Vienna 1900

Culture and crisis

Thursday 17 November 2022

Digby Hall, Hound Street, Sherborne 

This study day comprises three lectures, looking at the cultural and social context of the artistic explosion in Vienna at the turn of the last century, with concentrated case studies into two of its primary movers and shakers.

Presenter: Gavin Plumley

The Times named Gavin a ‘leading cultural historian’. His projects span various periods and disciplines, though he is known for his work on Central Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Gavin’s first book, A Home for All Seasons, will be published by Atlantic Books on 2 June 2022. It is both a sweeping history and an intimate account of making a home, told through the prism of a cottage on the edge of England.

You can find his work in newspapers and magazines, including Gramophone and Literary Review, as well as opera and concert programmes, around the world. Gavin also appears frequently on BBC radio.

He lectures widely and has recently given talks for the National Trust, the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the National Theatre, the National Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts, the British Museum, Tate, the BBC Proms, the Oxford Lieder Festival, Wigmore Hall (including his Inside the Score series and presenting Live Streams), the Royal Opera House, the Philharmonia and the CBSO, in addition to being an accredited lecturer for The Arts Society. He came to us in September 2019 and lectured on “A Hungarian Metropolis: Art and Culture in Budapest.”

Gavin was born in Dundee in 1981. Half-Welsh, half-English, he studied at Keble College, Oxford and began his career at Covent Garden immediately after graduating. After a decade in the theatre industry, Gavin became freelance. He lives in Herefordshire with his husband and their dogs.

Programme for the day

10:00 Arrival and Greeting

10:30 Lecture 1

How did the fin de siècle happen?

At the turn of the last century, Vienna was the capital of a vast empire and one of the most exciting artistic laboratories in the world. It produced painters such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Richard Gerstl, architects like Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, the composer Gustav Mahler and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Looking at these and other figures in context, this introductory talk asks how and why the City of Dreams became a cultural hotbed around 1900.

11:30 Coffee break

11:45 Lecture 2

Otto Wagner’s Vienna

Although largely unknown outside his native Austria, Otto Wagner changed Vienna in a manner almost as sweeping as Baron Haussmann in Paris: from the construction of Vienna’s suburban railway to flooding controls on the Danube. Taking in every aspect of modern life, including train stations, museums, apartment blocks and hospitals, Wagner left an extraordinary architectural legacy

13:00 Luncheon

14:00 Lecture 3

Gustav Klimt: Imperial Muralist turned Radical Painter

Klimt was one of the most prominent figures in the Viennese fin de siècle, creating paintings whose sexual themes and bold use of colour and gold shocked an unsuspecting populace. Less is known about his early years as a muralist for the grand municipal buildings and aristocratic palaces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This lecture looks at the many changes in Klimt’s life, his eventual rejection of public pomp and the impact of such deviations on his style and works

15:00 Questions and Answers

15:30 approx Closure and departure