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Koloman Moser poster for the 13th Vienna Secession exhibition

Page history last edited by Susan Efting 11 years, 6 months ago





Poster for the 13th Vienna Secession exhibition


Designed by Koloman Moser, 1902

Collection of Philip B. Meggs






In 1902, Koloman Moser produced a poster to publicize the Vienna Secession's 13th exhibition. "The Vienna Secession (also known as the Union of Austrian Artists, or Vereiningung Bildender Künstler Österreichs) was formed on April 3, 1897 by a group of" mostly younger "Austrian artists" (painters, sculptors and architects) "who had resigned from the Association of Austrian Artists" in opposition to the exclusion of foreign artists from exhibitions of the Viennese Academy.[1]


"Secession artists were concerned, above all else, with exploring the possibilities of art outside the confines of academic tradition. They hoped to create a new style that owed nothing to historical influence. In this way they were very much in keeping with the iconoclastic spirit of turn-of-the-century Vienna."[1] Artists and patrons of the arts were revolting against the 19th century attitude that based art's value on its commercial value. They wanted to remove art from the "hands of commerce".[2] They believed in the purity of art and in the great mission of the artist. "The limitations of what constituted fine art were tested -  was art limited to painting and sculpture or could it also include furniture, glass, textiles and functional items?"[3] "The group earned considerable credit for its exhibition policy, which made the French Impressionists somewhat familiar to the Viennese public."[1]


"In design terms, the Vienna Secession was the most significant of a number of Secession groups established in the 1890s in Germany and Austria that were set up in opposition to the traditional outlook of the official academies."[4] This included those of Munich (launched in 1892) and Berlin (in 1899). "Unlike other movements, there is no one style that unites the work of all artists who were part of the Vienna Secession."[4]



Koloman Moser


Koloman Moser's Biography


Koloman Moser (March 30, 1868 - October 18, 1918)  "Moser was an Austrian painter, graphic artist and an arts and crafts designer. He studied at the Vienna Academy and then the Arts and Crafts School where he would later teach for eight years." He designed graphic art with characteristic, geometric patterns but was mainly known for his design of furniture, jewellery, postage stamps, glass and metal arts & crafts objects.[5]


"Moser was a co-founder of the Viennese Secession in 1897" and "editor of the Secession journal, "Ver Sacrum", to which he contributed numerous works and designs of his own."[6] In 1903 Moser left the Secession and Joined forces with Josef Hoffman and a prosperous banker Fritz Wärndorfer and founded the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops). In 1908, after disagreements with Wärndorfer, Koloman Moser left the Vienna Workshops to concentrate on painting, where his focus shifted to expressionist painting. "As a craftsman Moser designed a mosaic as well as the stained glass windows for the "Kirche am Steinhof" by Otto Wagner, the most famous consecrated building of the period before 1914"[7] (jokingly referred to by the locals as the "Holy Lemon").[8] "His first works show the influence of impressionistic tendencies; in his later years it was the painter Ferdinand Hodler, who had strong influence on the style of Kololman Moser."[7]



The Poster


Moser's poster layout features "three figures arranged symmetrically in a vertical format that is reminiscent of the Scottish graphics" (Glascow School of Art) that made an impact at the 8th Secession exhibition in 1900. "The reductive, geometric figures are highly structured; the only curves in their bodies are formed by simple circular and teardrop shapes. The vertical bands that make up their bodies echo the overall shape of the poster." "Dominated by flat red and blue" and "outlined in hard edged countour lines", "Moser's colour choices are subdued."[9]


The Scottish design principles (Glascow style) also influenced his text. "The text is used as a plinth for the figures", and is integrated into the figures "by passages of ornament that allow text and image to flow together". His lettering, however, is not geometric. "Some of the letters bulge, some serve as passive foils to the more exuberant letters, while the "R"s in "Osterreichs" (4th line from the bottom) look like deformed "A"s." The letters "curved elements (especially the stems) are not "irregular like the curves you would find in French Art Nouveau"; their baseline shapes are geometric. The text is justified, which "forms a crisp block that belies the fanciful form of the letters."[9]



Examples of the Scottish graphics that made an impact at the 8th Secession in 1990


Koloman Moser's poster is a departure "from the decorative sensuality of Klimt's spiral floral designs, such as the one in Nuda Veritas". Moser's simplification of the three figures and his geometric pattern are "distinctly un-sexual and un-Symbolist".[9]



