Vienna: The Secession



An interesting sculpture on the side of the Secession: It reads: Marc Anton Gruppe 1899. Von Arthur Strasser 1854-1927


Viv and Sonya on the entrance steps

Note about sculpture above: Marc Anton was a Roman general and this group was done by Austrian sculptor Arthur Strasser.

This building with its distinctive “cabbage” dome roof has an interesting history. Gustav Klimt was instrumental in organizing this new building in Vienna and Nath really likes the work of Klimt, so was very happy to visit.

Normal adult entrance price is 9 euros, but we got a senior break and Sonya got a teacher break, so that was great.

In 1897 a group of young artists headed by Gustav Klimt broke away from the Viennese Artists’ Society to form an association of their own: the Succession. They realized they needed a special building to present the art they were planning and the foundation stone was laid in April 1898. The Municipality of Vienna provided the building site on Linker Wienzeile for free. Funding for the building was largely provided by industrialist Karl Wittgenstein, and from proceeds from the group’s First Exhibition, which had been very successful.


Notice the words Ver Sacrum to the left of the steps

In November 1898 the building opened with their Second Exhibition. The architect Joseph Maria Olbrich designed the building as a “Temple of Art”. His plans show the influence of Otto Wagner, his mentor and teacher, but also of sketches made by Gustav Klimt. The building resembles a pavilion and is divided into two parts: the ceremonial entrance hall is crowned by a gilded dome; the exhibition halls are purely functional, with sober glass and steel construction.

Ver sacrum or “sacred spring” on the front


Above the front entrance


façade refers to the movement’s concept of a return to the arts, or a flowering of the arts. When the Secession first opened there were many who criticized the modern architecture, but today it’s regarded as one of the best examples of the Viennese art nouveau style (Jugendstil) and the golden dome is a famous landmark. It’s well known as a building whose architecture marks the turning point from historicism to modernism.

We breezed through the other exhibitions on at the time and found them rather strange and hard to understand. I guess the truth is that we’re not really big into modern/contemporary art. They offer 10-15 special exhibitions each year.


Pamphlet about the Beethoven Frieze stuck into my notebook



coupleOur main objective was the Beethoven Frieze, which we all loved, and spent quite a while sitting and contemplating (in nice cool a/c, as it was really hot outside). Klimt created his Beethoven Frieze for a group show dedicated to Beethoven in 1902. After the exhibition the frieze was purchased privately, but was bought by the Austrian state in 1973 and installed in a specially designed room in the basement of the Secession in 1986.

It’s an amazing piece of art, large and designed now as part of the building. It’s very symbolic and we understood much better after reading the explanations in the pamphlet, so then we could really begin to understand the paintings. womanThe mural takes its theme from Richard Wagner’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, depicting humankind’s search for happiness. To symbolize this yearning Klimt chose floating genii, who lead the viewer into the story and recur several time. Various figures, often naked, portray the suffering of humanity, a strongman who sets off looking for happiness, and the dangers along the way. Happiness finds fulfillment in poetry, portrayed as a female figure with a lyre, and the arts, portrayed by a kissing couple in front of a Choir of Angels, referring to Beethoven’s final chorus in the Ninth. Its eroticism and graphic depictions inspired both admiration and criticism.

The only negative comment from Nath was that she wished it were mounted a bit lower so it could be seen a bit more easily. Klimt uses colors so well here, done in his typical style.



About viviennemackie

Avid traveler, travel writer and photographer. In an earlier life I was a psychologist, but now am an ESL teacher. Very interested in multiculturalism, and how travel can expand one's horizons, understanding and tolerance.
This entry was posted in architecture, art, museum, Vienna and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Vienna: The Secession

  1. marilyneb says:

    The Secession is currently being renovated, so it’s nice to see what that dome should have looked like!


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