Yesterday B and I ventured forth to visit the National Gallery of Victoria Winter Masterpiece Exhibition, which this year features the art and design of Vienna from the late 19th Century to the early 20th Century, with such artists & designers as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner and Koloman Moser being among the major exhibits.
Although I have loved Klimt’s art since the early 1970s when I first became aware of it, I admit to being somewhat ignorant of the period in which he worked. This is despite the fact that I possess in my personal library a book called The Sacred Spring – The Arts in Vienna 1898 - 1918 which perfectly covers the period and art of the exhibition today. I’ve looked at the pictures of course, but not read the commentary.
Anyway, today my ignorance was addressed and I emerged from the exhibition immensely impressed with the stylishness of the period and with a sounder knowledge of how it all came to be.
There were quite a few paintings by Klimt – both portraits and landscapes and also a replica of his Beethoven Frieze painting, a feature of the Secession Hall in Vienna. It was thrilling to see his pictures in person, like this portrait of his long time companion and muse Emilie Flöge.
and this portrait of Fritza Reidler
Egon Schiele’s paintings were also featured. I love this self portrait of his young self – he looks very cool and quirky.
and this portrait of a boy dressed in Japanese costume. (Schiele, like many other artists in the period was heavily influenced by Japanese art)
As well as paintings, the exhibition covered architecture, furniture, and design. This was where the exhibition really shone. The items on display were exquisite examples of the period – surprisingly modern- and rivalled the Art Deco exhibition of a couple of years ago.
For instance, this wonderful reproduction of the Die Zeit facade designed by Otto Wagner. The picture below does not do it justice. It is a marvel of metal (aluminium) and glass.
There was a video of the interior of the building – it was beautifully light and kind of retro space age . Below are a few of the furnishings, also designed by Wagner. I really dug the warm air diffuser.
The surprise discovery of exhibition for me was the design work of Koloman Moser. Multi skilled, he designed furniture, tableware, jewellery, posters and textiles and also was a painter – his self portrait is below.
Poster for 13th Secession by Moser
Also impressive was the design of Josef Hoffmann, who like Moser and Wagner was multi skilled in a number of disciplines. He and Moser founded the Wiener Werkstätte, which brought together architects, artists and designers whose first commitment was to design art which would be accessible to everyone.
Below are two of Josef Hoffman’s tableware items – a mustard pot and a set of cutlery.
A great many of the artists and designers on display were members of the Vienna Secession which was formed in 1897, and represented a break away group of artists, seceding from the conservative Vienna Kunstlerhaus. The Secession group held many exhibitions in their own building constructed by Joseph Maria Olbrich.
The exhibition displayed quite a few of the posters advertising the exhibitions. The one below was one of my favourites, though all of them were stunning, design wise.
Needless to say we emerged from the exhibition, after wandering through it for two hours, our minds blown by what we had seen. It was a fabulous and eye opening show of extraordinary brilliance.
The pictures above are mostly scans of postcards I purchased, as is my habit, at the Gallery shop, or from the program.
Next week I’m going to the Tutankhamen exhibition at Melbourne Museum.