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The Memory Factory: The Forgotten Women Artists of Vienna 1900

Julie M. Johnson
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Purdue University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Memory Factory
    Book Description:

    The Memory Factory introduces an eng-speaking public to the significant women artists of Vienna at the turn of the twentieth century, each chosen for her aesthetic innovations and participation in public exhibitions. These women played important public roles as exhibiting artists, both individually and in collectives, but this history has been silenced over time. Their stories show that the city of Vienna was contradictory and cosmopolitan: despite men-only policies in its main art institutions, it offered a myriad of unexpected ways for women artists to forge successful public careers. Women artists came from the provinces, Russia, and Germany to participate in its vibrant art scene. However, and especially because so many of the artists were Jewish, their contributions were actively obscured beginning in the late 1930s. Many had to flee Austria, losing their studios and lifework in the process. Some were killed in concentration camps. Along with the stories of individual women artists, the author reconstructs the history of separate women artists’ associations and their exhibitions. Chapters covering the careers of Tina Blau, Elena Luksch-Makowsky, Helene Funke, and Teresa Ries (among others) point to a more integrated and cosmopolitan art world than previously thought; one where women became part of the avant-garde, accepted and even highlighted in major exhibitions at the Secession and with the Klimt group. “This is an excellent addition to the literature on fin-de-siècle Vienna, well-researched and well-argued. It highlights little-known artists and situates them in a novel interpretation of women’s roles in the art world. The author challenges dominant tropes of feminist historiography and thus sheds new light on twentieth-century art history and historiography,” Michael Gubser, James Madison University.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-224-7
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Gary B. Cohen

    Although studies of the cultural life of Vienna 1900 have become a veritable industry over the last thirty years, there is still much to be uncovered and analyzed about the development of art, literature, scholarship, science, and popular culture in that rich milieu. Julie M. Johnson’sThe Memory Factory: The Forgotten Women Artists of Vienna 1900presents a rich, multifaceted examination of Viennese women artists from the end of the nineteenth century into the era of the first Austrian Republic. It is indeed striking that in the large body of work on modernist culture in early twentiethcentury Vienna, little has...

  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    “Too much Feodorowna Ries! A windstorm of publicity is blowing through the Viennese leaflet-woods.”¹ This was Karl Kraus’s complaint on the media interest that sculptor Teresa Ries (1874-1956) attracted when she opened her atelier at the Palais Liechtenstein to a ten-year show of her work. Ries, who won the admiration of Mark Twain and Stefan Zweig for her life-size sculpture of Lucifer (fig. 1), was once so well known that she was caricatured in a play by Roda Roda, whose works were often shown at the Cabaret Fledermaus.² Before they seceded, Gustav Klimt and members of his group visited her...

  7. Chapter One Writing, Erasing, Silencing: Tina Blau and the (Woman) Artist’s Biography
    (pp. 19-54)

    Impressionist Tina Blau (1845-1916) painted aesthetically innovative works, like the 1898View of Vienna, in which she allows the paint to hover over the canvas, the brushstrokes and color taking precedence over the figures and landscape that they represent (fig. 3). Cultural critics Karl Kraus (1874-1936), Rosa Mayreder (1858-1938), and Adalbert Franz Seligmann (1862-1945) all recognized the very aesthetically advanced, modernist qualities of her painting. At the turn of the century, she was a famous artist, her paintings in the court collections and sought after by women artists’ groups. After 1938, Blau would be temporarily erased from Austrian art history...

  8. Chapter Two Elena Luksch-Makowsky and the New Spatial Aesthetic at the Vienna Secession
    (pp. 55-110)

    Like fellow Russian Teresa Ries, Elena Luksch-Makowsky (1878-1965) lived her most productive and successful years as an artist in Vienna at the turn of the century. They were only two of several women who exhibited their works at the Secession. But they stand out for different reasons: Ries (1874-1956), who was already living in Vienna when the group established itself, was invited by Klimt to become an exclusive exhibitor at the Secession well before the exhibition house was built.¹ Luksch-Makowsky, on the other hand, arrived in Vienna after the group had established itself, and later told her children that she...

