Summer School 2021 - Course 19 - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Summer School 2021 – Course 19

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NEW Course 19

A Nervous State of Affairs: Art in Vienna, 1880-1938

Dr Niccola Shearman

Summer School – Online
Monday 5 – Friday 9 July 2021

Course description

As a tottering Austro-Hungarian Empire worked at its decorative façade and high society waltzed on regardless, new impulses were simmering beneath the surface in fin-de-siècle Vienna. And we are not only referring here to Sigmund Freud: from Gustav Klimt’s thinly-veiled symbols of sexual energy and sinewy mortality to the Angst-ridden art of Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele; from the theatrical splendour of institutional architecture to the clean lines of the sanatorium, there is plenty to analyse in the visual culture of early twentieth-century Vienna.

Alongside the art of key individuals, this critical introduction takes in major collectives including the Vienna Secession, the applied arts of the Viennese Workshops, and the social housing of ‘Red Vienna’. It attends to wider cultural currents in the famous café circles: the interdisciplinary talking shops of writers and intellectuals, composers, patrons and critics, many of Jewish heritage. And it explores the influence of women – beyond the ‘muse’ depicted as alternately decorative and dangerous. Could one actually live in a Gesamtkunstwerk? Where is the line between the avantgarde embrace of modernity and an indulgent retreat from the real world? How far could such keen observers foresee the ultimate collapse of their small but vibrant artistic universe? All to be discussed in a close encounter with this febrile period of cultural experiment.

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