Leopold Museum: Vienna, Austria

Leopold Museum is in Vienna’s Museum Quartier and showcases one of the world’s largest collections of Austrian modern art across seven floors. I started on the top floor which exhibits ‘Vienna 1900’ focussing on the city’s art nouveau movement including works by Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann as well as examples of Wiener Werkstätte design from furniture, to silver, glass and jewellery. Klimpt and Matsch’s three allegorical commissions for the Great Hall of Vienna University caught my eye as progressive artworks, and interestingly sparked public furore at the time leading to Klimpt withdrawing his contract, returning his fee and repossessing the paintings! The next floor down displays ‘Self Abandonment and Self Assertion’ comprising over 40 paintings and 190 works on paper by Egon Schiele (making it the largest collection in the world). Schiele created portraits, nudes and cityscapes in a highly original and at times quite haunting style, I was also struck by the sheer volume of works completed considering he died aged just 28 of Spanish flu. The museum also contained ‘A Rush of Colour: Masterpieces of German Expressionism’ and whilst I failed to appreciate many of the paintings due to their stylistically distorted shapes, over-emphasised contours and reductionism which leaves only essential features of an image, I did however enjoy many of the woodcuts and lithographs by Enrich Heckel, Karl Schmidt, Christian Rohlfs, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Beckmann. Having already seen three large exhibitions I was tempted to skip the Peter Sengl retrospective, but am so pleased to have persevered as it was arguably my favourite. The exhibition opens with a room full of paraphrased masterpieces from The Leopold with Sengl inserted into artworks recently viewed on adjacent floors. The entire show is full of colour and energy, synonymous with the Austrian artists’ idiosyncratic and provocative creations.

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