Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900

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Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900

Date and time

9 October 2013 – 12 January 2014

Sainsbury Wing Exhibition

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'A complicated, probing and philosophically fascinating show
Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times

'Many of the pictures in this exhibition are of the highest possible quality'
Richard Dorment, The Daily Telegraph

The striking paintings of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka star in this major exhibition which examines the central role portraiture played in Viennese painting around 1900.

Vienna 1867 to 1918 – a time of artistic, cultural and social upheaval

From 1867 to the end of the First World War in 1918, Vienna was the imperial capital of Austria-Hungary; one of the largest countries in Europe. In times of economic renewal and religious and ethnic tolerance, the city’s burgeoning, multicultural middle class declared its wealth and status through portraits, as well as its political sympathies and artistic tastes. In the years leading up to 1918, portraits often depicted anxiety and alienation, reflecting a rise in conservative, nationalistic and anti-Semitic mass movements and the collapse of the empire.

With a view to the modern and an eye on the past, painters such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Richard Gerstl and Oskar Kokoschka – as well as important yet less widely-known artists such as Arnold Schönberg, Broncia Koller and Isidor Kaufmann – produced work that was commemorative yet critical, cautious yet radical.

An earlier generation of Viennese painters is represented by Hans Makart and Anton Romako.

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Works on display

Paintings from major collections, including the Belvedere in Vienna and MoMA in New York, are shown next to rarely seen, yet remarkable images from smaller public and private collections.  Works on canvas are shown alongside drawings and the haunting death masks of Gustav Klimt (1918); Ludwig van Beethoven (1827), Egon Schiele (1918) and Gustav Mahler (1911).

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Image above: Detail from Gustav Klimt, 'Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl', 1917-18 © Belvedere, Vienna, Donated by Vita and Gustav Künstler

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