Talk architecture and design here in Vienna and thoughts turn to town palaces and tableware. But the small Of Gardens and People exhibition in the National Library’s Prunksaal places the spotlight on landscape design through the centuries.
- From the Italian Renaissance to modern Vienna
- Full of marvellous old documents and engravings
- Also looks at the people behind (and in) gardens & parks
- Photos, too, including some famous subjects like Klimt
- Runs Mar 30 – Nov 5, 2023
- See also:
Gardens & Parks
(Design for a landscaped garden planned for Laeken near Brussels; coloured hand drawing by Lancelot “Capability” Brown in 1782; © Österreichische Nationalbibliothek)
The Prunksaal (State Hall) of the National Library represents one of those Baroque masterpieces that has your jaw hitting the floor on entry.
One notable absence, though, among the statues and ceiling frescoes is a carefully-trimmed lawn and perhaps a nice herbaceous border next to the barbecue.
An exhibition on garden and park design offers compensation for this omission.
The displays in Of Gardens and People follow three strands.
- The evolution of this design across the centuries, with the transition from Italian Renaissance gardens to today’s modern approaches and needs
- Garden-related themes, such as gardens in literature
- The people behind the gardens and parks: owners, architects, users and the garden staff themselves
Various photos, pictures and books illustrate the points made in the display texts. And this being the National Library (and former court library of the Habsburgs), you can imagine that “photos, pictures, and books” rather undersells what you see.
The variety stretches from 16th century drawings to a photo of Gustav Klimt enjoying a sly outdoor break from the studio. Or a modern-day photo series by Johannes Hloch of the passing of the seasons.
(A gathering in the garden of Villa Moll at Wollergasse 10 in Vienna’s 19th district: Max Reinhardt, Gustav Mahler, Karl Moll, Hans Pfitzner and presumably Josef Hoffmann (from left to right); 1905 photograph; © Österreichische Nationalbibliothek)
So you might view garden plans of Versailles from 1674. Or those of Schönbrunn Palace from 1778: look for point I on the map, which is the zoo that’s still going strong today (albeit with somewhat different enclosures).
English garden design gets a cabinet or two as one of the great eras of landscape architecture. This includes Capability Brown’s 1782 plans for a landscaped garden for Duke Albert of Sachsen-Teschen and Archduchess Maria Christina in Brussels (they had the stewardship of the Austrian Netherlands at the time).
The exhibition also offers a few historical treats outside of its primary scope.
So, for example, we have a photo of a celebratory outdoor banquet at Schönbrunn Palace from 1857.
Or a photo of a few gentlemen enjoying cigars and drinks round the back of a Viennese villa.
The group includes the composers Gustav Mahler and Hans Pfitzner, the painter Carl Moll, the director and producer Max Reinhardt and (probably) the legendary designer and architect Josef Hoffman. It seems unlikely they were discussing last night’s football results.
Dates, tickets & tips
Enjoy a stroll around the lawns and flower beds between March 30th and November 5th, 2023. A ticket to view the Prunksaal includes the exhibition, which flanks the central section of the court library.
Now, should you wish to see some historical gardens and parks for real, then try the gardens at the Schönbrunn and Belvedere palaces or the Burggarten, Volksgarten and Augarten parks.
(The Burggarten is literally just around the back of the Prunksaal.)
How to get there
Follow the travel tips on the Prunksaal / State Hall page, but you’re likely to pass by on any meander through the historical city centre.
Address: Josefsplatz 1, 1010 Vienna