Art News

The National Gallery of Victoria Presents the Greatest Viennese Artists of the Early 20th Century

artwork: Gustav Klimt - "Baby (Cradle)", 1917–18 - Oil on canvas - 110.9 x 110.4 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington. On view in "Vienna: Art & Design - Klimt, Schiele, Hoffmann, Loos" at the National Gallery of Victoria until October 9th.

Melbourne, AU – The National Galley of Victoria is proud to present the eighth exhibition in the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series, “Vienna: Art & Design – Klimt, Schiele, Hoffmann, Loos” will bring together an outstanding collection of almost 240 works by the greatest Viennese artists of the early 20th Century. Vienna: Art & Design will come exclusively to the National Gallery of Victoria from two of Vienna’s most important museums – The Belvedere Museum and Wien Museum (Vienna Museum) along with works from private lenders and public institutions from all over the world.

Visitors will be delighted by the beauty and richness of the works in this extraordinary and comprehensive exhibition, which are on display in Australia for the very first time. This dazzling exhibition will showcase an exquisite selection of furniture, decorative arts, jewellery, paintings and textiles by Vienna’s most famous designers, architects and artists in the period 1890 to 1928. “Vienna: Art & Design – Klimt, Schiele, Hoffmann, Loos” will be on view until October 9th.

This exhibition will explore modernism, individualism, the rise of the Secession movement and the creation of a new style concentrating on the use of colour and design. “Vienna: Art & Design” reappraises the golden age of Viennese art and design, tracing its roots from architect Otto Wagner’s vision for a modern Vienna. The exhibition will include spectacular paintings by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, a fascinating collection of decorative arts including fabulous jewellery by Josef Hoffmann, a remarkable selection of architectural drawings by Otto Wagner, the magnificent designs of the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) as well as sensational works by Richard Gerstl, Koloman Moser and Oskar Kokoschka among many others. Exclusive to Melbourne, “Vienna: Art & Design” will only be shown at the National Gallery of Victoria. It will be the first time that an exhibition of this size and scale focusing on the exquisite design of Vienna will be shown in the southern hemisphere. Stylish, provocative, timeless and unforgettable – the world had seen nothing like Vienna in 1900.

artwork: Wilhelm Gause - "Vienna Municipal Ball", 1904 - Watercolour and oil on cardboard - 62 x 88 cm. Wien Museum, commissioned by the City of Vienna, 1904. On view at the National Gallery of Victoria until October 9th.

In Vienna, at the dawn of the 20th century, life attained a new pinnacle of intelligence, elegance and daring. The unravelling of the vast and conservative Austro-Hungarian Empire created an atmosphere of endless potential. Private life became public spectacle, necessitating a radical reshaping of all aspects of life in the modern metropolis. Living became an art form and art fuelled life with high-octane intensity. Cabarets, coffee houses and nightclubs like the Kabaret Fledermaus (designed by Josef Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstätte) teamed with intellectual ideas and artistic abandon. Pandemonium often attended the difficult birth of genius. Gustav Mahler’s innovative symphonies outraged conservative critics, while whistles and catcalls were to greet Arnold Schoenberg’s equally provocative compositions.

artwork: Egon Schiele - "Portrait of a Boy I (Herbert Rainer)", 1910 - Oil on canvas - 100 x 100 cm. Collection of the Belvedere, Vienna.Scandalous allure and trance-like iridescence radiated from the elegant women immortalised by the paintings of Gustav Klimt. Supple and sleek, and outrageously chic, contemporary design explored bold new forms for every conceivable object of daily use, laying the foundations of the modern industrial look. Defining sexual fragmentation and erotic obsession for a new millennium, Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams, and changed humanity’s psyche forever. As if in response, Egon Schiele and his courageous models explored human sexuality with an unparalleled and startling frankness. Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) was an Austrian Symbolist painter, best known for his paintings of the female form and his prominent use of gold. Klimt’s portraits are all iconic works because of their extreme rarity – although he was widely sought after as a portraitist, Klimt only rarely agreed to take on portrait commissions. The exhibition includes four of Klimt’s most famous female portraits: two of these are of Viennese society patronesses, Fritza Riedler and Hermine Gallia; and two depict Klimt’s close friends Emilie Flöge and Johanna Staude. Klimt’s “Portrait of Hermine Gallia” has a very special relationship to the NGV. The painting originally hung in Hermine Gallia’s apartment in Vienna’s Fourth District, the interior decoration of which was undertaken by Josef Hoffmann in 1913; and the majority of Hoffmann’s furnishings for the Gallia apartment now form part of the NGV Collection. Emilie Flöge, who ran a fashionable women’s clothing store which was decorated by the Wiener Werkstätte, was Klimt’s closest female companion throughout the majority of his life. Klimt’s stunning Fritza Riedler 1906 displays a formal beauty and sumptuous patterning. Vienna: Art & Design will feature a dozen works by Klimt including paintings, drawings and a facsimile of the Beethoven Frieze.

