by Christian Brandstätter, Daniela Gregori, and Rainer Metzger. Thames & Hudson, November 2018. 531 p. ill. ISBN 9780500519301, $125.00.
Reviewed March 2019
Kat Buckley, Assistant Director of the Visual Resources Center, Department of Art History, University of Chicago, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vienna 1900 Complete is a large, 541-page volume aiming to cover nearly all media and artists working at the turn of the century in this city. Accordingly, the volume has a particular focus on the Secessionist movement and the Wiener Werkstätte. An introductory essay titled ”A Refined Sense of Self Indulgence” sets the tone for much of the book, which examines not only the artwork produced during this period but the small circle of patrons who enabled the otherwise-flailing artistic dream of the Gesamtkunstwerk.
Light on text but heavy on illustrations, the book is split up into sections focusing on “Painting,” “Applied and Decorative Arts,” and “Architecture.” Within these three broad categories, subsections on artists and media abound. The media subsections within the “Applied and Decorative Arts” are particularly noteworthy, as it is broken up into glass, ceramics, metalwork, fashion, photography, textiles, jewelry and accessories, graphic design and book arts, and furniture. The book does an excellent job of representing the many female artists working in Vienna at this time, including Emilie Flöge, Dita Moser, Maria Likarz, Dora Kallmus (Madame D’Ora), and Mela Koehler. By far, the longest texts accompany the third section on architecture, which looks at the creations and lives of Otto Wagner, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Josef Hoffmann, and Adolf Loos. Though the aforementioned male architects are the predictable giants of Viennese modernism, more space could have been devoted to the female artists, many of whom receive only a single page given over to a quick biography on them and their influences.
Vienna 1900 Complete brings together the disparate facets that made up Viennese art at the turn of the century. Given its short and rather perfunctory texts on media and artists, it would not be out of place as a reference book for a beginning scholar looking to gain a bird's eye view of the time period. Its true value, however, is as a visual resource for advanced scholars and hobbyists alike. The book features over 1,250 beautifully-produced illustrations, comprising not only portraits of the artists themselves (an image genre which is still a rare find among many otherwise fine publications) but also their drawings, applied arts, and paintings reproduced in absolutely stunning quality and sizes. This volume thoroughly covers the fin-de-siècle through its visual and material culture and, through the book’s pictorial emphasis on both painting and craft, makes the point that the applied arts were equally valued as the fine arts in Vienna during this time period.