The final part of the Belvedere permanent exhibition shows the transition of Austrian (and Central European) art into the modernist era and through to today. As always, many jewels capture the eye.
- Selection of 20th-century art
- A journey through various genres and trends
- Includes works by such giants as Hundertwasser, Schiele & Kogelnik
- The Belvedere is a dynamic museum, so the actual works on display may vary
- All info in English and German
- Book Upper Belvedere tickets* online
- See also:
Changing face of art
(Exhibition view Picture this! The Belvedere Collection from Cranach to EXPORT; press photo courtesy of and © Johannes Stoll / Belvedere, Vienna)
The exhibition begins with early moves away from representational accuracy, then takes us through various themes and a rough chronology that ends with the late 20th-century Avant Garde.
We almost seem to follow along as art occupies different locations on a spectrum between reproduction and the completely abstract.
As well as offering up a selection of Austria’s best (from Klimt to Kogelnik), this section also brings some of the great talents of wider central Europe out into the light. Indeed, one thread is the language of art as a bridge builder between regions with a shared geopolitical history.
(Egon Schiele, Squatting Couple (The Family), 1918; press photo courtesy of and © Johannes Stoll / Belvedere, Vienna)
The Emerging Modernism parts on the top floor include some of those names more usually found in the Vienna 1900 section, including Kolomon Moser, Schiele, and an unexpected (and unfinished) painting by Klimt.
Two of my favourite works by Schiele help illustrate new approaches to portraiture:
- The Family, painted in the same year (1918) both Schiele and his wife died of Spanish ‘flu. And the physical expressions of the mother and father in the painting seem to anticipate this event
- Death and the Maiden (1915), another evocative and sombre portrait
The same room also has an almost fantastical and quite mesmerising 1920 image of a woman by Franz Alois Jungnickl.
(Maria Lassnig, Double Self-Portrait with Camera, 1974; press photo: Johannes Stoll / Belvedere, Vienna; Bildrecht, 2023; Artothek des Bundes, on permanent loan to the Belvedere, Vienna © Maria Lassnig Stiftung)
The first Avant Garde section (also on the top floor – go round it anticlockwise) sprinkles us with various genres (and genre-spanning) works.
I spent more time than I had looking at, for example, Erika Giovanna Klien’s 1939 Diving Bird, whose representation of movement proves not quite as abstract as a first glance implies.
This part introduces us to one or two works by those creators who tend to dominate the field of Austrian art in modern times: the likes of Arnulf Rainer or Hundertwasser (represented by his 1955 224 The Large Path that once hung in the office of the Austrian chancellor if I’m not mistaken).
The room covering the theme Persecution and Exile perhaps leaves the strongest memory: works by those murdered or driven into exile during the fascist era.
Quite apart from the overriding human tragedy, I am reminded (again) of two salient points:
- Austria’s self-inflicted loss of intellect, creativity and artistic potential
- When creativity is hindered, it does not bode well for wider society
The second Avant Garde section (back on the ground floor) introduces a more contemporary note to Prince Eugene’s Baroque residence. Names also familiar from solo exhibitions in such locations as the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien: Maria Lassnig, Kiki Kogelnik, Daniel Spoerri, VALIE EXPORT, and others.
Such eras, genres, and artists take me even further beyond my area of expertise, but I was much taken by Kogelnik’s 1975 Triangle with its representation of two women. An intriguing work that seems both serious and tongue-in-cheek, suggestive and not at all so.
It doesn’t take long to zip around the few rooms, but the trip makes a nice foray through art history and offers a breather from the crowds that often accumulate in the Klimt galleries.
And, if the later years of this part of Belvedere’s art interest you, can I recommend you consider some of the modern and contemporary art exhibitions currently on in Vienna?