Vienna on St Kilda Road
Vienna: Art and Design: Klimt, Schiele, Hoffmann, Loos
by Christian Witt-Dörring et al.
National Gallery of Victoria, $49.95 pb, 328 pp, 9780724103423
‘Vienna has little to offer its great while they are alive. But when they have departed, a funeral monument and a place in the museum is arranged for them.’ So wrote the critic Oskar Marus Fontana, with veiled anti-Semitism, in a Munich periodical when the Wiener Wersktätte (WW) closed in 1932. From 1903 this famous Viennese design firm created innovative and finely crafted decorative arts, and fitted out modern interiors in concert with the major aesthetic philosophy shared by Secessionist artists, architects, and designers who worked under its banner in Vienna – the Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art). Swimming against tides of cultural, political, and economic change during the later 1920s, the WW was dissolved after its last ‘exhibition’ in 1932 – a large auction sale of more than seven thousand objects, many of which sold below their estimates.