Monday, 8 May 2017

Leopold Museum

The Leopold Museum is a huge, white shell-limestone cube set in the Museum Quarter of Vienna, and is named after Rudolf Leopold (1925-2010), a Viennese opthalmologist who began collecting art as a student in the 1950s. 

Leopold bought his first Egon Schiele very cheaply, and then went on to amass a huge private collection of 19th-century and modernist works of art, along with African carvings. Leopold rightly believed in Schiele's art works, and was savvy enough to acquire much of Schiele's work in a period when Schiele's reputation still suffered as a result of the scandal which led to his imprisonment. So deep and damaging were the accusations against Schiele that collectors shunned his work for many years after his death. More power to Leopold then for seeing merit in the work and creating this marvellous collection. 

In 1994 Leopold sold his collection (5266 paintings) to the Austrian government for the less than market price of €160 million. Had they been sold on the open market they would have made €574 million for Leopold. The museum contains the largest collection of Egon Schiele's work which includes 41 paintings, and 188 drawings and graphics.

The limestone atrium of the Leopold is huge and airy, but on the day I visited two floors of the museum were closed for the installation of new shows. The remaining two floors however, were full of amazing gems by Schiele and Klimt as well as other Vienna Secession members. It is a truly amazing collection that covers all of Schiele's oeuvre and the themes which haunted him, such as motherhood, blindness, flight/levitation, loss and death. There is much great art here, but this is a small selection of stunning pieces that really had me in their thrall.

Seated Male Nude, Self-Portrait - (1910)
Cardinal & Nun, Caress - (1912)

Dead Mother - (1910)

Blind Mother - (1914)

 Mourning Woman - (1912)

The Lyricist - (1911)

 The Lovers - (1918)

Levitation - (1915)

Mother With Two Children II - (1915)

Revelation - (1911)

Moa - (1911)

Portrait of Wally Neuzil - (1912)
Self-Portrait With Raised Shoulder - (1912)

Self-Portrait With Physalis - (1912)

Self-Portrait With Lowered Head - (1912)

The Hermits - (1912)

 Dead City On The Blue River - (1911)

Houses By The Sea - (1914)

Setting Sun - (1913)

Leopold must have been fabulously wealthy, and particularly astute when it comes to knowledge of the art market, because among the works he purchased that are also on display complementing Schiele's are these by his mentor Klimt.

Gustav Klimt - The Large Poplar II, (1903)

Gustav Klimt - On Lake Attersee, (1900)

Gustav Klimt - Seated Young Girl, 1894

Gustav Klimt - Death and Life, (1910-11)

There were also these superb Secessionist/Art Nouveau graphics to publicise the Secession exhibitions, and some beautiful Wiener Werkst├Ątte product design in the form of furniture, and home accessories by the likes of Josef Hoffman and Koloman Moser. The little souvenir metal book in which women would write down the names of dance dates at the Concordia Ball below, by Josef Hoffman is a really lovely piece of design and echoes the spirals in Klimt's work. It is one of the things I would have loved to have brought home with me.

Josef Hoffman - Concordia Ball notebook, (1909)
Koloman Moser - Wardrobe, (c. 1902-1903)

Koloman Moser - Secessionist Chair, (1903)

Koloman Moser - Armchair (c. 1903)

Josef Hoffman - Sitzmaschine (Machine For Sitting), (c. 1905)

The Leopold Museum was an amazing experience, and although the dark themes explored by Schiele are not to everybody's tastes it is a collection I would highly recommend to any art lover on a visit to Vienna. Again, as with the collection at the Belvedere, there really aren't enough superlatives for this collection of the intensely haunting, expressionist work of Schiele. I thought that the Schiele's seen at the Albertina retrospective and Schloss Belvedere were great, but these paintings were even more compelling. I think my favourites were The Hermits, Levitation and Seated Male Nude, as these were really large, substantial pieces, and had a power that affected me most. Their ghosts still linger. Both Schiele's and Klimt's art has that ability to get under your skin and embed itself firmly into your subconscious. Truly powerful stuff.

Leopold Museum
Museums Quarter
1070 Vienna