The Secession represents an international artistic movement that covers the period from 1890 to 1910. It appears in several countries under different names: in Austria as Vienna Secession, in France and Belgium as Art Nouveau, and in Great Britain as Modern or Freestyle. However, regardless of the different names, they all seem to point to the same thing. The word secession, from the German word sezession, means interruption and separation. The name indicates the need of the artists to separate themselves from the strict academic style with which they were not satisfied, but it is also a reaction to the demarcation line that existed between man and nature (landscapes had to be painted in studios). The artists wanted the situation to change and to return to nature. In the continuation, we will talk about the Vienna Secession.
Before we say what are the characteristics of Secession, we need to look at its roots. Namely, although Secession occurs simultaneously in different countries and under different names, some sources suggest that its roots can be found in the English Arts and Crafts Movement, whose main representatives were William Morris, Edward Burne – Jones, Philip Webb, and John Ruskin. Ruskin’s idea of man’s return to nature is especially dominant; also, as his critique of capitalism and industrialization, which neglect man’s needs on the spiritual plane. These ideas, as we have seen, will significantly influence the Secession in the international sense and will represent certain guidelines when it comes to developing style. In that sense, Secession is not only the man’s need to return to nature but also a critique of industrialization which, with the development of machinery, has led to overproduction and the impossibility of human adaptation.
The Secession will influence fashion, architecture, lifestyle, and textile processing.
In the last decades of the 19th century, artists from Vienna tried to break away from strict academicism by leaving the associations to which they belonged. This will create a group called Sezession, led by architect Otto Wagner and painter Gustav Klimt. It is believed that the main representative of the Vienna Secession was Klimt. Some of his most famous works are The Kiss, Portrait of Adele – Bloch Bauer, and others.
The question is: what characterizes Secession? Having in mind the roots and ideas of Secession, it is not surprising that artists wanted to turn many of these ideas into art. Some of the characteristics of the Secession are ornamentation, the application of bright colors, unusual aesthetics, as well as the use of details from flora and fauna: leaves, dragonflies, butterfly wings, and others. The decorativeness was present, but also the special curvature of the lines on the canvas led to a feeling of movement and liveliness. The objects were intertwined in a game of intricacy and gilding. Some sources claim that the Vienna Secession was influenced by ornamental art nouveau.
When we talk about architecture and living space, it is considered that the line between “exterior architecture and interior design” has been erased. There is an emphasis on practicality and comfort, but also the use of new building materials and solutions. The decoration appears in the form of floral elements, but it is also influenced by geometric shapes. Different forms and the use of new techniques will result in a refined style that did not hesitate to use ceramics and stained glass. Representatives of Secessionism decorated their buildings with ornaments and details, but also with the elements we mentioned above. The main representatives of Secession when we talk about Vienna Secession and architecture are Otto Wagner, Joseph Hoffmann, and Joseph Maria Olbrich. Some of the most famous buildings are the Austrian Postal Savings Bank (Wagner), the Secession Building (Olbrich), and others.
In addition to being considered a pioneer of modern design, Wagner’s students were influenced by the Middle East, where they saw “Mediterranean and Balkan peasant villas with precisely cut cubes and flat roofs.”
Since Secession developed everywhere under a different name, its traces can be found not only in big European cities but also in smaller ones. In addition to Belgrade, traces of Secession in Serbia can be found in Subotica, where the main representatives of this style in architecture are the Synagogue, the Reich Palace, and the City Hall.
The Secession is another of many styles which have become a tool for change and incorporation of ideas that have their roots outside art galleries and filigree decorated pillars.
Author: Miloš Lazarević
Photo: Unsplash, Kalman Nemet