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Belvedere, Vienna

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Belvedere palaces and gardens

Belvedere palaces and gardens are one of the most important places of interest in Vienna. There are two palaces, Upper and Lower one and a great garden between the two and behind the Upper Palace. When you are coming from the city center you go past the Lower Palace first. It is quite a small one and the gardens around it were much more interesting for me. But in the Upper Palace which is much bigger and more interesting, there is one of the nicest picture galleries I have ever seen. Not only the pictures there are interesting, but also the great baroque interior. [more ]

Portraiture at the Belvedere

These four artists are represented by their portrait work in the
Belvedere, and it is interesting to compare four of these portraits
side by side.

Painted three years after his marriage, Ferdinand Hodler's
Ergriffenheit (Emotion, 1901) is a realist yet expressionistic work,
conveying what could only have been the combination of romance and
sexuality the artist felt still in the early phase of wedded life.
This painting is both an example of Hodler's own style he dubbed
Parallelism, which is a throwback to ritual dance in painting, and his
tendency to portray characters engaged in everyday activities.

Franz Matsch, a founder of the Art Nouveau school, was ennobled before
his death. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was a favorite of the
nobility, which is reflected in his work. Austere, non-radical, it is
nonetheless stunning. His Hilde und Franzi Matsch, die Kinder des
Künstlers (1901) is a portrait of his two daughters at young ages and
makes excellent use of color and texture.

It's interesting to compare Hilde und Franzi with Kolo Moser's
Selbstbildnis, which bears a striking resemblance to Egon Schiele's
Der Verleger Eduard Kosmack (also in the Belvedere). He uses few
colors, focusing on the gold tones of the man's skin, which are cooled
off by the pale blue background.

Anton Faistauer is, next to Schiele, one of my other favorites. He
organized Neuekunstgruppe (New Art Group) with several other artists
just a few years before painting the Junge Frau auf dem roten Sofa
(1913). In the style of Cezanne, it has rich colors and simultaneously
smooth and rough edges.

These four paintings are some of the more hidden gems in the
Belvedere. It's interesting in a museum such as this to find similar
linking threads in artists from the same period and see why they are
all treasures of the museum. [more ]

Gerstl at the Belvedere

To label Richard Gerstl as a Secessionist is inaccurate and doing the
expressionist artist a disservice. However, you wouldn't be alone in
doing so and, given Gerstl's abject rejection of the Secession
Movement (calling Klimt pretentious) didn't win him too many fans
during his lifetime. One teacher even likened Richard's painting style
to the way most men urinate on snow (though in much more colourful

Gerstl didn't exactly have the best breaks in Vienna; he was a bit
reclusive, particularly in the art world; he burned his studio one
night (one of many signs of his psychological imbalance); and his
popularity was stinted by the National Socialists just as he was
beginning to get recognized (though this was years after his suicide
in 1908).

What's fascinating about this artist, and his place in the Belvedere,
however, is the amount of artistic influence seen in each painting.
Two musts in the museum are The Sisters Karoline and Pauline Fey
(1905), which shows influence from Edvard Munch (of The Scream fame),
and his Laughing Self Portrait (1908), painted just before his death
and showing traces of Van Gogh. While others flock to the museum's
Schieles and Klimts, check out the works of Gerstl to get another side
of the Fin de Siecle art that defined Austria's capital. [more ]

Kokoschka at the Belvedere

Oscar Kokoschka's Stillleben mit Hammel und Hyazinthe (1910) was the
first work by the artist that the Belvedere acquired, and it hasn't
been the last. The deceptively innocent works of Kokoschka, including
the Stilleben mit Hammel and Dr. Bassa´s Magische Form (1951) were in
fact metaphors for the state of Vienna/Austria in the early to mid
20th Century. He further masked social commentary under his color
palettes, which were vibrant and painted with Van Gogh-like
imprecision and wide strokes.

Portraits show the inside of their subjects first, rather than the
outside, exposing souls with tools as simple as canvas, brushes, and
paint. Even with colors and images that a child could enjoy,
Kokoschka's work was turbulent; defiant of artistic norms at the time,
and quite revolutionary.

Be sure to check out Lamb and Hyacinth (one of the twelve pieces by
the artist that the Belvedere has in its collection). My personal
favorite, however, is Der Rentmeister (auch der „Schatzmeister")
(1910). [more ]

Schiele at the Belvedere

Egon Schiele is by far my favourite artist of the Secession Movement,
possibly my favourite Austrian artist, and easily in my top five list.
He is well represented at the Belvedere (though for the real deal, you
have to hop over to Museums Quarter and check out the Leopold Museum).

Don't miss Tod und Mädchen/Death and the Maiden (1915), one of the
many examples of Scheile incorporating his own facial features into
the males of his paintings. Tod und Mädchen is trademark Schiele;
moody, muted colours, emotional and raw. Along these same lines is Die
Familie (Kauerndes Menschenpaar) (1918), where Schiele used both
himself and his wife to serve as models for the parents; the child
they never had in the center. In the same year that The Family was
completed, Schiele's wife died. He followed suit three days after,
cutting off his career just as it was beginning to flourish.

Other Schiele musts here are Die Umarmung (Liebespaar II, Mann und
Frau) (1917), the strikingly colourful and serene Vier Bäume (1917),
and Der Verleger Eduard Kosmack (1910). [more ]

Klimt at the Belvedere

If you can only see one museum in Vienna and you want to get a good
feel for the Austrian artists, particularly those of the Secession
Movement, the Belvedere is your stop. The most famous work here is by
far Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss" (1909), which, while Italian-influenced,
is thoroughly Austrian.

Also by Klimt in the Belvedere is Farmhouse in Upper Austria (1911)
which is an interesting and refreshing departure from his portrait and
other figure work. And the Gustav doesn't end there--the Belvedere is
home to the world's largest Klimt collection. You'll recognize works
like Judith I (1901) and Fritza Riedler (1860-1927) (1906) from dozens
of Penguin and Oxford Classics book jackets (not to mention a slew of
postcards sold in tourist shops across the city). His form work is at
its best in Die Braut (1918) and Wasserschlangen I (Freundinnen I)
(1904 - 1907), where vibrancy of colour, simple facial features, and
complex backgrounds reign supreme.

An interesting Klimt to also check out is one of his earlier works,
Sonja Knips (1873-1959), geb. Sophie Amalia Maria Freifrau Potier des
Echelles (1898). The portrait of the 15 year old Sonja Knips (born
Sophie Amalia Maria Freifrau Potier des Echelles) is widely different
from the work that would come to define Klimt's artistic persona.
Lifelike, stately, regal, classical, it shows another side of perhaps
the biggest name in Austrian art. [more ]

Art and independence at Belvedere

It was a rainy day when I visited the Belvedere Palace – the drizzle only adds to the baroque beauty of the edifice that now houses the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere museum. What seems to be the greater attraction of the palace is its extensive landscaped gardens. Being situated on higher ground, the view over the gates offers an extensive panoramic view of the cityscape; and like most of the great architecture in Vienna, the palace and its grounds are adorned with brilliant works of sculpture.
The Austrian State Treaty that formed modern Austria (in May 15, 1955) was signed here, making it the crux of more than 50 yeas of Austrian independence. [more ]

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