March 14, 2013

The Viennese Interior

Lecture by Joseph Leo Koerner


Vienna has always taken its interiors very seriously. Between the fin-de-siècle and 1938, many important artists and intellectuals tackled the question of how to structure and define the inner spaces of everyday life – with the aim of establishing a correspondence between the built environment and the subjective, inner world. Hermann Broch spoke of a “void of values” in the period before World War I, and the new interior designs can be understood as attempts to fill this void.

In his lecture in the Secession’s Hauptraum, Joseph Leo Koerner will address the many and varied meanings of “The Viennese Interior”. This lecture also concludes the Secession’s program of Klimt Year events.

Joseph Leo Koerner is professor of art and architecture at Harvard University. He is currently working on the art, culture, politics, and intellectual currents of Vienna in the first two decades of the 20th century. Following his much-praised BBC documentary Vienna: City of Dreams, he is currently delivering the prestigious Slade Lectures in Oxford on the same theme.

The lecture is organized by the Secession and the Friends of the Secession

Joseph Leo Koerner
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and raised there and in Vienna, Joseph Leo Koerner studied at Yale University (B.A. 1980), Cambridge University (M.A. 1982), University of Heidelberg (1982-3), and University of California at Berkeley (M.A. 1985, Ph.D. 1988). After three years at the Society of Fellows, Harvard University (1986-89), he joined the Harvard faculty, where he was Professor of History of Art and Architecture until 1999. 1999-2000 he was Professor of Modern Art History at the University of Frankfurt; in 2000 he moved to London, where he was Professor first at University College London (until 2004), then at the Courtauld Institute of Art (until 2007). He is now Victor S. Thomas Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University.

Koerner organized teaching exhibitions at Harvard on Early Netherlandish Painting (1990), German Renaissance Art (1993), Pieter Bruegel (1995) and Netherlandish prints 1550-1675 (1999). At the Austrian National Gallery in 1997, he curated a retrospective of the work of his father, the painter Henry Koerner. In 2002, he collaborated with Bruno Latour and others on the exhibition Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars at the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe.

His books include Die Suche nach dem Labyrinth – Der Mythos von Daedalus und Ikarus (1983), Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape (1990), The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art (1993), and The Reformation of the Image (2004). Koerner wrote and presented the three-part series Northern Renaissance for BBC Television, as well as the feature-length documentary Vienna: City of Dreams, premiered on the BBC in December 2007.

Koerner was awarded the Jan Mitchell Prize for the History of Art in 1992. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (since 1995) and the American Philosophical Society (since 2008) and a Senior Fellow (since 2008) at Harvard’s Society of Fellows. He received the 2009 Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award, which funds projects during the years 2010-2014.