Friday, April 18, 2008

The Belvedere Museum, Vienna

Once again we're in Vienna for a few days, so while the Big P is in meetings I went off exploring one of my favourite museums in Vienna- The Belvedere. The well-chosen name comes from the Italian refering to a vantage point with a beautiful view. When it was built in the 17th century as the palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy, it would have been considered to be in the country, but now it is located just outside the center of Vienna. It includes the Upper Belvedere, the Lower Belvedere, and the outstanding garden divided into several terraces. Various royal families have lived in the Belvedere, including Maria Theresa, Emperor Joseph II, and the Archduke Frans Ferdinand. Nowadays the Upper Belvedere houses works of 19th and early 20th c. art, and the Lower contains the Museum of Medieval Art, and the Baroque Museum.

I love medieval art and so for me a visit alone in the Belvedere is a treat- really a spiritual experience for me. I love the iconography, the altarpieces, the religious statues. Figuring out the symbols is like working out a difficult puzzle! To spend time with these pieces is good for my soul, then a lingering walk up through the huge gardens gives me time to contemplate life before I go into the Upper galleries to view the Klimts. You know Klimt- his most famous work is The Kiss, and here is where you will find it. It's just as awesome as you'd expect it to be. Sensual, romantic, iconic. I could stand there and enjoy every little detail for the whole afternoon, but this time I noticed Klimt's landscapes on the otherside of the room, and they completely entranced me! Maybe because I've been painting landscapes recently myself, I was wowed by his technique and definitely need to research this a bit more.

There was also a temporary exhibit on of the works of Oskar Kokoschka, the "Enfant Terrible" of Austrian expressionism. Definitely NOT my taste! Personally, I was offended by his drawings of nude children, and I wouldn't consider myself a prude. I guess it's our modern sensitivity to the abuse of children, but I couldn't help but wonder where the line should be drawn. Who were the models? Who allowed them to pose? How would that have affected their psyche? Anyhow, the exhibit disturbed me, something that art should sometimes do.

A wander through the gift shop made me realise how ridiculous souvenirs actually are. I bought two books- The Eyewitness Companion to Art (I love their travel guides), and a small guide to the Belvedere, and then walked through the rain back to our hotel. A good day, a thought-provoking day, and one that was good for my spirit!


swenglishexpat said...

Sounds like a very interesting museum. "The Kiss", wow! Maybe I'll put Vienna on the list?

Anonymous said...

So many wonderful things to do in Vienna. It took me a while to warm up to the city, but now I love it.

There is a mexican restaurant near the Belvedere that is supposed to be half-way decent, but I never seem to get there when they are open.

Re: expressionism - the Neue Galerie in NYC doesn't allow visitors under 12 because of the content of some of the paintings.

Wave to the Steffl for me (not the shopping center!). :)