Experimental Artists: Responding to the Impulses of Their Time and Forewarning Regarding the Future

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

Published by: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

26 Comments

26 thoughts on “Experimental Artists: Responding to the Impulses of Their Time and Forewarning Regarding the Future”

  1. I think that the exhibition in 1902 as celebration of the composer Beethoven, was ahead of its time. Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze is astounding in its interpretation of the 9th Symphony and Ode to Joy. To look at these images with the progress through life and all the turmoil in life, would correlate to the bravado in the 9th Symphony, it is amazing to me. When I look through the Frieze and think about the 9th symphony, I can feel the emotions running through these paintings. I feel that both artists succeed completely in the objective to honor Beethoven and his famous work while uniting the separate arts into one exhibition. I feel that having both Klinger and Klimt collaborating on this exhibition is what made it a success. I would also have to answer the question, “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?” with a YES.
    I have found that great artists tend to be ahead of their time, they understand the world around them better then most people. They are able to channel other artists to help them create something that is meaningful. They see and understand things different then the average Joe. I think these two artists were able to tap into the impending destruction and chaos that would be World War I, and create a moment in time, where they honored a great composer, while bringing freedom to the masses through this exhibition. They brought all aspects of art to the masses by creating this marriage between architecture, painting, sculpture and music. I am sure that there were critics that negatively spoke about this exhibition but I think for Klimt, this was the boost he needed in regards to his art. I am very pleased to hear that even though Klimt’s painting was done directly on the wall, that it was able to be removed and preserved. The fact that it can be viewed today, is great. Especially after the great loss of Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence.

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  2. Klinger and Klimt had their collaboration for the art presented in this Frieze and having Beethoven must have been a coincidence for this to happen. It is more like a tribute to Beethoven and his piece, Ode to Joy, and it is pretty much a huge contribution to that piece, along with the expressionism of the human figure. The same can be said for Klinger’s statue of Beethoven. For the whole World War II event that happened, the answer on whether or not this should give a momentary respite of love, brotherhood, and freedom, should be a huge yes. Because of every dark time humans have suffered through the years, there has to be a light somewhere.

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  3. I think the exhibition overall is an amazing feat achieved by Klimt and Klinger. The statue is very classical in nature and is reminiscent of a church space. The church I used to go to has a statue of Jesus and Mary in a classical style, right next to a well of holy water. The setup of the Beethoven statue is similar and is presented in a way of reverence. The little fence that separates the statue from the rest of the space makes me feel like there should be a bench or pew somewhere nearby. It has an amazing quality that isn’t seen much nowadays. The frieze that Klimt made is my favorite. Its so illustrative and expressive. This is definitely ahead of its time in terms of visuals and presentation. It represent triumph over suffering and is already a triumph as a work of art. Yes, I do think that this is a collaboration between Beethoven and the artists. The artists are responding to Beethoven’s music. They executed their art so well that it also seem like Beethoven was responding back to them. Its terrible that WW1 would occur after this.
    I think everyone has the potential to be ahead of their time. Its just a matter of choice. I know its not easy either. It does feel like everything has been done. But if we explore ourselves further, it can be done. Even baby steps are better than never moving forward at all. The Secession exhibition of Beethoven is an example of what can happen when people push forward to put their ideas into motion. It shows dominance of the human spirit and its hidden beauty. I would like to see these pieces in person one day.

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  4. The Statue of Beethoven, by Max Klinger, is absolutely exceptional! The admiration for Beethoven is shown in this piece as he is enthroned in the sky, with an eagle by his feet, and the rich details on his throne. It makes Beethoven appear “god-like”. The Beethoven Frieze, by Gustav Klimt, shows an admiration and a great interpretation to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. There’s narration and symbolism; it guides you through the music. These two artist worked well together in the celebration of Beethoven. They presented a great composer and his work effectively in my opinion.

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  5. This exhibition was a wonderful example of blending the fine arts together to find common ground. I think many people at this time were confused by this use of mixed media, especially combining the visual art forms with the audial. Nowadays, many exhibitions display a use of various mediums. Klimt and Klinger seem to be creating work that is very ahead of their time. Without knowing it, these two artists, along with the help of the Vienna Secessionists, were able to inspire a new era of depicting ideas. The fact that this exhibition took place right before WWI is beautiful because it displayed such innocence and elegance that it probably served as a reminder that good still exists. In times of tragedy, it is super important to remember the contrasting divinity in the world.

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  6. In times of despair, hopelessness and chilling reality, it is the arts that is the vehicle that evoke the most out of humanity. Whether it be song, visual arts, literature, or performance, the first-responders of the soul is the arts. It has the ability to release and ease turmoil, gently lift spirits, fill voids left static and bare of meaning, unite in commonality and aide in the coping and understanding during times of turbulence and tribulation. It provides the remembrance that we arose from a common seed, exist in growth with one another, face obstacles that induce universal emotions, and ultimately binds us indefinitely in death.

