Vienna is known for its culture: architecture, music, painting, urbanism. In fact, I can without exaggerating say that I decided to study art history because I fell in love with Vienna on my first visit: Baroque palaces, Gustav Klimt's paintings, Otto Wagner's architecture, Hundertwasser's imagination, the museums. And when it comes to museums, the selection is so varied that it's hard to choose which ones are going to fit in your busy traveler's schedule. In my case, I always know that Albertina is going to be on the list- it is an institution really, with one of the biggest prints and drawings collections in the world, a nice permanent loan collection of Impressionists and 20th century art and amazing temporary exhibitions. This time it was Pointillism, one of my favorite painting styles.
We came to Albertina first thing in the morning on our second day in Vienna- it was so cold that only a short walk on the main streets of Graben and Kartner Strasse was an option; we were eager to enjoy a nice morning surrounded by art and warmth. Albertina collections and temporary exhibitions are definitely overwhelming to see in only one day- we focused on Ways of Pointillism, The Colour Woodcut in Vienna around 1900 (both temporary exhibitions) and the permanent collection Monet to Picasso. Before I explain why did I love the Pointillism exhibiton so much, just a few words about the style itself. It was derived from Impressionism, but also marked the end of it. It challenged it in a way that where Impressionists painted with little brush strokes, Pointillists used little dots of paint, and where Impressionists painted spontaineously out in the nature, Poinitillists painted in the studio while studying the optics and the use of colour. Curator Heinz Widauer explained it far better than I did in this short video.
I loved the presentation of Pointillism: first of all, the selection of paintings was impressive; there were canvases from Seaurat, Signac, Monet, van Rysselberghe, just to name a few. Second of all: I've never thought of some of the included artists as Poentillists, and yet they did use the technique, like Van Gogh, Mattisse and Piccasso. Third, the presentation was beatiful: the colour of the walls resembled main tones of the paintings (purple, rose), the lights were dim and directed to the paintings in the way that they shined like jewels in the shadowy rooms. I think that we managed to capture the atmosphere on our photos, at least a bit.
We proceeded to The colour woodcut in Vienna around 1900 exhibition, which was chic in design with its lapis lazuli coloured walls and amazing graphics from prominent Viennese Secession artists. Woodcut rose to fame in Europe at the end of the 19th century (after a period of stagnation), inspired by amazing Japanese woodprints which used unusal perspectives, and were definitely ahead of time compared to then European painting. Viennese woodcuts are defined by stylised motifs, square format (Secessionists strived for the clarity of form) and contrasting hues. Amazing exhibition, I wish we had more time for it, but the good news is that all of the exhibited pieces are from Albertina's own collection!
Permanent collection is a must if you're into late 19th and 20th century art (and I mean, who isn't?), and it keeps expanding all the way to contemporary art. There is everything you might want to see- from Monet's Water Lillies to crazy Picasso's ceramic. (How cool is his depiction of a nun being chased by the devil depicted on the photos below?) Also, the collection is not overwhelming and it might be a perfect dose of art for a culturally spent morning!
The next day we visited Leopold Museum in MuseumsQuartier, a very cool cultural area in the center of Vienna, which hosts about 70 cultular facilites, cafes and shops. The museums are located inside of a number of courtyards, there is no traffic and esentially it feels like a small city inside of the city. Leopold Museum hosts the biggest Egon Schiele collection, as well as other prominent Viennese artists such as Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoscka and Koloman Moser. I have always been impressed with Secessionist movement and Wiener Werkstatte (Vienna's Workshops) that proceded from it, so I was thrilled to see not only the Secessionist paintings and magazine design but also furniture, jewelry and design objects by Wiener Werkstatte. It is a complete collection of Viennese turn of the century art, and I wholeheartedly recommend you to visit if you are interested in Art Nouveau (Secession is a sort of its Austrian form).
The museum is also home to largest Egon Schiele collection in the world, and there is a current exhibiton of his works taking place at the moment. I say current, because some of the works like watercolors, drawings and prints are photosensitive and cannot be exhibited all the time (they are usually being kept at museum's depos). If you're going to Vienna any time soon, I suggest you to take this opportunity and see the exhibition- apart from the Egon Schiele's amazing works, the presentation itself is special, with its contrasting dark interior and flashing rays of light directed into the paintings. It's a dramatic atmoshpere, for sure.
The architecture of the museum itself is interesting as well- a bright cube made out of limestone from the outside with unexpected vistas inside of the museum and breathtaking views of the city center and MuseumsQuartier courtyard from above. We did spend quite some time marveling at the sunset reflected on the dome of the Museum of Art History on the other side of the Ringstrasse (Vienna Ring Road). And after an afternoon spent in the museum, why not have a drink in one of the cool bars inside the Quartier?
This article was made possible thanks to Vienna Tourist Board, Albertina Museum and Leopold Museum, and I thank them for that. We had a truly amazing cultural experience in Vienna. There is still so much to see the next time.
Have you ever been to Vienna? Curious to hear about your favorite cultural spots (or they don't even have to be cultural, I'm basically interested in everything Vienna-related). :)
Any thoughts on this mostly art-concentrated post? Yes, no?
Let me know!