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Question of the Day
At the dawn of the 20th century, Vienna, Austria, was a hotbed of cultural experimentation. Painter Gustav Klimt, composer Gustav Mahler, psychologist Sigmund Freud and other artists and intellectuals were challenging conventions with new theories and expressions. A tiny slice of the Viennese avant-garde is being served up at the Textile Museum, where 50 fabric samples and related objects pay homage to a modern arts-and-crafts group called the Wiener Werkstatte or Vienna Workshop. This spinoff of Klimt’s Secession movement aimed to blur the distinctions between fine and applied arts and create a single design aesthetic for an entire room or building.
Though only a one-room exhibit, Textiles of Klimt’s Vienna broadens the typical reductionist view of the workshop through a dizzying variety of fabric patterns. It includes familiar geometric prints by architect Josef Hoffmann as well as lyrical florals and figural scenes by the less known but more versatile talents Dagobert Peche and Maria Likarz-Strauss. Fabrics by nine other designers underscore the stylistic diversity of the workshop, which lasted from 1903 to 1932. A few photographs sprinkled throughout the displays show how the yardage was applied to furniture, curtains, carpets and clothing to drape the fashionable Viennese and their homes in the same multicolored patterns. 2320 S St. NW. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed holidays. Through Jan. 6. Donation $5. 202/667-0441.
One of the most famous and influential silent features, F.W. Murnau’s “The Last Man,” retitled The Last Laugh in American release, will be revived Saturday at 1 p.m. in the National Gallery’s East Auditorium as part of a retrospective devoted to European films in the years between the world wars. Murnau had cinematographer Karl Freund keep his camera on a dolly at all times, and his pictorial scheme for the movie, a prestigious international success of 1924-25, emphasized fluid and inventive movement. The film observes Emil Jannings as the doorman at a luxury hotel in Berlin whose morale collapses when he is demoted to a lavatory attendant because of advancing age. “The Last Laugh” anticipated by about 60 years the current reliance on Steadicam imagery, busy to a fault in some productions.
A screening of Address Unknown, a Hungarian romantic comedy of 1935 that remains largely unknown in this country, follows at 4 p.m. on Saturday. All National Gallery film showings are free, but an early arrival is advisable. Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest. 202/842-6799.
— Gary Arnold
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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