Artists in the Western World provided many services to the citizens over the centuries. Visions of Joy! Beholding images of Beauty! Thought-provoking ideas fixed into visible form! All of these and more to be sure as they responded to their time—however unique it may have been to the artists. But what about looking beyond their time or era and glimpsing into the unknown future? Do artists sometimes have the skill, the curiosity, the tenacity, even the courage to look deep into the unknown? In 1902, the Vienna Secessionists developed an exhibition that featured primarily the work of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt and German expressionist artist Max Klinger. The focus of this particular exhibition was celebrating the body of musical work produced by Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven had died in Vienna, Austria on March 26, 1827. To “celebrate” the 75th anniversary of the great composer’s death, Klimt and the Vienna Secessionists planned an exhibition of painting and sculpture that would be memorable. The exhibition was a success as 60,000 people came to see the show. Max Klinger had finished his deeply researched endeavor of fixing his image of Beethoven into sculptural form and Klimt had just completed his frieze symbolic of Beethoven’s symphonies and the famous poem or Ode by Friedrich Schiller’s—Ode to Joy–which Beethoven used as the finishing piece claiming freedom and brotherhood in his 9th Symphony.
But musicologists and other academics have found much more in these 1902 endeavors by Klimt, Klinger and the Vienna Secessionists. Were these two artists, “collaborating” with Beethoven through the 9th Symphony, giving the Western World a momentary breathing respite of love, brotherhood and freedom before the disaster that would be WWI? What are your thoughts on the 1902 Secession celebration of Beethoven with an exhibition featuring Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze and Max Klinger Beethoven sculpture?
View of the Beethoven Frieze by Klimt in Secessionist Building 1902
Max Klinger, Statue of Beethoven, Vienna Secessionist Building, 1902