Archive for the ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ Category

Bruxelles constitutes a sort of capital city of the new style. The Belgian capital was the city where, at the beginning of the last decade of the XIX Century, the new concept of architecture of the Line, developed by architect such as Victor Horta, Paul Hankar, Gustave Strauven, Armand Van Waesberghe, beyond others; the city where the symbolism in painting began to widespread trough the entire Europe after the works of the artistic society such as Les XX and La Libre Esthetique; the city where the Austrian Workshop Wiener Werkstaette designed and realized maybe the most complete example of Gesamtkunstwerk (Total Work of Art) ever realized.

The central common concept of these realization in Bruxelles has to deal with the concept of Symbol. Compared to other form of meaning, the symbolic is characterized by an inner energy movement and an external complexity. Considering the meaning in literal sense, it stays in a one-to-one relationship with one sign. Even in case of plastic art, dealing with allegoric representations, the relationship between an image and its meaning is based over an accepted iconic vocabulary (as in the baroque glyphs and gryphon style, for example) and thus quite easily recognizable by who share that vocabulary. Allegory is then possible to be translated into other term, into other vocabulary using the meaning’s bridge.

Stoclet Palace nowadays

The case of the symbol is definitively different. The symbolic representation is not based on any vocabulary. The artist’s own creativity and freedom is capable to create relationship between an iconic image and a particular meaning, choosing the iconographic device in a different manner, time by time. The same subject, the same icon could be depicted with different attitude and then charged with different meaning. The meaning – symbolic (iconographic) relationship in Symbolism is not fixed rather than fluid: Symbol is conceived by the artist within a particular moment, within a particular state of the mind, within a special mood.

Stoclet Palace, details

As a consequence, the interpretation of symbolic art is as complex as its creativity act. More, the interpretation of the symbol is a creative moment per se, when the spectator exploiting his own symbolic heritage he achieved during the time, with previous sensitive experiences, with previous artistic experiences, within his cultural, philosophical, religious, social milieu.  The hermeneutic of the symbolist art spectator should be as complex and rich as the creativity engine of the artist himself, as the act to approach and interpret the symbolic work of art follows the proceed of the artistic production, overcharging the work itself by a plethora of other complimentary meaning. The power of symbol is then complete: it continues to suggest new reading, new interpretation, revitalizing the work of art, providing a beyond-the-time living and inspiring concept of art.

Stoclet Palace, façade details

The key work is complexity. From Latin complicatio, ethimologically the word means “put together several different things”. The movement of complexity happens either when composing a specific work of art, as well as when interpreting symbolically that work. And a further level of realization of a complex art is the so called Gesamkunstwerk, the Total Work of Art. There the complexity is not just realized with the combination (again Latin, combinatio) of meanings rather than with the widespread adoption of a particular style trough the entire composite elements of the work. The stimuli of such a pervasive artistic production achieves the goal of unity in complexity, in which the application of the same style is bound with different declinations of it by the symbolic development of its application. In other terms, this sort of Heraclitean approach provides within the style the eon, the Unity and within the symbolic artistic freedom of its application the multiply meanings.

In Stoclet palace, the expressive power of the Line pervade every single element, from the architecture of Josef Hoffmann, the decoration of the façade with its geometric and clean lines, the inner decoration and furniture design due to the works of Hfmann but also Gustav Klimt, Bertold Loeffler, Carl Otto Czecha, Leopold Forstner, Michael Powolny, Franz Metzner, Koloman Moser.


Stoclet Palace, the roof under restoration

Every single detail, from the decorations to the furniture, from the garden to the kitchen tools, were conceived with a unity of style; every single detail represents a stylistic declination of the line, providing an overall synesthetic for the inhabitants of the villa. Everything in the palace is charged with aesthetic value, every single object represents a key to the Garden of Meanings, the structure, its interiors, its decoration constitute a Symbolic and Aesthetic Forest detached from the everyday, human, villain life.

One should be an aesthete to walk through this Forest and being excited by this trip rather than  scared by it; one should have the same cult of Beauty and of Art as a Des Essaintes or a Gabriele D’Annunzio to fully enjoy the unique experience of an aesthetic life within a Total Work of Art; one should have such a feminine attitude towards the Mysteries to use these tools, to look at these decorations as what they are, single small piece of art. Living surrounded by art without such an aesthetic passion could become a nightmare or an annoying task, such as taking care of old fragile objects.

Considering the actual status of the exterior of the Stoclet Palace, such an annoyed attitude could probably suitably describe what the actual property is feeling towards this Masterpiece. Accepting to live there is accepting to live surrounded by living Suggestions. Entering or, worst, living there is not a task for everyone: paraphrasing Plato, shouldn’t dare to enter there who is not an aesthete …