The two main museums we saw were the Belvedere Palace (Upper) on May 18 and the Kunsthistoriches Museum of Art on May 19. I went to the Belvedere on my own on May 18. Anita had suffered a pretty bad sprain on the 17th that affected her mobility. She had recovered well enough by May 19 for us to visit the Kunsthistoriches Art Museum in Maria-Theresien Platz, the Secession Museum, have lunch in the Haschmarkt, shop and take in the romantic ballet, La Sylphide, at the Staatsoper (the famous Vienna State Opera House). We had a fabulous last day and night in Vienna!
First let me introduce a map I put together showing everywhere we visited or used in Vienna during our 8 days there: May 3, 4 and 15-20.
May 18 – Belvedere Palace and other Activity
The Belvedere Palace was built by Prince Eugene of Savoy, who got very rich because the Habsburgs appreciated the wonderful job he did in repeatedly successfully fighting the Ottomans, French, Italians, Spanish, Saxons and Russians spanning six different decades. Eugene, unrivaled before or since in Austria, was rejected by the French for not looking like a general (too short and ugly). A genius in both military and diplomatic strategy, Prinz Eugen served three Austrian Emperors, Leopold I, Josef I and Charles VI, between 1683 and the 1730’s. Eugene loved architecture with a passion and was deeply involved in the design of the Schloss Belvedere. He died in 1736, frail, aged 72.
The Belvedere holds many works by Klimt and owns even more (here a list and photos), some of which are on loan to other museums or large enough, like Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze, to need a special space in the Secession Museum. The Belvedere also has many other kinds and periods of art, such as a medieval section and a room featuring the expressionistic self-portrait sculptures of the 18th C. Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.
The most famous Klimt piece in the Belvedere is The Kiss (see above pictured brochure). No photos were permitted of the art upstairs, but I mistakenly/fortunately snapped one of Messerschmidt’s busts before being cautioned.
May 19 – Kunsthistoriches, Secession, Naschmarkt, and Ballet
By now you know I’m a Klimt fan. You had to squint to see Klimt’s work between the tops of the archways in the main central atrium of the Kunsthistoriches, and there is a special telescope supplied by Swarovski Optik for examining Klimt’s work plus that of his younger brother and friend, who shared this project with Klimt.
The first three photos in the following gallery explain what to look for. I should have read the brochure and I should have used the scope. The next six show work by older masters like Titian.
And, because I’m a fan of the Milanese-born innovator, Caravaggio, here are three of his works from the Kunsthistoriches:
2. Secession Museum and Naschmark Visit:
We walked from Maria-Theresien Platz to the Secession Museum. Secession refers to a progressive movement that departed from traditional art styles mainly in France, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Belgium from 1890 to 1910. There were different styles of departure, Art Nouveau being the choice of Klimt. Art Nouveau includes architecture as well as painting. Budapest has many buildings that are considered Art Nouveau. The biggest secession movement was in Vienna. In 1902 the progressive artists dedicated their annual exhibition in tribute to Beethoven. Klimt contributed a huge new piece of art, his Beethoven Frieze, to the show. Seven feet high, 112 feet long and 4 tons (it was painted on the walls) in weight, it was not planned to be permanent. Nevertheless it was removed and preserved, finally being shown again in 1986.
The work is in a four-sided room in the basement of the Secession building. It graphically and sensually interprets the suffering of humanity, our desires for happiness being frustrated by external evils and internal weaknesses. Ultimately, human dedication to artistic creativity wins out. The Ode to Joy by Beethoven being one example… The amazing accomplishment of the aging German genius’ composing his greatest symphony, his 9th, when he couldn’t physically hear what he mentally pictured says much about our species at its unique, rare best.
We sat in the room and interacted with the Frieze for about 25 minutes. After our short visit we walked to the Naschmarket and had lunch at an outside table.
3. U-bahn, Tie Shopping, Staatsballet, Sleep, Airport
Then we took the U-Bahn back to Neubaugasse station, bought a tie for me (a costly suitcase omission) for our Ballet evening at the Staatsoper, having booked the tickets on the Internet in February. The ballet, La Sylphide, was visually stunning. It was danced in true sylph-like form by the amazing Belarusian, Irina Tsymbal, First Soloist of the Wiener Staatsballet. Pierre Lacotte’s version was performed. The music was not inspiring, the fault of a mediocre composer, Jean Schneitzhoeffer, and not the orchestra. The dancing en pointe was very innovative, scandalous even, in 1832. This ballet, still popular today, was the first true romantic ballet.
The next morning we got into a prepaid taxi that our resident student, Christina, had organized for us. It is a very safe way to go to the Vienna Airport. Our driver, Vladimir, was originally from Bosnia. I told him about the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation series on the Balkans, in which Eleanor Wachtel interviews writers from the original Yugoslavia. I enjoyed our little philosophical conversation.
That’s basically it for Vienna. Future posts will cover the other countries visited on our tour.
Auf wiedersehen, Wien.