Monday, June 22, 2009

Otto Wagner and His School

Wagner's Kirche am Steinhof

We recently covered the application of Jugendstil (sometimes also called Sezession) style motifs to church vestments, but the style's most permanent monuments lie in its architecture, in the work of men such as Otto Wagner and his colleagues and disciples, as well as his sometime collaborator, the decorative artist Koloman Moser. Wagner's work and philosophy veers somewhat towards structural proto-modernism at times, and he tended to approach religious work from a purely pragmatic angle. That being said, the sublimity of his results, whatever the process that led him there, nonetheless demands our attention. They represent truly one of the century's great, undiscovered "other modernisms" like the work of Victor Horta or Gaudí. One of his students, the more mystically-inclined Slovenian, Plečnik, was able to even more thoroughly baptize this style, though his work deserves a more detailed discussion in another post.

Wagner's Kirche am Steinhof remains his most complete ecclesiastical work, a splendid, elegant design for the chapel of a psychiatric hospital that suggests a particularly humane attention to the spiritual trials of the troubled and insane. Some photos follow.




While Wagner's built work is suitably impressive, he and his colleagues also produced a variety of intriguing unexecuted projects, many featured in stunning watercolors and pen-drawings.

Otto Wagner's proposal for the Church of the Imperial Mausoleum, Vienna, 1898.

A proposal for a hospital chapel in the style of Wagner by Otto Schonthal, 1902.

A proposal for the interior decoration of the Church of the Holy Ghost, Düsseldorf, by Koloman Moser, 1912.

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