Photo courtesy of Kunsthistorisches Museum
Viennese Silver: Modern Design 1780 – 1918
VIENNA • Kunsthistorisches Museum • Ongoing
|In the exhibition some 180 selected pieces of Viennese silver form the neo-classical period to the Wiener Werkstätte are compared with the architecture and design icons of the 20th century; the result is an examination of Vienna`s role in the history of modern design. |
The years chosen for the title of this exhibition mark the beginning and endpoint of a social and cultural evolution. In 1780, following the death of Empress Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia and Archduchess of Austria, and after fifteen years of co-regency with her, Emperor Joseph II succeeded to the throne. He pushed through a course of reforms partly begun during the reign of his mother. During his own reign, the effects of the Enlightenment, which had begun to blossom elsewhere in Europe also came to be felt in Austria, bringing Joseph II the reputation of an enlightened absolutist. The basis was laid for an intellectual and social revision of values, one that must be seen as a prerequisite for a subsequent shift in taste that was to last into our own age. Objectivity and spareness were raised up as virtues; the tomb of Joseph II plainly symbolizes this.
In 1918, with the end of the First World War, the Hapsburg monarchy fell apart, Austria shrank to a sixth of its former size, and the First Republic was instated. Vienna, which at its peak was a metropolis of two million people, remained the capital city: however, with the loss of the crown lands and Hungary, it not only lost the basis of its economic prosperity, but also, in many areas, its primacy as an innovative center of art and culture in the heart of Europe.
In the period from 1780 to 1918, Vienna`s population increased tenfold. As the capital and imperial residence of the Hapsburgs, the city had always attracted craftsmen and artists. With the Vienna Congress of 1814-15 and the city expansion in 1858 creating one of the largest building booms of the age, this attraction continued to grow. Increased emigration form all parts of the monarchy at the end of the 19th century resulted in a bubbling melting pot of many cultures – an ideal and fertile ground for new impulses.
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