Vienna-born Joseph Rebell counts as one of Austria and Europe’s preeminent landscape painters of the early 19th century, particularly of sun-drenched vistas in Italy, where the warmth of the day seems to escape the frame.
The In Southern Light exhibition at Lower Belvedere allows us to see Rebell’s genius for ourselves.
- Located in the palace’s orangery
- Features over 100 works
- Runs Jun 15 – Nov 13, 2022
- See also:
In Southern Light
(Joseph Rebell, Sunset over the Campi Flegrei looking towards the islands of Procida and Ischia, 1819 © Belvedere, Vienna)
Considering the relative bleak nature of 2022, we could all do with escaping into the Italian sun.
Perhaps rest against the trunk of some ancient olive tree, uncork a bottle of fine Tuscan wine, and enjoy a moment of respite from the daily toil. For a moment, all will be well with the world.
Given the unfortunate lack of olive trees in Vienna, an alternative proposition might be to dive into the landscapes of Joseph Rebell (1787-1828) in the orangery of Lower Belvedere.
Born and educated in Vienna, Rebell spent most of his working life in Milan, Naples and Rome. The warmth, accuracy and beauty of his landscapes, alongside his skillful portrayal of light, marked him as a leader and pioneer of realist painting in this genre.
Rebell’s work attracted the attention (and purchasing power) of royalty and nobility across the continent, including Emperor Franz I, Emperor of Austria.
As well as commissioning works from Rebell, the emperor invited him to become director of the Imperial Picture Gallery (a forerunner of today’s Belvedere institution).
We actually learn about Rebell’s modernisation of the Gallery in the exhibition. Sadly, he only held the director position for a short time before his untimely death at the age of just 41.
In Southern Light draws on collections from throughout central Europe to bring together around 70 paintings by Rebell, as well as some 40 drawings. Belvedere itself owns over 20 of his works, including a self-portrait.
The works transport us through forests and riversides, from the Phlegraean Fields of Naples to the Italian lakes of the north and beyond…with the occasional foray into other subjects.
For example, the exhibition includes a series of paintings documenting French military engineering efforts during Napoleon’s occupation of the Lobau landscape just outside Vienna.
The most striking paintings, though, always seem to be those where the sun dips below the horizon or slips behind trees and rocks. Or those presented under the theme “Natural Phenomena as Subjects.”
Look, particularly, for the scars of orange on the Mordor-like landscape of the Vesuvius eruption at night overlooking the Scuola di Virgilio painting from 1822. Or the shafts of light breaking through storm clouds on the artist’s coastal paintings.
Then, once you’re done with the elemental forces of nature, return to Rebell’s more languid landscapes. Bring sandals and sun cream.
Dates, tickets & tips
Enjoy some Italian sun and a soft summer Latin breeze from June 15th to November 13th, 2022. A ticket for Lower Belvedere includes the orangery and Rebell exhibition.
Treat yourself to a little more southern flair on oil and canvas inside the Lower Belvedere palace itself for at least part of the same time: the Viva Venezia! exhibition explores the link between Venice and Austrian art, as well as art’s role in developing or reflecting the myth of the lagoon city.
And to escape into more landscapes of the past, walk up to Upper Belvedere to find some glorious 18th-century ones by Johann Christian Brand. Or drop into the picture galleries of the Kunsthistorisches Museum for decent efforts by Bruegel, Canaletto, van der Neer, Guardi, and others.
How to get there
See the directions for Lower Belvedere. Once inside, head for the west wing and walk through to find the orangery.
Address: Rennweg 6, 1030 Vienna