Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900
9 October 2013 – 12 January 2014
An exhibition that traces the rise of modern art during the Austro-Hungarian Empire through the portraits of the Vienna Secessionist painters Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka.
Vienna, in the years leading up to the First World War, was a city with an identity crisis. It was at the crossroads of Europe and the centre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which had been disintegrating internally for many years.
This exhibition reveals the upheavals occurring concurrently in modern art through the portraits of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. These artists, who pioneered a new form of art called Expressionism, sought to strip away the artifice and reveal the turbulent conflict beneath using a combination of uncompromising subject matter, suppressed sexuality, and psychological introspection in their paintings
The portrait of the society hostess Hermine Gallia was painted by Klimt in 1904 and depicts a woman of wealth and influence, dressed in the finest Paris fashions. However the awkward angle of her head and Klimt’s concentration on the dress on the left hand side of the painting suggests insecurity in the subject. The painting was smuggled out of Austria to Switzerland by the family in 1938 when the Nazis invaded.