The trend in the theory of art that we have been following in the present section reached its fullest expression in work done, and in writings published, around 1900 in Vienna. With Alois Riegl, a historian who was also a theoretician of art, it became one of the formative and permanent influences in twentieth-century reflection on the visual arts. The questions Riegl raised remained a powerful challenge to critical thinking throughout the twentieth century. It hardly needs stressing that ideas originating in the intellectual life of the West as a whole colored Riegl's work, but the conditions in which his doctrine was formulated, those prevailing in central Europe, and mainly in Vienna, at the turn of the century, left their specific mark on it. We therefore begin our discussion by looking at the culture of Vienna around 1900, at least insofar as it relates to our subject.
What we now perceive as Viennese culture at the turn of the nineteenth century was mainly an elitist affair, produced for and appreciated by a small group, although it also found expression in public monuments and performances. Yet what dominated this culture—from our historical perspective—was the undermining of traditional forms and values. The intention to undermine was often not recognized, perhaps not even by the authors and artists who articulated the culture, but the historical effect of breaking up the very foundations of established traditional cultural models and procedures, became clear throughout the century that followed.
I shall not discuss the best-known intellectual creation of those Vienna years which has become a household article in the western world of the twentieth century, namely, psychoanalysis. I should only note that the drive to go behind appearances, to search for clues to a hidden or repressed reality is at the very heart of psychoanalysis. Even in size alone the literature on psychoanalysis has become forbidding, as has its historical impact. Whatever views may prevail at different times, it seems safe to say that in our century few factors have been so successful in undermining belief in reality as