Visiting the Leopold Museum, Vienna

The Leopold Museum is a relatively recent addition to the museum scene in Vienna, formally opening it's doors in 2001. It's basically a shrine to Viennese modern/20th century art and artists... housing the largest collection of paintings and drawings by Egon Schiele in the world as well as a large collection of Gustav Klimt's works on paper. It's also home to TONS of work by Viennese secessionist painters as well as their post-WWI-counterparts in Germany (and the other Germanic nations).

I've always appreciated Gustav Klimt and feel he has one of the most universally engaging artistic styles. Everyone, man/woman/child... stops in front of the Klimt paintings in every museum I've ever visited. There's just something about his built-up but ethereally translucent skin tones and all that gold-leaf; the juxtaposition of his super-bright palettes and stylized, elongated, figures that stops you in your tracks. I don't recall the first time I saw a Klimt painting however I'm sure I liked it straight away.

But it took me a while to 'come around' to Egon Schiele's sensibilities... he was never on my artistic horizon/radar growing up and I didn't love his work at first sight. I might never have known who he was had I not moved to Manhattan in my early 30's.

As a bachelor living in NYC 10 or 15 years ago it seemed every woman I dated had a Schiele print hanging somewhere in their apartment. That was my introduction to his work and in hindsight it's hard to believe I'd never heard of him. But those are the hazards of being a self-taught and self educated artist. It takes 20 extra years to absorb the cannon when you've got nobody to spoonfeed it to you. Anyway. I've definitely rounded the corner on this guy... I finally get it!

Like Van Gogh, the key to appreciating his style is his persistence of vision and consistency over time (from drawing-style to painting-style, year after year); and how he's melded his artistic vocabulary into something completely identifiable and original WITHOUT pigeon-holing himself into some gimmicky and easily copied "formula" - and not so much his technical execution - that infuses his work with a liveliness and personality much contemporary fine-art lacks. It's a real shame he died at 28... he'd have been an unbelievable middle-aged artist.

This museum is great if you're into Schiele. Unbeatable, even. But if you're not (my wife isn't) the museum can feel a bit redundant and fundamentally overpriced and underwhelming. I thought it was a fine way to kill a couple of hours in Vienna, though definitely prefer the Albertina and Kunsthistorisches.

#schiele #vienna #leopold #klimt #gustav #museum #paintings

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