In the late nineteenth century, art based on form took on specific significance in the Danube Monarchy. Subsuming almost an entire cultural region, “form art” was the expression of a special insight and of a collective consciousness. Around 1900, form became the basis from which a wide spectrum of non-representational art developed. In the exhibition Klimt, Kupka, Picasso and Others – Form Art, Hungarian Constructivism, Czech and Slovakian Cubism, and the art of the Vienna Secession join forces for the sake of an enjoyable show.
The exhibition Klimt, Kupka, Picasso and Others – Form Art leads us back to the origins of form, the roots of which lie in mathematics in general and trigonometry in particular. Objects were divided into triangles and then recombined to form concrete or abstract motifs. The unusual importance attached to the teaching of drawing as a form of expression can only be explained in the context of the school system of those days. The exhibition thoroughly examines the similarities and characteristic features of art in the Danube Monarchy; especially when linked to contemporary education and its approach, they illustrate to what high degree education proved formative for a cultural region and its collective consciousness. Franz Serafin Exner, a professor of philosophy in Prague, made the philosophy and pedagogy of Johann Friedrich Herbart known in the monarchy and systematically promoted it with such appointments as that of the aesthetician Robert Zimmermann. Hebart, a German philosopher, psychologist, and pedagogue, was and still is considered the founder of modern pedagogy as an academic discipline. He saw the essential role of a teacher in the task of finding out about a pupil’s existing interests and of constructively relating them to human knowledge and culture. Herbart’s empirical and psychological approach also had an impact on the teaching of drawing. Seen from this perspective, the works of many of the artists in the Danube Monarchy will appear in a new light. The general focus on form may have been one – or even the – central motivation behind the flatness of Viennese Jugendstil and its specific approach to form and frequent employment of geometric shapes. In Vienna it was above all the Secession that disseminated and propagated “form art” (from 1900 onwards) in what was almost a symbiosis with the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts and saw to its gaining international significance.
With an unprecedented accumulation of prominent objects, the exhibition opens up a perspective of the art of the Danube Monarchy that has hitherto been neglected.