Our daughter Victoria is finishing the second year of her Erasmus Mundus animal genetics graduate program in Vienna, after a year studying in the Netherlands. Last week she took Lynn and I on a week long museum tour of the city acting as guide and translator. I wanted to share some of the amazing art we experienced there with my Drawger friends.
Schiele, the Egoist
To preface this, let me add a little bit of background. I was an Art History major in college, and spent every afternoon for years looking at slide shows. My teacher once said, “you are not learning about the history of art- you are learning about slides”, and I have found that to be true in more ways than one- one forms ideas about art from books and slides, but when you see the real thing, there can be real revelations. This was certainly the case for me last week when I saw the original works of Egon Schiele.
Death and the Maiden
My preconception was that I would get to see a lot of Gustave Klimt paintings in Vienna, and while I got my wish, our visit to the Leopold museum, dedicated to the Vienna Secession artists, provided me with a real jolt in the form of Egon Schiele. I have always resisted appreciating Schiele, primarily as a form of rebellion to the art school orthodoxy of devotion to him. The reproductions I had seen never resonated with me…but when confronted with 40 original, monumental paintings by Schiele, and surrounded with artifacts of his short life, (he died at 28 in the influenza epidemic), I became an acolyte. Seeing these paintings was the first and most powerful of several moving art experiences I had last week. To me it was almost a similar experience to seeing paintings by Vincent- you can almost feel the artist communicating with you.
Schiele's paintings must be seen in person to be appreciated, I think...
Down in the basement of the Leopold, Kathe Kollwitz holds forth. The power of her work is undeniable. I often tell students that one needs to be able to justify the existence of your work- why is it better than a photograph? Kollwitz has the answer…
Oart of the Peasant's War series
The Belvedere Museum was a huge Baroque mansion, home to many famous paintings I knew only from reproductions…
Klimt's famous "Kiss"
Famous Propaganda art by David
Belvedere had many Klimt landscapes, which I really love...
The "lower" Belvedere - another huge mansion-had a huge show of Alphonse Mucha's work- and another revelation. This was no little traveling show of posters…after rooms and rooms of his graphic art, we came to his later project, a monumental series of twenty paintings narrating the mythological origins of the Slavs. There was only one of the twenty murals on display in the museum, the rest are in Prague - but it was amazing- and huge, literally each the size of an IMAX movie screen. And only one of twenty…
this painting is literally the size of an IMAX screen.
Mucha with his Slav Epic,1910. the painting above is seen on the right...
The Mucha we all know and love...
Vienna secession building, home of the famous Beethoven frieze. Seeing it in context of Vienna, home base of Beethoven, and installed you appreciate the metaphoric narrative and the power of leveraging a narrative using negative space.
The “ode to joy” panel at the end of the frieze is really amazing…something that just doesn’t work that well in reproduction…
The Secession building
detail from Beethoven Frieze
The "Dark Middle Act"...
the Big Finish
After a day at the zoo looking at tigers for a project I am working on, we went to the Kunsthistorisches museum
I never expected to see a museum that might rival the Met or Louvre, but this is the one. Room after room of paintings by Rubens, Titian, Rembrandt, Bruegel. Many copyists were working in the museum…Something I wish I could do someday.
Vermeer's "Art of Painting"...seeing this was worth the whole trip by itself...I could look at that chandelier for hours.
Bruegel's Tower of Babel. SOmeone was making a copy. Good luck!
Carravaggio...you get the point...
Meet Mr. Smokey, courtesy of Corregio
Lastly Velasquez. One nice thing about these museums was that they weren’t crowded, and you could go right up close to the art. It is always said you can learn a lot from Velasquez- I’m beginning to see why. Artists from the past have all sorts of interesting things to tell us if we listen…I’d love to get one of those copy permits and study a Velasquez. Maybe I will someday!
The brushwork on this dress is incredible.
Thanks for enduring this travelogue, I hope you have the good fortune to visit Vienna soon- It's all there for you.
Myself, Victoria and Lynn at the "People's Opera" to see La Boheme.