The 20th and 21st century


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The Viennese Modern movement

Otto Wagner, Joseph Hoffmann and Adolf Loos are the best-known representative of the Viennese modern movement; the collection of Viennese Modernism in the Vienna Furniture Museum boasts some of their most outstanding works.

The ‘Sitz-Maschine’ (‘machine for sitting’) by Josef Hoffmann, the furniture from Otto Wagner’s Post Office Savings Banks and the ‘Knieschwimmer’ easy chair by Adolf Loos – all these iconic items of furniture herald the dawning of a new era. They stand for revolution and provocation, for a radical break with tradition. And by the end of the nineteenth century this was sorely needed. For all the beauty of the era’s art and architecture, the Monarchy was on the inexorable path to collapse. 

The bombastic Historicism of the Ringstrasse era was gathering dust, and the emperor was now an old man who regarded anything that was new with suspicion. In art, architecture and design, fossilized structures needed to be replaced by bold new ideas and concepts. In 1897 a group of progressive artists and architects associated with Gustav Klimt founded the Secession, effectively giving birth to the Viennese Modern movement. Wagner, Hoffmann and Loos became its trailblazers. They were the originators – not least in the way they took bentwood furniture a step further in its development – of the new, creative design whose influence is still felt today. It goes without saying that the ageing emperor would certainly not have been amused...