Gustav Klimt's Nuda Veritas 1899



Members of the Vienna Secession


The Vienna Secession was led by the 35 year old artist Gustav Klimt, its first President. 85 year old artist Rudolf von Alt, who had always been an advocate of the young, was elected Honorary President.[10] Founding members of the group included Kolomon Moser, the designer and architect Josef HoffmanJosef Maria Olbrich, the painters Josef Engelhart, Carl Moll, and Alfred Roller who had studied architecture as well as painting. In 1897 Olbrich designed the decorative Secession Building in Vienna (where the exhibitions were held), with Moser contributing stained glass and other decorative work in the interior. Hoffmann designed the Ver Sacrum room at the first Vienna Secession exhibition in 1898.[11]



The secession building in Vienna built to hold exhibitions of the secession group.  Above its entrance was carved the phrase "to every age its art and to art its freedom".




Ver Sacrum


Ver Sacrum (Sacred Spring) is the title of the periodical which the group produced. "The first issue was published in 1889 - even before the first Exhibition. Alfred Roller designed the cover. It showed a young blossoming tree in a wooden vessel, its roots bursting through into the open space – symbolizing the artists bursting the corset of historicism."[12] It showcased highly decorative illustrations, "reproductions, poetry, graphic art, decorative borders, object design, and cutting-edge conceptions for layout representative of the period."[13] "Ver Sacrum was published in an unusual square format, often with hand lettered covers. In an early issue, the publication announced the Secession's intention to use their exhibitions for aesthetic experiments in the fusion of art and literature, graphics and text."[14] "This was a magazine where experimentation in design was allowed and was described as elegant. So elegant that advertisers were required to commission to have their advertisements designed."[15]


Image:Ver sacrum.jpg

1899 Cover of Ver Sacrum - Koloman Moser 




During the late 19th century there was the feeling of "both the closing and onset of an era; it was felt to be a period of degeneration, but at the same time a period of hope for a new beginning."[16] In the 1880s and 1890s writers and artists in Europe, under the slogan ‘ art for art's sake’, "adopted a rejection of any moral or social function for art."[17]  The slogan's meaning was "that the beauty of the fine arts is reason enough for pursuing them — that art does not have to serve purposes taken from politics, religion, economics, and so on.[18]  "Art for art's sake affirmed that art was valuable as art; that artistic pursuits were their own justification and that art did not need moral justification — and indeed, was allowed to be morally subversive."[20]


"Reacting against realism and naturalism, artists sought a pure beauty entirely removed from the imperfections of nature and from the drabness of contemporary society."[21] This era of degeneration and hope for a new beginning was known as the 'fin de siècle' (a French term "commonly associated with French artists, especially the French symbolists, affected by the cultural awareness characteristic of France" and of a European-wide cultural movement "at the end of the 19th century".) "The ideas and concerns of the fin de siècle influenced the decades to follow and played an important role in the birth of modernism."[20] [18] [19]


From around 1868 to 1901 (late Victorian period), the Aesthetic Movement took place. "It represented the same tendencies that symbolism or decadence stood for in France, or decadentismo stood for Italy, and is considered to be the British branch of the movement." It was an anti-Victorian movement that emphasized aesthetic values over moral or social themes in fine art, literature, decorative arts and interior design. "It is generally considered to have ended with the trial of Oscar Wilde (which occurred in 1895)."[21]


Vienna was in an iconaclastic period. (Iconoclasm, "Greek for "image-breaking", is the deliberate destruction within a culture of the culture's own religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually for religious or political motives."[22] It is a frequent component of major domestic political or religious changes. This is also "the time and place that saw the publication of Freud's first writings".[1]


In 1902, when Moser produced his poster, "many of the Secession artists had shifted to a decorative scheme built on orthoganol principles. Partly influenced by the Scottish design principles" that had been popular at the "8th Secession exhibition in 1900, a subset of the Secessionists adopted a new style and a new tone". "Subjective, Symbolist-influenced flights of fancy were eschewed in favour of more straightforward subject matter." Geometric patterns, not seen in the "sensual atmosphere" favored by Klimt, became a more important visual element.[9]



What happened after the 13th Exhibition?


