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.
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.
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.
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!