New book: Erasures and Eradications in Modern Viennese Art, Architecture and Design

Edited by Megan Brandow-Faller and Laura Morowitz, Erasures and Eradications in Modern Viennese Art, Architecture and Design is a collection of essays that challenge the received narrative on the artists, exhibitions, and interpretations of Viennese modernism. CRAACE team members Matthew Rampley and Julia Secklehner are among the contributors.

The book centers on three main erasures – the erasure of Jewish artists and critics; erasures relating to gender and sexual identification; and erasures of other marginalized figures and movements. Restoring missing elements to the story of the visual arts in early twentieth-century Vienna, authors investigate issues of gender, race, ethnic and sexual identity, and political affiliation. Both well-studied artists and organizations – such as the Secession and the Austrian Werkbund, and iconic figures such as Klimt and Hoffmann – are explored, as are lesser known figures and movements. The book’s thought-provoking chapters expand the chronological contours and canon of artists surrounding Viennese Modernism to offer original, nuanced, and rich readings of individual works, while offering a more diverse portrait of the period from 1890, through World War II and into the present.

Julia Secklehner‘s essay ‘The Birth of Painting from the Spirit of the Gingerbread: Anna Lesznai’s Hungarian Exotic in 1920s Vienna‘ assesses Lesznai’s contributions to interwar modernity as a well-connected migrant artist and argues that her explorations of folk art added to her success in interwar Vienna because it related to the city’s position as a staging point of central European modernism with strong links to other regions of the former Empire. Born Amalia Moscovitz, Lesznai was raised in an ennobled Hungarian–Jewish family with connections to the highest ranks of the imperial government. Lesznai relocated to Vienna after the First World War and the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918. In a particularly vibrant review titled ‘Anna Lesznai-Jászi or the Birth of Painting from the Spirit of the Gingerbread,’ Lesznai’s watercolours from this exhibition are compared to ‘a colourful rug of village paradise’ in reference to the flatness and bold colour of her work.

Matthew Rampley‘s essay ‘On Erasures in Modern Architecture: Catholic “Modernism” and the Historiography of Church Building Between the Wars‘ interrogates the erasure of churches from histories of modern architecture, which tend to privilege buildings such as housing estates, factories, office buildings, monuments, warehouses, exhibition buildings and the villas of bourgeois patrons. The generic reasons relate to the broad difficulty of finding a place for buildings devoted to the sacred and the community of the faithful in an account in which modernity is equated with secularization. When churches are included, they tend to be analysed in terms of the technical or aesthetic innovations they exemplify, rather than the theological meanings and functions they serve, and this has been a long-established practice. How might we explain this phenomenon and, if we overcome such an omission, what might be the place of ecclesiastical building in the history of modern architecture? Indeed, what does it mean to talk of ‘modern’ church architecture?


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