"The 14th Secession exhibition in April 1902, the so called “Beethoven Exhibition,” became a highlight of first eight years of the Society’s existence." It was a collective creation of architecture, painting, and sculpture, "executed with high skill". "The exhibition became one of the greatest hits in the Secession’s history with nearly 60,000 visitors in three months."[12]


"In 1903 Hoffmann and Moser founded" Vienna Workshops (Wiener Werkstatte), "a fine-arts society with the goal of reforming the applied arts (arts and crafts)."[1] "The workshops brought together architects, artists and designers whose first commitment was to design art which would be accessible to everyone" and embraced all fields of craft and design.[23] "In addition, the designers in its employ worked under very humane conditions that were exemplary for the time. The furniture and objects produced by the Vienna Workshops not only bear the mark of the designer but also that of the craftsman who executed them.The Workshops "worked on the principle of putting art and crafts on an equal footing and at the same time ensuring high quality and material standards were observed."[6] One of the first reforms they made to the school was to accept female students. (It had been closed to female students since 1880 when the administration had decided to dam up the "flood of female students" in order to be able to focus on "the proper task of the school, namely, to train male forces for the varied needs of the arts and crafts".[2]


"In 1905, the ongoing conflict between the naturalists, who had clung to many of the Kunstlerhaus tenets from the beginning of the Secession Movement, and the stylists finally proved irreconcilable. At that time Klimt", and other artists left the Secession "on the grounds that they could no longer be associated with the more realistic naturalists who refused to commit themselves to the "total work of art", a fundamental premise of the Secessionist Movement. The "Klimt Group" held their exhibitions in 1908 in the Kunstschau, a temporary pavilion built by Josef Hoffmann, and the year represents the high-point in the decorative phase of late Art Nouveau."[24]



Influences visible today


Koloman Moser helped create "a geometric style whose functional simplicity anticipated modernism and has influenced the work of many of today's leading designers and architects".[25]


"Drawn at the close of the nineteenth century at the Boston branch of American Type Founders, Epitaph was modeled on a graceful Art Nouveau letterform that was bringing a new vitality to gravestone inscriptions at the time. The energy and life of the Vienna Secession alphabet drew the attention of Tobias Frere-Jones, who digitized the original set of titling capitals & added alternate characters for its Font Bureau release; FB 1993 Family:"[26]




Today, more than a hundred years after the Vienna Secession, online searches for Secession fonts or those inspired by Kolomon Moser will provide you with countless choices, many even named after Kolomon Moser, e.g.   Kolo Font Family [27]





Many textile designs today are still inspired by the artists of the Secession.


Vienna Workshop No.1                                                                                Vienna Workshop No.2




Moser's cover for Ver Sacrum (see above) served as the model for Frank Shepard Fairey's 2006 works Nouveau Black and Nouveau Red[28]







[1]      Great Masters Gallery: Art Nouveau, Vienna Secession, Sybolism & Art Deco www.topofart.com/movements/Secession_Art_Nouveau_Art_Deco 


[2]     Vienna in the age of uncertainty:  Science, liberalism and private life - Deborah R. Coen 

          (Excerpt on http://books.google.ca/)


[3]    Design History - The Vienna Secessionist,



[4]     Answers.com - Vienna Secession



[5]     The E Museum Store, http://www.emuseumstore.com/product/kolomon_moser_secession_exhibit_poster


[6]     Kolomon Moser Biography, http://www.koloman-moser.com/ 


[7]     WOKA Lamps Vienna, http://www.woka.com/en/info/designer/kolo-moser.asp


[8]    Vienna.Unlike, http://vienna.unlike.net/locations/302174-Kirche-am-Steinhof


[9]     History of Art: History of Design & Posters http://www.all-art.org/art_20th_century/design/d2.html


[10]     Eleanora Louis on the Vienna Secession.  Tate Etc.  http://www.tate.org.uk/tateetc/issue13/secession.htm


[11]     Art in Vienna 1898 - 1918, Peter Vergo Phaidon Press Limited, Oxford, Second Impression 1986. First Published 1975


[12]      Secession,  http://www.tate.org.uk/tateetc/issue13/secession.htm


[13}     Art + Culture, http://www.artandculture.com/categories/189-vienna-secession-design


[14]     The Blue Lantern: Kolomon Moser & Ver Sacrum,



[15]     History of Art: History of Graphic Design 



[16]     PhilWeb - Nineteenth Century Thought: Definitions



[17]     "Art for art's sake." The Concise Grove Dictionary of Art.