Egon Schiele (1890–1918) studied at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts in 1906, where Gustav Klimt had previously studied. In 1907, Schiele met Klimt who went on to be a mentor for the artist, purchasing his drawings and introducing him to the Wiener Werkstätte.  Schiele later became known for his angular, stick-like portraits of himself and others which explored the human form’s essential animality and sexuality. In addition to striking portraits, self-portraits, and erotic studies, the exhibition includes two of Schiele’s remarkable paintings of sunflowers.  It  will also display several of the city scapes that Schiele painted around 1911, after he moved temporarily to his mother’s home town of Krumau in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). Schiele’s depictions of this medieval city are brooding and moody, refecting the influence of the Belgian Symbolist painter Fernand Khnopff. After exhibiting 50 works in the Secession’s 49th exhibition held in 1918, Egon Schiele died in this same year of Spanish Influenza, at the early age of 28. His mentor Gustav Klimt died in the same year.

Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956) studied architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna with Otto Wagner, graduating in 1895 and becoming one of the founding members of the Secession group in 1897. Together with Koloman Moser, Hoffmann left the Secession group in 1903 to form the Wiener Werkstätte. Hoffmann undertook numerous architectural commissions for the Wiener Werkstätte whilst also working as an interior decorator and designer. His wide range of designs for interiors, everyday utensils, and decorative objects culminated in his adoption of the notion of the Gesamtkunstwerk or total work of art. The greatest example of this was the Palais Stoclet in Brussels, the mansion which Hoffmann designed and the Wiener Werkstätte decorated, furnished and equipped throughout. This exhibition will feature a fascinating range of the decorative arts and furniture designed by Hoffmann from his earliest to his latest designs.

artwork: Josef Hoffman (designer)/ Wiener Werkstatte (manufacturer) / Eugen Pflaumer (goldsmith) - "Brooch (Model no. G 1034)", 1908 Silver, gold, agate, amethyst, coral bloodstone, jasper, lapis lazuli, moonstone. opal, tourmaline - 5.4 x 5.4 x 1.4 cm. Asenbaum Collection, © Asenbaum/Ploil.Adolf Loos, as a stark opponent to the idea of the total work of art and the Viennese Secessionists nevertheless ranks as one of the most important leaders of the modern movement in architecture in the early 20th century. Loos’ impact on Viennese modernism was manifested through his architecture, interior designs and significant body of controversial writings on the philosophy of modern day living and interior design. Adolf Loos’ interiors were fine examples of austere understatement, almost totally free of embellishment. He privileged natural materials including timber and marble, carefully balancing proportions and, above all, practical design. “Vienna: Art & Design” will feature works from Loos’ Langer apartment, showcasing the strong juxtapositions between the two major designers of the period: Loos and Hoffmann.

This year the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is celebrating its 150th anniversary year, a major milestone in the history of Australia’s first public art gallery. Founded in 1861, it is the oldest and the largest public art gallery in Australia. When the gallery first opened in 1861, Victoria had been an independent colony for just ten years, but in the wake of the Victorian gold rush, it was easily the richest part of Australia, and Melbourne the largest city. Generous gifts from wealthy citizens, notably industrialist Alfred Felton, made it possible for the National Gallery to start purchasing large collections of overseas works from both old and modern masters. It currently holds over 67,000 prime works of art. In 1959, the commission to design a new gallery and cultural centre was awarded to the architectural firm Grounds Romberg Boyd. In 1962, Roy Grounds split from his partners Frederick Romberg and Robin Boyd, retained the commission, and designed the gallery at 180 St Kilda Road (now known as NGV International). The building was completed in December 1967 and opened on 20 August 1968.

A new gallery space, The Ian Potter Centre, in Federation Square opened in 2003 and houses the Australian art collection. Grounds’ building just south of the Yarra River now houses the international collection. It reopened in December 2003 after four years of renovations by architect Mario Bellini. The gallery’s name has caused some confusion over the years, as Victoria is not, and never has been a nation, but a state of Australia, and there is also the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra. However, the NGV was founded some 40 years before the founding of the Commonwealth of Australia, when Victoria was a self-governing British colony and the name alludes to that period, when Victoria was a discrete political entity. It was also established more than a century before the National Gallery in Canberra. According to former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, “We won’t be renaming the National Gallery of Victoria. It has a great tradition. It is the biggest and best gallery in the country and it’s one of the biggest and best in the world.” A famous event in the history of the gallery was the theft of the Pablo Picasso painting “The Weeping Woman” in 1986 by a person or group who identified themselves as the “Australian Cultural Terrorists”. The group took the painting to protest the perceived poor treatment of the arts by the state government of the time and sought as a ransom the establishment of an art prize for young artists. The painting was returned in a railway locker a week later. Visit the museum’s website at :