Mention Oppenheimer these days and thoughts turn to the father of the atomic bomb. But the Leopold Museum draws our attention to another same-named pioneer in a more peaceful field of endeavour: Max Oppenheimer and expressionist painting.
- Explores Oppenheimer’s oeuvre and motifs
- Also includes relationships to contemporaries like Schiele & Kokoschka
- Runs Oct 6, 2023 – Feb 25, 2024
- Book Leopold Museum tickets* online
- See also:
(Max Oppenheimer, The Chess Match, 1925/30 © Oesterreichische Nationalbank; photo: Sammlung Oesterreichische Nationalbank)
Earlier in 2023, Lower Belvedere had an exhibition of large-format works. The kind that might fill a wall or need you to unscrew the doors to get them into the gallery.
Many paintings left a lasting impression on me, including a remarkable work titled The Philharmonic: Gustav Mahler conducts at its centre with the vibrancy of an orchestral piece brought to life in the musicians and instruments that surround the great composer.
Vienna-born Max Oppenheimer (1885 – 1954) began the painting in 1926 and completed it in 1952.
Despite the mastery of the brush and canvas visible in such pieces as The Philharmonic, Oppenheimer has not often enjoyed the recognition he deserves. The Leopold Museum makes up for this unwarranted oversight with a big exhibition around his works and motifs.
(Max Oppenheimer, String Quartet, c. 1941 © Oesterreichische Nationalbank; photo: Sammlung Oesterreichische Nationalbank)
The full exhibition title of Max Oppenheimer. Expressionist Pioneer acknowledges his role as one of the groundbreaking artists of his time, even if history has cast a fog of neglect over his reputation.
Oppenheimer, for example, exhibited at the legendary Kunstschau exhibition in 1908, where Klimt’s The Kiss first saw the light of day. Schiele was an admirer, and the Leopold Museum also places Oppenheimer in the context of his fellow contemporaries as they together pushed back the borders of art.
Schiele became a friend, as evidenced in reciprocal portraits of each by the other, and Oppenheimer even spent time working in Schiele’s studio.
A friendship with Oskar Kokoschka, for example, proved less enduring, morphing into a rivalry and worse. Kokoschka even sought to exploit his international influence to bring Oppenheimer’s work into disrepute.
(Max Oppenheimer, Portrait of Egon Schiele, 1910 © Wien Museum; photo: Wien Museum / Birgit and Peter Kainz)
Not long after the Kunstschau, Oppenheimer left the country for long periods in Berlin and Switzerland, only returning to Vienna in 1931. In an all-too-common fate for artists with Jewish heritage, he was forced to flee Austria with the rise of the Nazis and eventually died in the US in poverty.
The exhibition presents numerous works, including the portraits and portrayals of music and concerts for which Oppenheimer is perhaps best known. I’ll add more detail when I’ve had a chance to take a closer look.
Dates, tickets & tips
Discover Oppenheimer’s pioneering art from October 6th, 2023 to February 25th, 2024. An entrance ticket from or for the Leopold Museum includes the special exhibitions.
(Booking service provided by Tiqets.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
For much of the same time, the Leopold Museum shines a light on another artist deserving of greater appreciation, namely the multi-talented Gabriele Münter. And, of course, you also find the likes of Schiele and Kokoschka in the museum’s permanent Vienna 1900 exhibition.
How to get there
Follow the travel tips on the Leopold Museum main page. You should see the Oppenheimer exhibition on Level -1.
Address: MuseumsQuartier, Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Vienna