Alfred Roller Poster for the 14th Secession exhibition, Vienna 1902

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 504 The Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries

Roller, a graphic designer, was a member of the Vienna Secession. This group of young Austrian artists had defected from the nation’s oldest artistic society in a rejection of its conservatism and was committed to the unification of different art forms through a holistic aesthetic. The Secession held a series of exhibitions, including one honoring composer Ludwig van Beethoven, for which Roller made this poster. Under the direction of architect and designer Josef Hoffmann, twenty–one artists collaborated on the installation, which was one of the Secession’s greatest public successes, drawing nearly sixty thousand visitors. The bold, condensed lettering in Roller’s design is also a feature of other posters and journal covers he designed around this time. The main figure, a bowed woman presenting a symbolic sphere of light, is near life size. She belongs to a family of similar figures common in modern architecture and design of this period.

Gallery label from Shaping Modernity 1880–1980, March 28, 2012–September 8, 2013.
Additional text

The Secession, a group of young architects, designers and artists in Vienna committed to the unification of art forms, dedicated their 14th exhibition to the eighteenth-century composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Roller's stylized representation of a woman raising a luminous orb toward the stars symbolizes this act of homage and the words of Schiller's 'Ode to Joy' sung to the closing movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony: "Do you sense your Creator's presence, World? Seek him above the heavenly firmament." At the exhibition opening Gustav Mahler conducted his own arrangement of this movement for brass and wind that, according to his wife Alma, "rang out as starkly as granite."

Gallery label from Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye, November 15, 2014–January 17, 2016.
90 5/8 x 31 1/2" (230.1 x 80 cm)
Albert Berger, Vienna
Gift of Joseph H. Heil, by exchange
Object number
Architecture and Design

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