»There are only two painters: Velázquez and I.« Gustav Klimt
It was a movement of rejection to the traditional forms of the nineteenth-century "Gründerzeit". Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) aimed to encompass all aspects of life: A synthesis of architecture and visual art, with nature as a model and the total revelation of emotions in its works.
Art transcending borders
Jugendstil encompasses all forms of architecture and art: industrial facilities, elevated-train systems, villas, churches, as well as the interior design of bars and coffeehouses. As a comprehensive “life-reform movement”, it permeated all aspects of day-to-day life, breaking down the borders between high and low art and between free art and arts and crafts.
Besides societal borders, the movement transcended national ones. With its related trends Art Nouveau, Modern Style, Stile Liberty, Modernismo or Sezession it became an international cultural phenomenon.
The capital of Jugendstil
As one of the great metropolises of Europe, Vienna represented an important centre of Jugendstil. Everywhere in the city one finds buildings by Otto Wagner, Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich, and Adolf Loos. The Church at Steinhof, the Post Office Savings Bank, and the Secession all provide an impression of this Gesamtkunstwerk – this total work of art – to which the movement aspired.
A distinguishing quality of the Viennese Jugendstil is that it was deeply rooted in artistic traditions while at the same time opening itself up to non-European art.
A movement and its mastermind
As president of the association of artists known as the "Secession", Gustav Klimt was at the very hub of the Jugendstilmovement. He was not only its – often taciturn – speaker, tireless organizer, and promoter of young, up-and-coming talent; he created some of the most important Jugendstil works, including the undisputed icon of the entire movement, the world-famous "The Kiss", painted in 1907 and 1908.