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

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

NEW – Course 19

Dr Niccola Shearman

Summer School – Online
Monday 5 – Friday 9 July 2021

Limited places are now available; please email short.courses@courtauld.ac.uk to join.

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 is a freelance lecturer in twentieth-century German and Austrian art. Currently completing a year of teaching full-time at the University of Manchester, she worked previously as Associate Lecturer at The Courtauld, where she gained her PhD on the modernist woodcut in Germany (2017). In addition to a focus on print histories in Germany, her research interests include the psychology of vision, especially the work of Gestalt scientists in 1920s Berlin. Academic articles have concerned approaches to the woodcuts of Ernst Barlach and Lyonel Feininger, and religious themes in the work of Oskar Kokoschka. She writes regular book reviews and has translated a number of books.

A girl stands at the foreground of a purple room; she is very confident with one hand resting on her back.
Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Mäda Primavesi (1903–2000), 1912-13, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, metmuseum.org