilliant array of artists and intellectuals who were determined to break with the past and were prepared to risk affronting the establishment in doing so.
This was the city of Mahler, Schönberg, Schnitzler and Freud, and also of the protagonists of this tour, Klimt, Schiele and Otto Wagner and their friends, collaborators and rivals. The Great War brought Austrian suzerainty of Central Europe crashing to an end, causing death, destruction and trauma along the way. And then the ’flu pandemic of 1918 killed even more, including Schiele, Klimt and Moser.
In the first decades of the twentieth century Art Nouveau in its multifarious manifestations and transformations spread like wildfire around Europe and beyond. In the realm of architecture and ornamentation the Viennese variant was more measured than elsewhere, and more classical. In the first years of the new century, applied ornament retreated further to expose pure form and rational design. Here are the roots of modernism which, in turn, became the dominant orthodoxy of the twentieth century.
By contrast, the revolution in painting and the graphic arts had little international influence, but resulted in works which were exceptionally luxuriant and expressive.
Martin Randall Travel are pleased to be supporting Vienna Tourist Board's Viennese Modernism celebrations. Visit their website to find out more.
Fly at c. 9.00am from London Heathrow to Vienna (Austrian Airlines). Drive straight to the Gallery of Austrian Art in the Baroque magnificence of the Belvedere Palace to see the collection of paintings by Klimt (the world’s largest, including The Kiss), Schiele, Kokoschka and their contemporaries. The Lower Belvedere hosts a special exhibition, Austria-Hungary 1918, in which Klimt and Schiele are presented in dialogue with a variety of figures including leading Czech Cubists and painters in the Hungarian Nyolcak group, among others. This visit is led by a museum curator; Gavin Plumley joins the tour in the morning on Day 2.
The Museum of Applied Arts has excellent collections, strikingly displayed, of work by Hoffmann, Moser and other designers of the Wiener Werkstätte, as well as by the Scotsman Charles Rennie Mackintosh. An afternoon walk to see Secessionist designs by Otto Wagner, Max Fabiani, Josip Plecnik and Adolf Loos (including a public lavatory and a menswear shop). Visit to and dinner at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, one of the world’s greatest art galleries, with a special exhibition focused on Klimt's Nuda Veritas and representations of self-perception. Time for independent exploration of the permanent collection.
Visit the Museum of the History of Vienna, a fascinating survey whose collections are particularly rich in turn-of-the-century art and artefacts. It will house the first major exhibition dedicated to Otto Wagner to be staged for more than fifty years. See also the decommissioned railway station pavilions by Wagner and Olbrich and the exhibition hall (the ‘Golden Cabbage’) designed in 1898 by Olbrich as an exhibition hall for the Secession. Klimt’s 34-metre long Beethoven Frieze is here. A special exhibition at the Imperial Furniture Collection presents the work of the leading architects of Viennese Modernism: Wagner, Loos and Hoffmann as interior and furniture designers.
Drive to the outskirts to see buildings by Otto Wagner; the richly decorated apartment blocks in the Linke Wienzeile, the emperor’s personal railway station at Schönbrunn and the hospital church ‘Am Steinhof’, the finest manifestation of Viennese Secessionism.The ground floor of the villa used by Klimt as a studio between 1911 and 1918 features a reconstruction of the original furnishings and various media related to Klimt’s work.
The Leopold Collection, opened in 2001, is an excellent collection of works by Secessionist artists, especially Schiele. The flight to Heathrow arrives at c. 6.45pm.
Writer, broadcaster and lecturer and English-language commissioning editor for the Salzburg Festival. He studied music at Keble College, Oxford and specialises in the culture of Central Europe during the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As well as writing for newspapers, magazines and opera and concert programmes worldwide, Gavin has recently lectured at the National Gallery, the British Museum and Wigmore Hall.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £1,960 or £1,750 without flights. Single occupancy: £2,230 or £2,020 without flights.
Air travel (economy class) on scheduled Austrian Airlines flights (Airbus A320); private coach for airport transfers and excursions; accommodation as described below; breakfasts and 3 dinners with wine; admission charges for all included visits; all tips for waiters, drivers and guides; all airport and state taxes; the services of the lecturer.
Hotel Bristol: 5-star hotel in a superb location on the Ringstrasse near the opera house, traditionally furnished and decorated. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
There is quite a lot of walking on this tour. Average distance by coach per day: 9 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.