The writer James Joyce wrote A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. For portraits of writers (including Joyce) by artists of various ages, try the The Gaze from the Frame exhibition at the Leopold Museum.
- Dozens of writer portraits by notable artists and photographers
- The portrayed include many greats of 19th and 20th century literature
- Made possible by a donation by Helmut Klewan
- Runs: May 6 – Aug 29, 2022
- See also:
- Current Leopold Museum visitor info
- Selected other past Leopold Museum exhibitions
- Current art exhibitions in Vienna
The Noblest of the Noble
(Dodo Reifenberg; Gertrude Stein (1874–1946), 2006 © Leopold Museum, Wien – Schenkung Helmut Klewan, Photo: Sammlung Klewan © Bildrecht, Wien 2021)
The Leopold Museum has a multilayered gateaux of an exhibition for us over summer 2022. Consider The Gaze from the Frame as a two-for-the-price-of-one artistic offer.
We have portraits…largely on paper and canvas, created by a host of resonant names: Kokoschka, Picasso, Ohlbaum, Dalí, Beckmann, Manet, Corinth, Munch, Giacometti and Rodin (to name but a few).
So we can enjoy the deft skills and styles of some of the great exponents of pictorial and photographic art.
And we have the subject of those portraits: writers and other literary figures with equally resonant names, such as Cervantes and Chekhov, James Joyce and Jules Verne, Sartre and Shelley, Woolf and Wilde, Dumas, Proust, Simone de Beauvoir, and many more of that ilk.
So we can also explore connections between two forms of creative endeavour and wallow in the artist’s perspective of those who turn ink into words, rather than colours and lines.
The photos, in particular, put faces to names you might only have seen on the front page of a book.
The two genres remain intertwined, of course. Rodin apparently urged would be artists:
…to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.
Creative writing teachers might ask the same of their students.
Voltaire once even observed that:
…writing is the painting of the voice.
And yet Kokoschka’s quote comes to mind:
Open your eyes at last and see…now I will open the book of the world for you, there are no words in it, just pictures.
What does a writer seem to say when they have no words?
Some authors seem inscrutable: the 1930 photo of George Bernard Shaw reveals an indecipherable mix of emotions.
Many seem challenging, as if bemused by the idea that a picture might do a better job of capturing a character than a million words written from the heart.
Others seem distracted, as if away in their own imagination.
And one of two carry the burdens of the world in their eyes, perhaps having looked too closely at the soul of the world.
Incidentally, the dozens of works on display draw on a generous donation to the Leopold Museum by Helmut Klewan. This Austrian gallery owner, writer, and publisher devoted the best part of five decades to building his collection of writer portraits.
Tickets, dates & tips
Enjoy the portraits of the inspired from May 6th to August 29th, 2022. A standard entrance ticket for the museum gets you into the temporary exhibitions.
For much of that time, the museum has one or two other temporary delights to entertain you. These include the Kubin exhibition (a little dark, but somehow suited to the world we find ourselves in at the moment).
For more multigenre art, go up to the museum’s permanent Vienna 1900 exhibition for paintings, furniture, tableware and more from the burning era of Viennese creativity that was the Wiener Moderne.
How to get there
Use the main Leopold Museum article to find the building. You want Level -2 once inside.
Address: Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Vienna