Exciting years – a new web journal explores the visionaries of Art Nouveau

written by Douglas McCarthy on May 9, 2017 in Europeana Art with no comments

In this guest post for Art Nouveau season, Friederike Fankhänel of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) introduces a fascinating new web journal about the innovators of Jugendstil (Art Nouveau).

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. Photo: Marcelo Hernandez.

The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) holds the widest collection of Art Nouveau artworks within German-speaking countries. As founding director Justus Brinckmann made extensive acquisitions at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, the Art Nouveau collection can be seen as the keystone for what is now a museum covering 4000 years of human creativity.

Swallows in the Reeds necklace, René Lalique, 1900. Museum Für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, CC0.

While the MKG’s galleries presents objects, furniture and interiors by Art Nouveau artists, our new web journal aims to frame the art style in its historical context and tells the story behind our renowned collection. Bewegte Jahre – Auf den Spuren der Visionäre is the travel diary of Christian Heller, a fictional young journalist from Hamburg, written over a time span of nearly 20 years from 1897-1916.

On his travels, Heller meets important artists and designers – both male and female – of the movement and documents their visions for a new society. After a coffee over painting philosophy with Gustav Klimt, he finds himself on the couch of Sigmund Freud before heading to an exhibition at the Viennese Secession. He’s riding on the moving boardwalk to Samuel Bing’s gallery L’Art Nouveau in the Paris of 1900 and strolls the World Fair with Justus Brinckmann.

In Uccle, he gets fascinated by Maria Sèthe, wife of Henry van de Velde, and her interest in the social ideas of Arts and Crafts pioneers Jane Burden and William Morris. Back in Vienna, the young man learns how Emilie Flöge, Koloman Moser, Ditha Mautner-Markhof and Josef Hofmann abolish the traditional division of art, architecture, design, fashion – and life. Up north in Glasgow, Margaret MacDonald and Charles Rennie Mackintosh share the same spirit. Costume parties with the artist couple are leading Heller to a vegetarian retreat among the “first hippies” on Monte Verità in Ascona before he plans to settle down in his hometown, which in the meantime is competing with New York City.

Thanks to the institution’s digital collection MKG Sammlung Online, we can not only link to over 200 artworks but also choose from 4300 photographs, from 1890-1920, to illustrate city life back then in Hamburg. With most of these images dedicated to the Public Domain, we encourage the reader to get creative by labeling the works “for your re-use”. According to the CRPD, we set a special focus on accessibility: the journal includes an audio version, image description for screen-readers, an introduction in German sign language and several options to visually adjust the content display.

Discover the whole story of Christian Heller in German on bewegtejahre.mkg-hamburg.de, enjoy our digital collection of Art Nouveau artworks on our website here or follow us on Pinterest. You can also explore further projects by MKG’s Interpretation of Art and Design team on studio.mkg-hamburg.de.