  9. Chapter Three Broncia Koller and Interiority in Public Art Exhibitions
    (pp. 111-176)

    Broncia Koller (1863-1934) often exhibited her very modern paintings and graphic woodcuts with the Klimt group, from 1908 onward. But when she was rediscovered in the 1980s, she was described as a “painting housewife” in a news story on the first museum exhibition of her work. The author concluded: “Koller’s paintings were made, so to speak, on the side, out of joy and without special ambition.”¹ Far from a mere “painting housewife” and patron of the arts, she was a serious artist who presented her work in no fewer than forty-six art exhibitions, several of which were major events (the...

  10. Chapter Four Rediscovering Helene Funke: The Invisible Foremother
    (pp. 177-202)

    Helene Funke (1869-1957) was an Expressionist painter from Chemnitz whose first documented exhibitions are with Matisse and the Fauves in Paris. Little is known about her life, because nearly all of her personal papers were destroyed or lost during World War II.¹ What we do know is that, in aesthetic terms, Funke was among the most radically avant-garde painters in Vienna, which became her adoptive home after 1911. She is now widely acknowledged (along with Koller) to have been one of the earliest and strongest interpreters of the Modernist principles of Matisse and the Fauves in Austria. As mentioned in...

  11. Chapter Five Teresa Ries in the Memory Factory
    (pp. 203-244)

    Teresa Ries was a most unlikely candidate for art historical oblivion: her celebrity was unparalleled; she was an art star who fashioned over life-size figures in marble, stone, plaster, and bronze—a nude witch sharpening her toenails, a Lucifer (fig. 1), a sculpture titledDeath(fig. 80), and an Eve in a fetal position (fig. 81); she drew the admiration of the emperor, Mark Twain, Theodor Herzl, and Stefan Zweig, who profiled her in a book on genius.¹ Ries created public works of art—a voluptuous Penelope for the new stock exchange among them—and also held one-person shows in...

  12. Chapter Six Women as Public Artists in the Institutional Landscape
    (pp. 245-294)

    In 1971, Linda Nochlin wrote one of the most influential essays of feminist art history, in which she explained why there had been no great women artists. It was, she argued, because women were excluded from participating in art institutions: “The fault lies not in our stars, our hormones, our menstrual cycles, or our empty internal spaces, but in our institutions and our education—education understood to include everything that happens to us from the moment we enter, head first, into this world of meaningful symbols, signs and signals.”¹ Within just a year or two her research for the 1977...

  13. Chapter Seven The Ephemeral Museum of Women Artists
    (pp. 295-336)

    With over 300 works of art, the 1910 historical retrospective,The Art of the Woman, was a major blockbuster even by today’s standards.¹ The survey emphasized the historical legacy of the “old mistresses,” covering the Italian Renaissance to American and French Impressionism, with 88 works in the central room (fig. 106). In the surrounding rooms, works by recently deceased artists and the 32 association members and guests were displayed. Reviewer Josef Folnesics explained that the Association of Women Artist’s (VBKÖ’s) strategy was to debut with a “splendid foreword” of old mistresses, letting the artists with established reputations convince the spectator...

  14. Chapter Eight 1900-1938: Erasure
    (pp. 337-372)

    Despite a lively subculture of misogyny, the discursive culture of fin-de-siècle Vienna alone does not explain why its once famous women artists were forgotten. The difference between 1910 and 1977, the two dates of the retrospective exhibitions of women artists in Vienna and the U.S., is a better place to start. By the end of Nazi rule in 1945, approximately three generations of women artists had been—for racist or political reasons, rarely aesthetic ones—erased, driven into exile, deported to concentration campus, their works removed from museum walls and public settings. Although many had emigrated to the U.S., by...

  15. Appendix: Biographies
    (pp. 373-402)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 403-424)
  17. Index
    (pp. 425-438)