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  7. I feel like Klimt and Klinger did in a sense collaborate with Beethoven and his 9th symphony. These artists really listened to Beethoven’s music and captured the story and emotion that the 9th symphony communicates. They used their talent to create something uplifting for people in a time of despair. I think that the 1902 Secessions celebration of Beethoven is awing. I can just imagine listening to the 9th symphony and looking at the story being told through Klimt’s Freeze, and seeing the magnificence of Klinger’s sculpture. It is great seeing different mediums such as art and music collaborating to utilized all different kinds of talents to create something incredible.

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  8. Klimt’s and Klinger’s collaboration is a perfect example of how fine art comes together to heal a community. I think the celebration of Beethoven was a beautiful depiction of this; these artist unknowingly lifted the spirits of many with their work and it’s refreshing to see. Unfortunately, it’s not usual for the public to admire and praise artists for their work especially during that time period. That’s why this exhibition seems special in a sense because it brought happiness to many during a very trying time.

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  9. I believe this was a great way to celebrate Beethoven’s work. The way they are depicting the story is very creative, and the fact that they listen to their music shows. During such a hard time, these artists came together to almost bring some hope again. That really isn’t an easy thing to do in situations like these. It also shows that no matter what mediummedium, it can still work and express the same meaning.

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  10. I think that since art and especially music should be considered living and breathing entities, it’s entirely plausible to consider the Beethoven anniversary exhibition a collaboration of sorts. The term that I would prefer to use though is “tribute” A tribute is an occurrence that happens often in art, as we are consistently honoring those who paved the roads that we ourselves tread. I think about this kind of thing when I see art in the everyday world, and might even compare this exhibition and relationship between artists of different eras to the way the show “Stranger Things” paid a tribute to the great sci-fi films and thrillers of the 80’s. The work of Gustav Klimt and Max Klinger kind of brought a new life to the music of Beethoven by putting in into a different context and really enhancing it with visual imagery that his compositions inspired. In this way, the legacy that Beethoven left was expanded upon, allowing it to grow into an even greater and more meaningful thing that neither party could have contrived on their own. Because of that, I’d say the secessionists paid a successful tribute and took part in a collaboration that consisted of different, unique elements blending quite graciously together to create a masterpiece.

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  11. The context of the work does give different influences in understanding the work from being just a homage to Ludwig van to being about overcoming the struggling times in which the work was exposed to after the fact. WWI began several years after the gallery exhibition of this work, so it is not to say that it had nothing to do with the work’s context, but I believe one can create their own interpretation separate from this event. With that in mind, I believe that in referencing Beethoven the artist wanted to communicate the idea of overcoming adversity and life hurdles (such as Beethoven being a deaf composer) as well as illustrating the visual narrative of Beethoven’s compositions. But then to use WWI and reflect its context to meaning, there is still this idea of rising above and showing unspoken strength, especially in the ways of paintings, sculpture, and music. Austria is a german speaking country and so where the artists and Beethoven himself. During WWI this would have marked them as being part of a specific side of the war, however because their work was visual and not verbal there was no “side” that the art stood for. It stood for humanity and growth, not about Germany or the negative attributions that were made on Germans during this time.

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  12. Getting a chance to evaluate and study both Klimt and Klinger’s work tributed to Beethoven and it is interesting to see both interpretations of what they saw in him. I would have to say I adore Klingers sculpture more than the frieze because it portrays this God-like feel of Beethoven but the frieze delivers a range of emotion as you look at the different figures and colors that make up the image. This sort of goes back to Klimt being known to include unique characteristics in a figure. It provides such a relevancy to Beethoven’s music and lifestyle that it fits perfectly. The sculpture is of course, a different means of interpretation to Beethoven and his music but it works as well in regards to its function and the energy that it gives.

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  13. I think what Klimt and Klinger did was definitely ahead of their time. Today when you visit an art exhibition, there’s a a strong chance that you will find at least one piece of work that combines two mediums. In a way I do think that these two artists “collaborated” with Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. They took a wonderful piece of music and interpreted it visually through the use of storytelling. Despite the fact that war was imminent, it’s amazing what the Secessionists were able to create.

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  14. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony served as a guide for Klimt and Klinger to collaborate on something momentous. People’s interpretation of the 9th Symphony varied and affected people in different ways. One thing that was clear is that it brought an emotional response from people. I think Klimt and Klinger collaborated with Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the same intention. They wanted an emotional response from people the way words could never bring. Their exhibition did stand as a respite of love, brotherhood, and freedom coincidence or not but isn’t that the intention of art, to let us reflect upon ourselves?

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  15. Humans, in general, tend to look for and find patterns in everyday life. It’s basic instinct to try to make sense of the world, so it’s no surprise that musicologists and other academics have found “connections” between Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and the endeavor of Klimt and Klinger in 1902. While I think it’s obvious that Klimt and Klinger were trying to connect their work through Beethoven, it’s much easier to postulate on conclusions after the fact. They “collaborated” in the sense that their work was an extension of Beethoven’s 9th, a physical manifestation of the music. Anything beyond that is conjecture.

