ed. by Agnes Husslein-Arco. Hirmer, dist. by University of Chicago Press, April 2015. 447 p. ill. ISBN 9783777422749 (cl.), $65.00.
Reviewed January 2016
While there is an abundance of scholarship focused on the Vienna Secession, there is far less written about the Hagenbund, the other major Viennese modernist artists' organization of the early twentieth century. Though not as well-known, the Hagenbund was an important organization and exhibiting society, focusing on expressionist art, and later art of the New Objectivity. In addition to artists residing in Vienna, there was a large number of corresponding members from other Austrian crown lands. They belonged to artists' organizations that were introduced to Viennese audiences for the first time through the Hagenbund: these include the Mánes Artists Union of Prague and Society of Polish Artists "Sztuka" of Krakow. Through these exhibiting activities, the Hagenbund created a larger Central European network of artists' organizations that provided an important exchange of artistic ideas across the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Thus Hagenbund: A European Network of Modernism 1900-1938, the catalog of an exhibition held at the Belvedere in Vienna and the result of an ambitious two-year research project, is an important contribution to Central European modern art history. It follows important works like Elizabeth Clegg's Art, Design, and Architecture in Central Europe, 1890-1920 (New Haven, 2006) that have put the early modernisms of Central Europe into social and political context.
Each of the fourteen catalog essays tackles a facet of the Hagenbund, such as art policy in Austro-Hungary and later fascist Austria; engagement with Czech, Polish, and Hungarian artists' groups; social engagement and involvement in politics; marginalization of female artists; and artists' migrations within and outside the empire. Of particular note is Maximillian Kaiser's contribution "Structure, Network, Discourse. Anatomy of an Artists Association," which applies network theory to the membership structure and exhibiting activity within the Hagenbund. Unfortunately, the large network visualization printed in the book is too small to truly appreciate, but the Belvedere's website has a fantastic digital version that is both simple to navigate and rich in fascinating information.
The catalog is richly illustrated with reproductions of paintings, sculpture, and graphic work of the Hagenbund and its guest artists. It includes an exhaustive chronology of all Hagenbund exhibitions that features dates, venues, list of participating artists, and a critical summary of each exhibition. There are also brief biographies of each artist and a complete list of guests, but unfortunately the catalog lacks an index. Though its subject may seem unfamiliar and obscure, the catalog is a fantastic resource on modernism and the history of early twentieth-century art in Central Europe, and it would be of value to any institution that collects books on this period.