My stay in Vienna wouldn’t be complete without visiting at least one museum. With all the museums in this city, it would be regrettable to not visit even just one.
For my first museum trip, I specifically chose to visit the Albertina. I felt that their line-up of exhibits at that time would suit my taste: Egon Schiele, Eduard Angeli, Maria Lassnig, Acting for the Camera, and the permanent exhibit of Monet to Picasso.
Indeed, it did!
The first exhibit that I visited was Eduard Angeli’s. Silence and melancholy were very much evident in his works. People were included less and less in his paintings until the subject became the remains of abandoned spaces or dark, lonely places. But what I found most impressive about Angeli’s style was his mastery of shades and perspective. There was a section wherein same subjects were depicted using different points-of-view or were rendered in different colors.
The next one I viewed was the exhibit for Egon Schiele. The name might not seem familiar to some but Schiele was actually an important Austrian artist, mentored by no less than Gustav Klimt. In fact, when Klimt died, Schiele was assumed to replace his mentor’s place in the Austrian art world. This exhibit displayed works from his early years as an artist up until his death. Schiele’s focus on the human body was very apparent; he made portraits of his patrons, of women, and often even of himself such as the one posted below (note: the lower portion was cropped).
Another Austrian artist was also featured in the museum: Maria Lassnig. Her early paintings focused on what was called ‘body awareness’. The result was a body of works that evoked meaning through color and communicated how Lassnig felt about the subject, not necessarily how the subject actually looked like. Many of those works had body parts for titles like, for instance, pelvis. However, the rendering of the pelvis was in no way similar to the ones that we might see in biology or anatomy books; rather the pelvis was interpreted through color and what was communicated was not how a pelvis actually looked but how the artist felt about it. This style of Lassnig would later change by necessity. When she moved to New York, her style was not as well-received. That situation was quite unfortunate but one good thing that came out of it was Lassnig’s branching out to film. In my opinion, some of the strongest statements she had could be found in her works that used or that were about film and cameras.
Next, I visited the Monet to Picasso exhibit, also known as the Sammlung Batliner Collection. Entering the gallery, I first saw the works of Monet, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, and other impressionists and post-impressionists. Initially, I couldn’t believe I was finally seeing those works – those works which I used to gaze at only in art history books. Several small rooms comprised this exhibit. All the artworks were impressive. What with the names like Picasso and Monet. But, among all the beautiful and meaningful artworks in this particular exhibit, what really caught my interest were the following:
5. Joan Miro’s Birds and Insects (1938)
When I entered the section of the gallery where Miro’s paintings were displayed among many others, my attention was instantly directed at this painting. It was probably the way the colors and images seemed to pop out which attracted me to it.
4. Franz Sedlacek’s Ghosts on the Tree (1933)
This painting played a trick on my eyes. From afar, I thought there were birds perching on a leafless or rather a lifeless tree. On second look, I realized that the creatures perching on the tree were ghosts. Even the viewing felt like I saw an apparition!
3. Paul Delvaux’s Landscape with Lanterns (1958)
The mysterious scene caught my attention. Likewise, I was impressed by the lines and the lighting in this painting.
4. Gustav Klimt’s Mermaid’s (1899)
The richness of the greens and the golds added luxurious sensuality to the mermaids and perhaps even hinted of the danger they might bring.
1. Edgar Degas’ Two Dancers (1905)
This painting kept me coming back to the corner where it was hung. Perhaps I was attracted to how well Degas portrayed the lightness of the dancers. The colors he chose and the strokes he made helped bring out that quality in the subject.
The last exhibit I viewed was Acting for the Camera which featured different people posing or presenting themselves in front of the camera. The photographs in this exhibit were taken with various subjects and purposes in mind. Some photos were of dancers, some of actors and actresses, some of models. There were pictures that studied motion, depicted aging, told stories, or staged the body in the style of Viennese Actionism.
Worth mentioning too were the Albertina State Rooms which I visited as I went to other floors or wings of the museum on the way to other exhibits.
It took me around four hours to look at all the exhibits. If I had more time, I would have stayed even longer to study the artworks better as I felt that more meaning could be unpacked from them. All exhibits spoke about themes that were at once currently relevant and universal. Truly, it was a wise decision to visit the Albertina. I saw many artworks which I have always wanted to see and I also discovered new names.
With the exception of the permanent collection, exhibits in the Albertina last for only a certain period of time as the museum features different works and artists. As of my writing, Acting for the Camera is no longer on display. Egon Schiele is still available until the 18th of June, Eduard Angeli until the 25th of June, and Maria Lassnig until the 28th of August. The Sammlung Batliner Collection (Monet to Picasso) is permanently exhibited in the Albertina.
While the exhibits may come and go, the Albertina has consistenly showcased great works and artists. You’ll realize that when you see the list of past exhibits along the stairway going to the locker rooms. Michelangelo. Seurat, Signac, Van Gogh. Film Stills. Warhol to Richter. Miro. Surrealism. Edvard Munch. And that’s just naming a few. Listing all of them would be too long. Better: visit this museum when you go to Vienna. It’s worth it. Check www.albertina.at for more details.