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Cover for Facing the Modern

Facing the Modern

The Portrait in Vienna 1900

Gemma Blackshaw, Edmund de Waal (Foreword by), Tag Gronberg (Contributions by), Julie Johnson (Contributions by), Doris Lehmann (Contributions by), Elana Shapira (Contributions by), Sabine Wieber (Contributions by), Mary Costello (Contributions by)


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An engaging look at how the middle classes of fin-de-siècleVienna used innovative portraiture to define their identity

During the great flourishing of modern art in fin-de-siècleVienna, artists of that city focused on images of individuals. Their portraits depict artists, patrons, families, friends, intellectual allies, and society celebrities from the upwardly mobile middle classes. Viewed as a whole, the images allow us to reconstruct the subjects’ shifting identities as the Austro-Hungarian Empire underwent dramatic political changes, from the 1867 Ausgleich (Compromise) to the end of World War I. This is viewed as a time when the avant-garde overthrew the academy, yet Facing the Modern tells a more complex story of the time through thought-provoking texts by numerous leading art historians. Their writings examine paintings by innovative artists such as Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele alongside earlier works, blurring the conventionally-held distinctions between 19th-century and early-20th-century art, and revealing surprising continuities in the production and consumption of portraits. This compelling book features works not only by famous names but also by lesser-known female and Jewish artists, giving a more complete picture of the time.

National Gallery London, 9781857095616, 216pp.

Publication Date: November 26, 2013

About the Author

Gemma Blackshaw is associate professor of history of art and visual culture at Plymouth University.