Progression of Art
This folding screen depicts richly colored poppies and their green curvilinear foliage along a river that, beginning at the lower right, twists sinuously in a tightening whiplash in the upper left and middle panels. The flared petals of the orange blossoms on unrealistically thin and extended tendrils seem to float serenely in the golden space. The asymmetrical composition creates a sense of dynamic movement. Influenced by Japonisme, the screen echoes the gold leaf background of the late 16th-century byōbu of the Kanō School, but it innovatively uses the materials of German crafts. The screen uses leather for the panels, and small gold rivets surround each of the three panels.
Christansen had diverse training, working as a decorative painter and in an interior design shop, studying in Italy and at the Academie Julian in Paris. Influenced by the Nabis, he felt art was a synthesis of nature expressed in personal symbols. At the same time, the artist was increasingly interested in artisan crafts, particularly textiles and graphic design, all of which employed his hallmark bright color.
Painted Leather - Bröhan Museum, Berlin, Germany
With intense almost garish color, influenced by Alphonse Mucha and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, this work depicts a nude Andromeda, entwined by the crimson and green coils of a gigantic sea serpent, against a flame-like background where gold whisps extend in sinuous curves. Depicted in profile, the nude leans almost casually with her left elbow on the creature's back, as her right arm elegantly extends to stroke the back of its neck. Its massive form rising out of the waves in the lower foreground, the serpent makes an s-curve through the pictorial plane, and its head, with green glowing eyes, faces away from the viewer. Reconfiguring the classical Greek myth of the princess rescued by the hero Perseus when she was left to be sacrificed to a sea monster that was terrorizing her city, the image's overall effect is erotic, suggesting feminine power to seduce and command. Out of the background flames, the title of Die Jugend forms at the top, showing the artist's innovative approach to typography.
Christiansen's use of color and his hand-letter fonts were distinctive additions to Jugendstil, and his images, frequently depicting beautiful women, often appeared in Die Jugend. An early member of the Darmstadt Art Colony, he was known for his versatility, as he worked in a wide variety of applied arts, saying, "I take my work as an artist as general as possible."
Pencil and overprint on paper - Museumsberg Flensburg, Flensburg, Germany
Der Kuss (The Kiss)
This color print, showing a couple in profile kissing, accentuates the whiplash curves of their intertwining and voluptuous tresses, and as art historian Peter Raissis wrote, it "not only conveys the intensity of the lovers' abandonment in each other but also seems to suggest the ancient understanding of the kiss as an intermixing and exchanging of souls."
Behrens' image reflects the influence of Symbolism, as seen in Edvard Munch's painting The Kiss (1897), but rather than reflecting that work's emotional ambivalence, described by art historian Reinhold Heller as conveying a "loss of individuality, a loss of one's own existence and identity," this image creates feeling of oneness. The figures become androgynous, and the curving lines of their eyebrows, chins, and lips flow into one another. The image moves away from representation by depicting the lovers as disembodied heads and emphasizes the pure flat pattern. Behrens' work also reflected the continuing tradition of the woodcut, a distinctive element of German art dating back to the Renaissance, which raised graphic art to the level of fine art. Appearing in a 1898 issue of Pan, the image pioneered a central motif of Jugendstil that became influential outside of Germany, as seen in the Austrian Gustav Klimt's painting The Kiss (1907-08).
Color woodcut printed in dark brown, light brown, olive green, blue, red and black - National Museum in Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
This chair uses simple geometric shapes and lines to create a complex and stable design. The square seat is upholstered in dark leather attached with brass rivets, and the simple vertical legs, the back pair placed at a diagonal tilting forward, convey a feeling of stability. Instead of traditional armrests, the innovative design employs a backrest attached to two extending pieces that curve forward and attach to the lower part of the front legs. The elegantly curving lines and forward tilt create visual interest and dynamism, as Riemerschmid eliminates ornamentation in favor of functionalism and pure line.
A leading pioneer of Raumkunst ("room art"), the artist exhibited this chair as part of his Music Room exhibition for the Munich United Workshops at the 1899 Dresden German Art Exhibition. The chair was so popular that it was immediately put into commercial production. He exhibited a similar chair at the Paris International Exhibition of 1900, and department stores and commercial firms bought up the chair; a number of them, including Liberty's in London, went on to make their own version.
The German art reformer Hermann Muthesius saw Riemerschmid's interiors as a modern German "art of the people," at the same time his emphasis on functionality made him an important modernist influence.
Walnut and leather upholstery - Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This chair exemplifies the Jugendstil approach to furniture with its curving arms, legs, seat, and crossbars that echo the aesthetic appeal of Art Nouveau. The sides of the back extend and widen at the top and are connected by a curved piece; the curvilinear crossbeam in the center follows and inverts the top arch. The seat shape, covered here with red upholstery, echoes the shape of the back, creating both visual movement and a sense of elegant stability. The rigorous design reflects the influence of Henry van de Velde and Japanese furniture, though as the Musée d'Orsay notes, its "rigour was tempered...by a whimsical anthropomorphic note: here the ends of the armrests suggest clenched fists."
