The Ver Sacrum Review

The Ver Sacrum Review

From its inception in 1897, the Viennese Secession implements a series of actions. First, the construction of the Secession Building and the launch of its first exhibitions, then in January 1898 the establishment of the Ver Sacrum review, which serves as the official organ for the movement. At the time, magazines play a major role in the diffusion of new aesthetic principals and so it is imperative that the group uses this medium of communication effectively.

Its Latin title, Ver Sacrum, meaning “sacred Spring”, alludes to an ancient ritual in which young men were dispelled from their cities and requested to go build their own city in another location. This ritual is associated with Mars, the god of war, given that founding a new city generally requires taking one by force. Through the symbolic title choice, the members of the Secession affirm their commitment to a renewed approach to art and a break from the academic tradition. In the first issue of the review, they admit to being motivated by “the spirit of youth, thanks to which the present is becoming ever more modern”.

The review is published between 1898 and 1903 and reaches nearly 120 issues. Each issue is conceived as an exhibition in itself and forms a coherent whole. The majority of content is linked to the Secession members, however contributions from collaborators abroad and references to their influences and sources of inspiration also feature: one issue is dedicated to Japanese art; others pay homage to English artist Aubrey Beardsley and Belgian symbolist artists Fernand Khnopff and George Minne.

The review is particularly important as the secessionists are at liberty to use its pages as a medium for experimentation, forging the issue into a veritable work of art in itself, which is purely representative of the artist's new ideas. A kind of avant-garde workshop, the complete collection consolidates 55 lithographs, 216 etchings and almost 500 drawings. The graphics and typography are characteristic of the Secession and work in harmony with the images.

While Klimt may oversee the entire enterprise, he only actually contributes to the first issue, released in 1898. For the issue, he creates a drawing entitled the Nuda Veritas, or “naked truth”, revealing a naked woman, face on, with a gaze seemingly fixed on the spectator and her right hand holding up the mirror of truth. A year later, he endeavours to create a painted version, adding snake lying dead at the woman's feet, which symbolises falsehood, as well as a quote from Friedrich von Schiller, which would become his own personal credo: “If you cannot please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few. To please many is bad.”