          Oxford University Press, Inc., 2002


[18]     "fin-de-siècle" The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.


[19]     "fin-de-siècle" The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford University Press, 2001, 2004.


[20]     "Art for Art's Sake",  Wikipedia article


[21]     Aestheticism, http://www.answers.com/topic/aestheticism


[22]      Iconoclasm, Wikipedia article


[23]     Arts & Crafts Furniture - Wiener Werkstatte,



[24]     Senses - Art Nouveau - Brussels



[25]     Galerie St. Etienne



[26]      Epitaph font.   http://www.fontbureau.com/fonts/Epitaph


[27]     Kolo Font Family



[28]     Ver Sacrum and Frank Shepard Fairey






Additional References Used for Background Information:



From the Periphery - To Art Its Freedom  http://fromperiphery.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/to-art-its-freedom


 Art & Popular Culture: Vienna Secession.  http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Vienna_Secession


[Gustav Klimt http://www.canvaz.com/klimt/gustav_klimt.htm


 KiliDavid, http://www.kilidavid.com/art/pages/Countries/Austria.htm


Encyclopaedia Brittanica.   http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic-art/1032864/67497/Poster-for-the-13th-Vienna-Secession-exhibition-designed-by-Koloman


History Dictionary. The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Joseph F. Kett, and James Trefil. Copyright © 2002  Published by Houghton Mifflin.


Josef Hoffmann. The Concise Grove Dictionary of Art. Oxford University Press, Inc., 2002.


Gustav Klimt, http://www.cosmopolis.ch/english/cosmo11/klimt.htm


 Josef Engelhart.  http://finearts.luther.edu/artists/engelhart.html


Carl Moll.  http://www.aeiou.at/aeiou.encyclop.m/m766878.htm;internal&action=_setlanguage.action?LANGUAGE=en


Arts and Crafts chronology:  http://www.achome.co.uk/chronology/chronology.htm


Design Timeline.  http://www.graphicdesigntimeline.net/










Comments (7)

Itzel said

at 4:20 pm on Oct 11, 2009

This poster reminds me a lot to the Metropolis movie poster: http://www.vintagepostersearch.com/blog/img/metropolis_intl.jpg. The vertical format and lines and the comparison between the "un-sexual figures" of this poster and the androgynous robot of Metropolis make a relation of both of them. This was a German movie released in 1927 under the German expressionism movement. Because the Kolomon poster was made in 1902, I wonder if the artist that designed the poster was somehow influenced by this piece.

Susan Efting said

at 4:58 pm on Oct 11, 2009

Itzel - thanks so much for reading my wiki and commenting. It is still very much in draft stage - I'm not even half way there yet, so there is LOTS of info still required. I had just started researching the movements of the time, preceeding ones, and ones that followed. Once completed, I'll make sure that the points you've made are covered.

I'll check out the Metropolis movie poster as well - thanks for forwarding a potential link.

Blair said

at 7:53 pm on Oct 12, 2009

Hi Susan,

Within your page there is a link to Hebert Matter's (my guy) timeline beneath the Kolomon Moser Biography, http://www.koloman-moser.com/

Herbert Matter Swiss tourism poster 1934Timeline

Did you want it there?

Did you want it to be there?

Blair said

at 7:54 pm on Oct 12, 2009


Marianela Ramos Capelo said

at 11:11 pm on Oct 12, 2009

By the way... Herbert Bayer (my designer) was Austrian and contemporary to your movement, early 1900s... He was into the Bauhaus, a lot more regimented than the art noveau.

Michelle Russell said

at 12:09 am on Oct 13, 2009

This style of illustration was more reminiscent of earlier magazine cover work and was then replaced with experimentation with text and photos. So there's still a few degrees of separation between our people.

elainewong said

at 11:36 am on Oct 13, 2009

Nicely done Susan! I found this tidbit on britannica.com- http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic-art/1032864/67497/Poster-for-the-13th-Vienna-Secession-exhibition-designed-by-Koloman: " Moser and architect Josef Hoffmann were instrumental in establishing the Wiener Werkstätte (“Vienna Workshops”), which produced furniture and design objects."

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