"There are only two things that can destroy a healthy man: love trouble, ambition, and financial catastrophe. And that's already three things, and there are a lot more." - Peter Altenberg
The declining days of the Habsburg Empire, Vienna, sliding ever closer to political instability, was an ideal place to escape from the exigencies of daily life through art. The educated class had come to regard political activity as futile, with narcissism as a ready escape. The writer Theodore Herzel was only nineteen in 1879 when he identified the predominant personality of his time as one "falling in love with his own spirit, and thus of losing any standard of judgment." If this sounds all too similar to our own preoccupations, then reason enough to pay attention to Altenberg now.
1. Gustave Jagersparcher - Portrait of Peter Alternberg, 1909, Neue Galerie, NYC.
2. Ludwig von Zumbach - cover for Jugend, 1896, Albertina Museum, Vienna.
3. Fritz Zeymer - Gertrude Bernstein at Cafe Fledermaus, 1907, Austrian Theatre Museum, Vienna.
4. Urban Jahnke - Postcard #140 for Wiener Werkstatte, Albertina Museum, Vienna.
5. anonymous - Masked Ball, 1900, Albertina Museum, Vienna.
For further reading : Fin-de-siecle Vienna by Carl Schorske, New York, Alfred A. Khnopf: 1980.