Fin de Siecle Vienna

One of the best classes I ever took at UCLA was a seminar lead by a German PhD student. I also happened to meet a pretty good friend in that class.

The topic was fin de siecle Vienna – turn of the century Vienna. Given that I took it just after the turn of THIS century, the topic of the class was 1890-1910 Vienna. It was such an amazing class. I loved everything about it – I was introduced to some amazing artists, some awesome ideas from the time, and just great people in the class who were GENUINELY interested in the topic.

I ended up writing a couple of papers on Gustav Klimt and his works. Klimt and other artists like him..there was just something about their use of ornamentation in their work. I’m sure many people are familiar with Klimts “The Kiss” – the image of two lovers at the edge of a cliff, embracing and kissing each other, while wrapped up in gold. Beautifully and totally cliche now – there’s even a LLADRO figurine (which will soon appear on my wedding registry..whenever that happens).

My favorite work of Klimts though is one of his portraits of Adele Bloch-Bauer. There’s just really something beautiful about it. I’m also a sucker for details and obscure things – the outline of her body is shown by the eyes, the movement implied by the lines along her dress, the many eyes on her dress – a reference to Egyptian myth? Ugh. Love it.

Okay BACK on track…I speak about this only because I came across this link to images from 1895, depicting ideals, concepts, events, etc. Some of them are lovely and have a lot of myth and story behind them. I wish I could spend the time cataloging them and figuring out all of the references. This might be a project to do in my (very little) spare time.

There was also just something special about Vienna at the time – it was one of those cities that was so metropolitan for the day and age and could be an incubator for new ideas. While I’ve always been a fan of Europe, something in that class really got me excited to some day visit Vienna, walk around and visit the sites and sights we talked about in class. Some day, I will make it to Europe on my epic backpacking trip. Not sure when, not sure how. But I will.

Source: 1895 Viennese Archetype Images

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