The wheel of time turns, and some themes seem doomed to ever reoccur in human history. Alfred Kubin’s fantastical dreamscapes reflect the anguish of an uncertain world stepping gingerly into and through the early 1900s. Fast forward a century…
- Explores Kubin’s oneiric worlds and dark motifs
- Includes works by those who inspired him
- Runs Apr 16 – Jul 24, 2022
- See also:
Confessions of a tortured soul
(Alfred Kubin, “Ins Unbekannte” (into the unknown), 1900/01 © Leopold Museum, Wien; photo: Leopold Museum, Wien/ Manfred Thumberger © Eberhard Spangenberg, München/ Bildrecht, Wien 2021)
Some exhibitions seem to speak to the times.
The last couple of years won’t go down as a period of exuberant joy. And while the pandemic might be easing (but who knows?), other issues ensure we have little respite from unremitting bad news.
Much of the work of Alfred Kubin (1877-1959) fits the Zeitgeist with its dark quasi-dystopian air, its portrayals of existential threats, and its manifestation on paper of fears real and imagined.
Equally, the fantastical themes and imaginings in his drawings at least offer some kind of escape from the banal. And a lacing of humour, for example, takes the edge off some of the pessimistic depictions (but only some).
Born into the Austria-Hungary empire and enduring considerable personal tragedy and trauma of his own, Kubin’s artistic flowering followed encounters with the work of Max Klinger, Goya, and others.
As such, the Kubin exhibition at the Leopold Museum presents his works alongside those that might have inspired him (including art by Klimt and Munch, for example).
Kubin’s synthesis of perceived and imagined reality drew on some of the worst moments of human existence, some of which bear unfortunate parallels to today: a pandemic, war and its atrocities, manipulation of the masses.
One of his drawings from the early 1900s was even titled The Plague and sold for some GBP 579,000 at a 2019 Sotheby’s auction.
However, other works in the exhibition also deal with the ever-encroaching inevitabilities of life (and death). Or tackle gender relations with some unfortunate representations of women.
While we can easily reject the misogyny of the times, other works seem to pierce the layers of protection from life’s harsh realities and open a window into darker truths we prefer to keep locked away.
Kubin’s work stands between symbolism and surrealism. An artist at a crossroads, as everything seems to be these days. Truly an exhibition for 2022.
Tickets and dates
Explore Kubin’s powerful imagination between April 16th and July 24th, 2022. A normal entrance ticket to the Leopold Museum includes the exhibition.
Incidentally, Vienna’s Albertina museum has its own Edvard Munch exhibition running concurrently for much of the same time for a double dose of anguish.
And if you want to shift gears into surrealism, consider visiting Lower Belvedere with its Dalí – Freud exhibition (until late May).
How to get to Kubin
Just follow the travel tips at the bottom of the main Leopold Museum article The exhibition takes place on Level -1.
The Kubin exhibition covers much of the summer. For an antidote to existential angst, pop outside the museum into the wider MuseumsQuartier complex with its open-air bars and restaurants (not to mention the famously brightly-coloured courtyard loungers).
Address: Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Vienna