In times of COVID, how fine it would be to escape the shackles of travel regulations and visit fresh fields and townscapes. The Albertina’s City and Countryside exhibition lets us do just that in the company of some of the world’s greatest artists.
- Takes us across 450 years of landscape painting
- Features works by the likes of Dürer, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Klee, and many more
- Just requires a standard entrance ticket to the museum
- Runs Mar 26 – Aug 8, 2021
- See also: Albertina visitor & tickets info
City and countryside
(Jakob Alt, Blick auf Wien von der Spinnerin am Kreuz, 1817, Aquarell, Deckfarben © The Albertina Museum, Vienna)
Art museums have faced multiple challenges during the COVID crisis, not least a lack of visitors and difficulties with international loans in a time of travel bans and quarantines.
The “upside” (if we may use that term) is that travel restrictions have encouraged museums to dig deeper into their own collections in their search for fresh and illuminating exhibitions.
The Albertina museum has an advantage here. After all, their depot houses millions of artistic treasures. But even their greatest jewels rarely make it out into the galleries in normal circumstances. Circumstances are, however, a long way from normal; the museum has made a virtue of necessity and, in doing, so, brought some rare masterpieces out into the light.
The City and Countryside exhibition (German: Stadt und Land) presents an overview of landscape art across around 450 years of history. It brings forth around 170 of the wonderful landscapes in the Albertina collection – including many that have remained hidden from public view for decades.
The exhibition, subtitled Between Dream and Reality, takes us on a chronological and stylistic journey through the representation of landscapes in art. As such, we escape the confines of 21st-century Vienna and travel abroad and/or through time on wings of paint and colour.
We find ourselves sharing a view once seen by Albrecht Dürer back in the 15th century. We meander through Renaissance cityscapes, utopian countrysides and watercolours of Vienna as it was 200 years ago. And we take a turn around the more modern vistas of a Paul Klee or a landscape as envisaged by Kubin’s dystopian eye.
The list of artists alone reflects the quality of the exhibition. To those named above we can add the likes of Bruegel, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Poussin, Cézanne, Renoir, Nolde, Caspar David Friedrich and others.
Scouring the immense archives, choosing representative works, and constructing an overarching narrative cannot have been an easy task (and, I imagine, all at relatively short notice), so praise is due indeed to the curator team led by Dr. Eva Michel.
From a visitor’s viewpoint, those old paintings of Vienna intrigue when contrasted with today’s city.
Jakob Alt’s 1817 watercolour (pictured at the top of this article), for example, shows the view across to the city from a 14th-century sculpted tower out in the countryside (called the Spinnerin am Kreuz). That tower still exists and now stands next to a busy 6-lane highway well inside the city limits.
Dates and tickets
Enjoy the views of town and countryside from March 26th to August 8th, 2021. A standard entrance ticket to the Albertina includes access to the landscapes.
If you enjoy landscapes, then Vienna’s other art museums also feature a few tree-filled views captured on canvas.
Try the picture galleries of the Kunsthistorisches Museum with landscapes by, for example, Canaletto (both uncle and nephew) and, of course, the museum’s famous Bruegels. I’m a sucker for the landscapes from the mid-1700s by Johann Christian Brand in a permanent exhibition at Upper Belvedere.
How to get to the exhibition
The Albertina is a mere throw of a paintbrush from the Hofburg complex that dominates the centre of Vienna. Follow the travel tips in the main article.
Address: Albertinaplatz 1, 1010 Vienna