i Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Mäda Primavesi (1903–2000), 1912-13, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, metmuseum.org

7 – A Nervous State of Affairs: Art in Vienna, 1880-1938


Course 7 – Summer School online

Monday 13 June – Friday 17 June
Dr Niccola Shearman

Enrolment is now closed for this course.

Course description

As a tottering Austro-Hungarian Empire worked at its decorative façade and high society waltzed on regardless, new impulses were simmering beneath the surface in fin-de-siècle Vienna. And we are not only referring here to Sigmund Freud: from Gustav Klimt’s thinly-veiled symbols of sexual energy and sinewy mortality to the Angst-ridden art of Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele; from the theatrical splendour of institutional architecture to the clean lines of the sanatorium, there is plenty to analyse in the visual culture of early twentieth-century Vienna.

Alongside the art of key individuals, this critical introduction takes in major collectives including the Vienna Secession, the applied arts of the Viennese Workshops, and the social housing of ‘Red Vienna’. It attends to wider cultural currents in the famous café circles: the interdisciplinary talking shops of writers and intellectuals, composers, patrons and critics, many of Jewish heritage. And it explores the influence of women – beyond the ‘muse’ depicted as alternately decorative and dangerous. Could one actually live in a Gesamtkunstwerk? Where is the line between the avantgarde embrace of modernity and an indulgent retreat from the real world? How far could such keen observers foresee the ultimate collapse of their small but vibrant artistic universe? All to be discussed in a close encounter with this febrile period of cultural experiment.


Lecturer’s biography

Dr Niccola Shearman specializes in German and Austrian art of the twentieth century. Coming from a background in German Studies, she completed a PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2018, on the modernist woodcut print in the aftermath of the First World War. In addition to a focus on print histories, her research interests include art and emotion and the psychology of vision; especially the work of Gestalt scientists in 1920s Berlin. She is a freelance lecturer, working for the University of Manchester, Courtauld Short Courses, the V&A and Morley College London.