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The Klimt and Schiele film: 100 years since Austria's golden era

The film “Klimt and Schiele: Eros and Psyche, 1918-2018 - Scandals, Dreams, Obsessions in Vienna's Golden Age” analysed turn-of-the-century Vienna art. The film guided viewers through the Albertina, Belvedere, Leopold, Freud, Kunsthistorisches and Wien Museums and through exhibitions of Klimt and Schiele’s works. The film retraced this extraordinary era: a magical moment for art, music and literature, in which new ideas circul­ated. Life took place in salons where artists, politicians and scientists met each other. Talented women like Alma Mahler-Werfel, Lina Loos or Bertha Zuckerkandl began to emancipate themselves.

The Kunstschau/Art Show of 1908 was arranged by artists in the Gustav Klimt Group and coincided with celebrations held in Vienna for the 60th anniversary of Emperor Francis Joseph I’s reign. The artists were offered the use of vacant land, which had been designated for an eventual Konzerthaus, as an interim exhibition venue. In only a few months, Josef Hoffmann, Gustav Klimt, Otto Prutscher, Koloman Moser and others built and furnished temporary buildings holding 54 exhibition rooms, gardens, interior courtyards, café, a summer stage and a furnished two-storey country house. For young artists and students like Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele, the Kunstschau was their first exposure to foreign art, and a brilliant exposure it was.

Klimt and Schiele: Eros and Psyche, 1918-2018 
Scandals, Dreams, Obsessions in Vienna's Golden Age

Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka used their good connections with Vienna’s New Money, to establish a new world for the arts. And they interacted with other Viennese intellectuals.

Recently the masterpieces of two artists, Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and Egon Schiele (1890-1918), attracted visitors from all over the world, in Vienna as well as at the Neue Galerie in New York. Together with designer-painter Koloman Moser (1868–1918) and architect Otto Wagner (1841-1918), all these vis­ion­ary artists died in 1918 during the flu epidemic.

Note that 100 years later, we have re-examined their works, found somewhere between Jugendstil & Expressionism. As the thunder of WW1 cannons was dying out in 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was beginning to disintegrate and Vienna’s Golden Age was waning. Since the turn of the century, Klimt and Schiele reflected the new feeling of art, paintings that port­rayed the era’s restlessness, fears and desires. Society was shocked! Presented in high definition, the film is a must-see for both art & film lovers. The images had extraordinary visual power, going from the charming enveloping decorations of Klimt’s works, to the anguished linework in Schiele's magnetic nudes and contorted figures.

The Vienna Secession Exhibition, 2015
Leopold Museum

The motto that stands in golden letters on the Secession building, inaug­urating a new era, says: "At every age his art, art his freedom". Eros and Psyche was set in the very city where Hugo von Hofmannsthal, young Ludwig Wittgenstein, future directors Fritz Lang and Erich von Stroheim met on the streets and the opera Salome by Richard Strauss opened. Despite the artists being quite different, both turned their backs on academic conventions. The film showed images of great strength, with the enchanting and enveloping decorations of Klimt's paintings, up to the tormented lines of Egon Schiele with its painful eroticism.

Eroticism was the secret thread of this story. In the publication of Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams, the unconscious rose strongly on the surface. Psychoanalysis, with its disruptive theor­ies of infantile sexuality and repressed emotions, shook a normal society that opened its eyes to the profound nature of the ego.

Consider the Vienna of music, between the rhythm of the Strauss waltzes father and son that resounded in the squares and in the cafes. And remember the memory of the giants of the past, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. From this tradition the young Arnold Schönberg started, planning to subvert his own art. Vienna was a city in which the master confectioners handed down the recipe of Sacher torte and jewellers took up the liberty designs.

On the same two days, Saturday 27th and Sun 28th Oct 2018, “Klimt and Schiele: Eros and Psyche, 1918-2018 - Scandals, Dreams, Obsessions in Vienna's Golden Age” will be showing at the Cinema Nova in Melbourne and many other art cinemas in Australia’s capital cities.

Read Klimt /Schiele @ the Royal Academy for a detailed analysis of the two artists' drawings from the Albertina Museum in Vienna, now showing in London.


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