Sunday, 26 April 2020

Belvedere Museum Revisited

I couldn't resist another visit to the Belvedere Palace complex (previously here), on my trip to the Austrian capital, so once again stretched my legs on the walk across the city in the winter sunshine. The Sphinxes on the outside were still there, silent and enigmatic as ever, fiercely guarding the treasures contained within. In some ways this visit was markedly more pleasant than my first. The difference being that there appeared to have been a change of policy at the museum. On this occasion the Belvedere's gallery assistants were much more relaxed and friendlier than previously, engaging visitors in conversation, and allowing us to take more photographs of the building and certain artworks than before. It led to a better, more welcoming atmosphere within the museum, and consequently a very enjoyable visit.

This section of the museum on the ground floor contains the Belvedere's collection of Medieval paintings and sculptures. It was one area where photography wasn't previously allowed. I was particularly struck by the beauty of the trompe l'oeil murals and fantastical grotesques adorning the ceiling in this section and was happy to be able to record them with my camera.

After having enjoyed the ground floor I then made my way up to the first floor to see the Belvedere's Great Hall and collection of 20th C. paintings.

Gerold Tusch - The Three Gorgons, 2013

The installation at the top of the staircase of these modern ceramic vases adorned with writhing serpents evoked the Gorgons on the facade of the Secession building across town. 

 Gorgons on the Secession Building facade.

Gerold Tusch - The Three Gorgons, 2013

Still gurning with Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.

Looking out through the windows of the upper floor, halfway through my visit to the Belvedere, I watched the weather turn as the sunshine disappeared and the tail-end of storms Denis/Ciara which I had escaped in the UK blew in, finally catching up with me. The skies clouded over, the heavens opened, and the rain poured and poured onto the neatly manicured gardens within the Belvedere grounds.

I then turned my attention away from the outer landscape to those of the interior landscapes hung on the Belvedere's walls. My eyes adored following the colourful, circular paths of the hypnotic lines of Hundertwasser's painting. He is in my opinion, a better artist than architect. I also really like the classical stylings of Franz Von Stuck's painting technique. The faun in the bleak wintry landscape of this painting really reminded me of the fictional character of Mr Tumnus from the C.S. Lewis's Narnia books. The two works by Schiele weren't on display during my last trip so it was great to see something new of his in the galleries. The Klimt landscapes were just as wonderfully scenic as ever.

 Friedensreich Hundertwasser - The Large Path, 1955

Franz Von Stuck - Lost, 1891

Egon Schiele - House Wall (Window Wall), 1914

Egon Schiele - Four Trees, 1917

Gustav Klimt - Farm Garden with Sunflowers - c1912

Gustav Klimt - Flowering Poppies, 1907

Gustav Klimt - Forester's House in Weissenbach on the Attersee I, 1914

Gustav Klimt - Judith I, 1901

As good as Klimt's landscapes are, his female portraits are even more stunning. Foxy, femme-fatale Judith I is still absolutely ravishing.

Gustav Klimt - Fritza Riedler, 1906

Of course the main attraction and the one artwork all visitors still want to see and photograph at the Belvedere is The Kiss, and thankfully we were now allowed to freely snap away. The reaction was crazy, it was mobbed!

Gustav Klimt - The Kiss, 1907-8

The Kiss, detail

My visit having drawn to a close, I emerged from the Belvedere to the sight of a magnificent rainbow, a sign of hope, and adopted as a symbol of such in the circumstances we currently find ourselves in with the lethal coronavirus. I had planned to go next to the Lower Belvedere (the orange-roofed building in the picture below), but was informed that it was closed for the installation of its next exhibition - Into The Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art, which funnily enough, had already been seen and enjoyed here by myself at the Barbican back in London a couple of weeks earlier. In that exhibition there was a great section on the former Viennese night spot Cabaret Fledermaus. I was to encounter the original location of the Cabaret Fledermaus later on in the day whilst in the centre of Vienna, and was fortunate enough to see even more of the fantastic Wiener Werkstätte designs used in Cabaret Fledermaus too.

Upper Belvedere (Belvedere - Oberes Belvedere)
Prinz-Eugen-Straße 27,  
1030 Wien