An important, but underexplored, part of art history enjoys a rare piece of the limelight at the Leopold Museum. The Hagenbund exhibition features the same-named artists’ association known for their modernism and openness of artistic spirit.
- Group of progressive artists formally active 1900-1938
- Features over 180 works
- Traces the artistic highlights of the Hagenbund story as a mirror of times past
- Texts in English & German
- Runs Sept 16, 2022 – Feb 6, 2023
- See also:
From moderate to radical modernism
(Georg Jung, Festspielauffahrt, 1929 © Privatsammlung Salzburg; photo: Privatsammlung Salzburg © Bildrecht, Wien 2021)
The history Gods are fickle beasts, wielding the paintbrush of memory selectively.
When people talk of artist groups around 1900 in Vienna, thoughts usually turn to Gustav Klimt and the Secession, who broke with the established Künstlerhaus association in 1897. They went on to write new chapters of art in big (possibly black and gold) letters.
But just a couple of years after the Secessionists stormed out, another group formed within (and soon left) the Künstlerhaus.
The Leopold Museum shines a deserved light on the progressive art and artists of the Hagenbund, who have sometimes struggled to emerge from the long shadow cast by Klimt and friends.
Irked by the conservatism of their colleagues, the Hagenbund artists’ association pursued a course that took them, as the title of this exhibition says, From Moderate to Radical Modernism.
Indeed, one notable 1912 exhibition proved so progressive that the group subsequently found themselves evicted and temporarily banned from their home venue.
The association soon began to serve as a breeding ground and showcase for young contemporary artists. Their exhibitions drew in such names as Schiele, Gütersloh and Kokoschka. And their members exhibited internationally, rejecting a parochial approach to art.
An absence of a formalised artistic manifesto, for example, allowed Hagenbund members to develop different styles and avoid self-imposed organisational limits to innovation.
Sadly, the arrival of the Nazis in Austria brought an end to the Hagenbund story after some 40 years of existence.
The fascist authorities dissolved the association in 1938 as art came under centralised control (a topic of a recent exhibition at the Wien Museum MUSA).
Many former members were forced to flee the country on account of, for example, their progressive approaches, left-wing politics and/or Jewish ancestry. Some were denied even that, and murdered in concentration camps.
(Robert Kloss, Terzetta, 1922 (Detail) © Sammlung Oesterreichische Nationalbank; photo: Graphisches Atelier Neumann)
The Leopold Museum displays form a chronology, presenting the artistic evolution of Hagenbund members, but also including works by other artists featured in Hagenbund exhibitions.
So we begin with early landscape paintings with hints of impressionism, but soon veer into more adventurous territory (as illustrated by Egon Schiele’s 1912 Hermits, the sensation of the Hagenbund’s 35th exhibition).
The chronology brings home the interaction between art and its social context. Colourful quasi-idyllic works by Oskar Laske and Georg Merkel, for example, seem to protest the growing inhumanity brought about by urbanisation, industrialisation and world war.
Post-WWI sees a drift into, for example, the avant garde. Georg Jung’s 1920/21 The Fallacy presents a swirling mass of human shapes and bands of colour that seem far ahead of their time.
And the influence of war and military experiences can be seen in the religious and darker motifs of works by Otto Rudolf Schatz and Georg Ehrlich.
Another room offers a change of tone, reflecting the growth and celebration of culture in the 1920s with Carry Hauser’s 1927 Jazz Band symbolic of, for example, internationalisation.
Further galleries then bring us crashing back down to earth in radical modernisation combined with social commentary, as witnessed in, for example, the hollowed haunted looks of Ehrlich’s 1922 Girl painting or his 1932 Two Sisters sculpture.
(Not to mention the dissolution and demise of the Hagenbund under the boot of Nazi ideology.)
The chronological approach reminds us how creativity ebbs, flows and evolves: influenced, enhanced and inhibited by the world around. And when politics forces creativity down a blind alley, then this does not bode well for society.
Tickets, dates & tips
Enjoy a deep dive into this artist association between September 16th, 2022 and February 6th, 2023. A ticket for the Leopold Museum includes the exhibition.
For more on the modernist side, though, be sure to investigate the Leopold Museum’s permanent Vienna 1900 exhibition. And both the Secession and Künstlerhaus continue as going concerns in today’s Vienna with their own contemporary art exhibitions.
And if radical modernism leaves you hungry and thirsty, the surrounding MuseumsQuartier has various cafés and restaurants, not to mention a winter outdoor event if you happen to be there during the Advent season.
How to get there
See the main Leopold Museum article for public transport tips. The Hagenbund exhibition takes place on Level -1 (turn left and go around clockwise for the best experience).
Address: Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Vienna