Paul was originally trained as a painter but quickly turned to the applied arts and helped found the United Workshops for Art in Craftwork, where he designed this chair as part of his hunting lodge interior. He exhibited the Hunter's Room (1900) in the "Fixtures of public buildings and houses" category at the 1900 Universal Exhibition of Paris where it was awarded a gold medal. He became an influential interior designer, reaching an American audience with his exhibition at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, where he won another gold medal. He obtained the patronage of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1906, leading to his being appointed director of the Unterrichtsanstalt des königlichen Kunstgewerbe-Museums (Educational Institution of the Royal Museum of Applied Arts) in Berlin.
Elm, modern upholstery - Musée d'Orsay, Paris
This photograph shows a partial view of a courtyard complex, composed of eight connected courtyards, accessible through a central arched entrance. Two central vertical bands rise to a curving entablature. Two levels of windows, placed in groups of three, create a sense of whimsical airiness and light, enhanced by the decorative effect of their arches and the colored patterns of the tiles at their bases and tops. The white and bluish grey geometric tiles create visual interest, as the pattern varies from level to level, while the simplification of the palette applied to simple squares, rectangles, and circles creates a sense of calm and order.
The architect Berndt designed the complex, and Endell designed the richly polychrome facades, entrances, and exteriors. The complex innovatively broke with traditional German courtyards by clearly separating residential areas, shops devoted to trade and craft, and entertainment venues. Following the creation of this courtyard complex, Endell designed the Theater Bunte (1901) in Berlin. Its name "Bunte" means color, and Endell created the fabrics, carpets, tiles, and even the nails used to construct the building. Renovated after World War II, the Hackesche Höfe, containing artisan shops, dining venues, and theatres, and devoid of commercial chains, continues to be one of the most popular destinations in Berlin, attracting tourists and locals alike with its artistic ambiance.
Brick, tile, stone, glass - Berlin, Germany
Hochzeitsturm (The Wedding Tower)
The design of this iconic tower, situated at the highest point in the Darmstadt Art Colony, emphasizes its soaring verticality, as the red brick rises to five symmetrical arches. Lined with glass, the curved spires contrast with the rectangular materiality of the tower to enhance the effect of soaring lightness. The sense of ascension is further emphasized by asymmetrically placed bands of windows that curve around the side of the building, creating a horizontal flow, while ascending, step-like, up the tower.
The interior of the building has seven levels and includes mosaics by Friedrich Wilhelm Kleubens, frescos by Ph. O. Schäfer, and decorative figures from Heinrich Jobst. The tower commemorates the second marriage of Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse, the founder of the art colony, to Princess Eleonore Solms-Hohensolms-Lich in 1905. Olbrich timed the opening of the building for a 1908 exhibition and intended it to be the crowning, emblematic work of the community as a gesamtkunstwerk. The clean geometric design of the building, combined with the stepped effect of the top third, was an early prefiguring of Art Deco.
In 1914 two clocks representing the unification of the old and the new were added to the tower. A square sundial, designed by Friedrich Wilhelm Kleukens, on the south façade was surrounded by a blue mosaic with gold stars and the twelve zodiac signs and depicted the sun in the center of a white background with hour lines in black. A mechanical clock, using gold leaf and symbols representing faith, hope, and love, was added to the north façade.
Today, the Mathildenhöhe Institute, an organization for promoting contemporary art and culture, is housed in the building. In 2015 the entire Darmstadt Art Colony, including the tower, was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Officials explained, "the total artwork of the Darmstadt Artists' Colony...with its buildings, gardens and works of art spanning the years 1901-1914, constitutes not only a unique ensemble testifying to experimental creativity, but also an incomparable document of the architectural and artistic renewal at the dawn of Modernism inspired by the international reform movement of the early 20th century."
Brick, stone, glass, tiles - Darmstadt, Germany
This fountain takes on an abstract biomorphic shape, as its central inverted triangle, crowned by a smaller triangle, creates vertical movement between the spire and the water basin. On either side, the curvilinear buttresses, creating an oval shape at the center, resemble limbs, a skeletal structure, or natural limestone formations. The work is charged with a kind of dynamic but ambiguous energy, evoking associations and a feeling of dissonance between them, as the viewer sees resemblances to familiar forms but is unable to fix upon any one of them. As art historian William Sherwin Simmons writes, "The fountain certainly displays a powerful tension between the downward plunge of the three toothed, thistle-like tongues of the inner construction and the rise of the three external buttresses, which bear water spouts on crystal-like forms at the ribs' break toward their center join, where the main spout rises from a bud-like form. The inorganic is contrasted and merged with the organic - crystalline structures with the hypocotyl bendings of plant growth."
Obrist's work declined in popularity as Jugendstil moved toward an aesthetic geared to mass production, yet the fountain was praised by Henry van de Velde as having created "something from nothing" that was, simultaneously, an "inspiring manifestation of life," embodied in "this budding and effervescing mass of stone" with its "sequence of gestures directing the water's course." Standing a little over twenty feet tall, the fountain was paired with Obrist's Movement, an equally tall fountain created as a swirling spire, in the courtyard of the House of Arts and Crafts in Munich in 1912, though both works were subsequently lost.
The artist's innovations included not only abstract and biomorphic motifs but also explorations of new sculptural materials including plasticine and concrete. His work had a profound influence on the subsequent generation of the Expressionists, and has recently received contemporary interest with major exhibitions in Switzerland, Munich, and the United Kingdom. As the catalogue for the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich states, "Obrist created the first abstract sculptures that developed a language of their own through the interaction of the organic and inorganic structures."
Limestone - Lost