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  16. Music collaborating with visual arts creates such something so breathtaking like no other. It’s amazing to think about Klimt and Klinger, two brilliant artists celebrating a time of music in which Beethoven had created. For me, music can make someone feel one thing but combining it with something visually in the same way in which music makes someone feel is an experience like no other. Beethoven’s music can mean different feelings to people and it is a great experience to see a visual interpretation of that. While feeling something like that may be hard to explain, it is an amazing tribute that showcases what art can do for people.

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  17. I think that the collaboration and the exhibition itself is excellent. To honor such a great artist such as Beethoven is amazing. Klimt and Klinger collaborating for the 75th anniversary of Beethoven is cool because it’s honoring such a great artist. Also, I think overall artists collaborating is a good thing to see. Sharing each other’s work in an exhibit, the work can either harmonize or tell you two different sides of art.

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  18. In my opinion, music is in the same vein as painting, drawing, sculpting, etc. All art forms are a process of creating and bringing into reality a person’s vision. I believe Klimt and Klinger were in a sense “collaborating” with Beethoven because they were inspired by Beethoven’s vision. They were influenced by Beethoven’s 9th symphony and interpreted his symphony into a visual art form. The 1902 Secession celebration of Beethoven is an astounding feat because it brought multiple art forms together to represent Beethoven. Klinger’s Beethoven sculpture presents the composer as one who has power and wisdom. It reminds me of the statues of the Greek Gods from the Late Classical period. Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven frieze is a beautiful piece that correlates with the 9th symphony. He captured the different emotions that are expressed through Beethoven’s symphony. Both pieces are incredible tributes for Beethoven and I believe that it did give a moment of the “calm before the storm” as WWI was going to begin.

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  19. If I could travel back in time I certainly would wish to visit the Secessionists’ exhibition dedicated to Beethoven. The work that the group created, particularly what Klimt and Klinger created, was dynamic and reflective of the essence of The Ode to Joy. Rather than it be a collaboration with Beethoven, I would say that the creations of Klimt and Klinger were more so inspired commemorations. Not only did Klimpt’s frieze tell a full story that came full circle, it expressed the essence of the human struggle before discovering the “joie de vivre”. Considering that about 60,000 people saw the exhibit, I would also say that that show was the unifying event that the people needed before the war broke out.

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  20. I do not think you can collaborate with a dead person. Collaboration demands a level of communication to ensure that the intent from each artist is adequately represented. Beethoven could not share is original intent nor could he consent to the final product being acceptable to his view. Instead I think the exhibition primed the audience to follow what Klinger and Klimt saw in Beethoven’s work. Their contribution is like filling in a coloring book, where Beethoven set the lines for Klinger and Klimt to draw in.

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  21. i think collaboration of two different but similar fields, art and music, are very gorgeous. Klimt and Beethoven both are the virtuoso of each field. I really want to visit the exhibition and feel the atmosphere of the exhibition. Also artists’ collaboration is always good and good to have. I think collaboration of two arts are really good idea to have and sharing two artists’ ideas are really brilliant.

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  22. Collaboration is a tricky subject in many cases. In the traditional sense, the artists were not collaborating with Beethoven simply due to there being no way for them to communicate with each other. However, I believe there was collaboration because through a mutual admiration of the musician the artists utilized his work to create a grand piece that is greater than any of its individual parts.

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  23. I think it was a good thing to do and judging by all the people who showed up to view the work, I’d say they felt the same. Both artists came up with their own unique way of expressing their feelings toward the great composer and successfully executed wonderful works of art. The pieces were detailed and not to over the top. The artist allow for their own individuality to show through while paying tribute to the composer and keep all the focus that night on the subject of the gallery. I feel that all the people who showed to see the work speaks for itself on the brilliant and successful works of these two artists.

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  24. The execution by both artists truly creates a celebration of the great composer, Beethoven. Klinger depicts Beethoven as if he is a god and the other elements included in the monument definitely give it a modern look and feel. It’s almost as if when these pieces are viewed, you can hear the symphony. What really creates emotion is Klimt’s interpretation of the symphony and poem. The secessionist aspects of the painting are really ahead of their time but contribute a wide variation of feelings. Knowing that Beethoven lived during the Romanticism period of art, it would be interesting to what see what he would think of these pieces.

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  25. I think it was a great way to give the Western World a breathing after the WWI. Also all kinds of art got together to make this celebration happen. Architecture, painting, sculpture, and music united under a common theme.
    I specially love Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze because after WWI many people had desire for happiness. Even now we live in a world where there is suffering and it’s very tempestuous. This painting is great for making people feel better because it takes you through the journey, that can be difficult but at the end you find comfort.

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  26. Thinking ahead of their time would be an understatement. The statue itself is very sophisticated and stands elegantly on it’s own.. “Ode to joy” is one of my favorite classical musical pieces to listen to. I never knew where it originated or the story behind it . But for these two artist to make a visual representation of this song and give appreciation to Beethoven is truly amazing. Beethoven was a intelligent man himself and what better way to celebrate him and his work by having two intelligent artists express their appreciation for him.

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