My interest in the Vienna Secession was aroused by and article in the Sunday Times early in the year and reached its climax whilst wandering in the Academy. One cannot generalise' about the style of the Secession's members for each one's pictures holds a mystique of their own; yet perhaps that word 'mystique' is a good generalisation, for in every exhibit at the Academy, was the release of mysterious, latent powers that seemingly constitute life.
A good example of this is found in the work of Guatar Klimt, the original founder and president of the Vienna Secession, whose habit it was to paint and draw the ladies of Vienna at the turn of the century and transform them into delicate, beautiful goddesses - indeed, one of his most well known works is 'Pallas Athene', depicting a strong and sturdy female clad in early Trojan armour, yet in her hand holding a symbol of femininity and innocence. The influence of mythical and oriental art seen in most of his works is observed best in the Stoclet Frieze, a large mosaic frieze designed for the dining room of the Palais Stoclet in Brussels. The mosaics were hung on the two longer walls of the room - each over seven metres long: basically they depicted the "Tree of Life" into which were placed figurative representations of "Hope" and "Fulfilment" The latter was shown as a couple embracing, surrounded by strange and exotic birds and plants which, despite the beauty, were recorded with exact; simplicity.
The most impressive works at the exhibition were, in my opinion, those by Egon Schiele, whose exciting boldness rang through the rest of the Academy.
Schiele's paintings confront the eye with an impact of stunning, realistic colour, as if he despised the eye, wishing to shock and injure it. Perspective almost disappears in his works and is replaced by a brightening of colour and the bringing to life of formerly inert objects. From his portraits, one could imagine Schiele as an existentialist, for his constriction and expansion of the human form degrades it to a pathetic and violent image, as in his portrait of a sitting male nude, whose head is bent onto a shoulder in shame, but whose foot and handless body simply radiates violence and persecution. This multi-coloured and angular character is often described by critics as a portrayal of the crucifixion and the unshamefulness of it is a definite inducement to think so.
Twice during his life, Schiele was imprisoned for various reasons, including the hiring of under-age models and he wrote of this - "To imprison an artist is to murder unborn life" - one might suppose this was a contributing factor in Schiele's artistic violence but, even before his recognition, the violence was present; in one early portrait of a woman, the head and body are painted in a manner similar to Klimt's, yet the woman's hands might be those of a murderess.
Another great painter represented at the exhibition was Oskar Kokoschka, whose brashness of stroke is pulled into recognition by fine drawing - shown magnificently in his portrait of Karl Moll and his painting of London, showing St. Paul's Cathedral in previously unknown shades of reds, yellows, greens, pinks and blues.
So individualistic were the artists' styles at the exhibition that it would take a book to tell of their magnificence, yet their realisation of art can be summarised in the Stession's motto:-
"To each time its art, to each art its freedom."