For the first time an exhibition at the Alte Nationalgalerie is dedicated to a comparison of the three turn-of-the-century art metropolises: Munich, Vienna, and Berlin. As modernism dawned, the artistic avant-gardes pushed for freedom in both the institutions of art and the subject matter it expresses. Many artists of the new art currents of Symbolism, Art Nouveau, and Impressionism were first presented in the highly regarded Secession exhibitions. This exhibition comprises more than 200 paintings, sculptures, and graphic works by 80 artists. Through a collaboration with the Wien Museum, it features not only many artists who can be discovered for the first time, but also foregrounds the œuvre of Gustav Klimt with numerous examples of his work. This is the first time such a comprehensive presentation of Klimt’s work has been shown in Berlin.
In their departure (or secession) from traditional artists’ associations and outdated structures such as the art academies, the new groups strove for aesthetic pluralism and artistic individuality. The most significant secessions in German-speaking Europe emerged in quick succession, their members overlapping: in 1892 in Munich, 1897 in Vienna, and 1899 in Berlin. Still today, they continue to be connected with the influential protagonists Gustav Klimt, Franz von Stuck, and Max Liebermann and their work. In addition to these protagonists, the current exhibition shows works by Lovis Corinth, Josef Engelhart, Hugo von Habermann, Emilie von Hallavanya, Thomas Theodor Heine, Dora Hitz, Josef Hoffmann, Max Klinger, Käthe Kollwitz, Max Kurzweil, Walter Leistikow, Sabine Lepsius, Elena Luksch-Makowsky, Carl Moll, Koloman Moser, Maria Slavona, Max Slevogt, Fritz von Uhde, Lesser Ury, Otto Wagner, Julie Wolfthorn as well as works by international guests such as Ferdinand Hodler, Edvard Munch, Auguste Rodin, Giovanni Segantini and Jan Toorop.
The juxtaposition of the three Secessions helps illustrate common goals and ambitions beyond specific local characteristics, all while shedding light on the phenomenon of secessions and their contribution to the development of art in Western Europe. Important in this respect – alongside new exhibition formats – were internationality and the promotion of the avant-garde in every form, which not least of all helped innovative currents such as Impressionism and Symbolism achieve a breakthrough in the German-speaking world.