FACING THE MODERN: THE PORTRAIT IN VIENNA 1900, The National Gallery (Sainsbury Wing)

FACING THE MODERN: THE PORTRAIT IN VIENNA 1900, The National Gallery (Sainsbury Wing) until 12 January 2014

If you have not yet been to see this exhibition there is still time to get there.  It celebrates the portrait which was one of the key elements in Viennese fin-de-siècle art. 

Portrait of Hermine Gallia Gustav Klimt 1904 The National Gallery, London

Portrait of Hermine Gallia
Gustav Klimt
1904
The National Gallery, London

Artists, whether well-known like, Egon Schiele, Arnold Schönberg and Gustav Klimt or the less well-known such as Isidor Kaufmann and Broncia Koller were producing the pictures that were commissioned by their patrons.  Many of these were wealthy middle-class people who had moved to Vienna after the formation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867.  They were drawn from a variety of cultures and faiths in a time of economic prosperity and tolerance although by the end the latter was disappearing under a new wave of nationalism and anti-Semitism.

Self Portrait in his Study Carl Moll 1906 Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna

Self Portrait in his Study
Carl Moll
1906
Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna

One room shows the interest in mortality and its depiction whether through death masks or paintings, which to us may be surprising but at the time was an expression of love and affection.  Many of you will have read Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes and he has loaned a photograph album of his family who were a Jewish banking dynasty based in Vienna and which gives a great insight into the times.

Death Mask of Egon Schiele 1918 Wien Museum, Vienna

Death Mask of Egon Schiele
1918
Wien Museum, Vienna

The tradition of people wishing to record their families in pictures by artists still carries on even today in London through galleries such as Fine Art Commissions.

Do go if you can!

Ria Munk on her Deathbed Gustav Klimt 1912 Private Collection Courtesy Richard Nagy Ltd., London

Ria Munk on her Deathbed
Gustav Klimt
1912
Private Collection Courtesy Richard Nagy Ltd., London

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