Austrian obsession with flower painting from Waldmüller to Klimt at Vienna's Belvedere
Read more Symbolism is an art movement that has been reflected in painting, literature and music. It emerged in the 1870s-1880s in France, later spread to Belgium, Norway, and the Russian Empire. It reached the peak of popularity at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. Symbolism is characterized by sadness, introspection and understatement: as if an artist came to quiet despair, but he was too shy to talk about these feelings, so he painted them.
The reasons for this Austrian speciality are not entirely obvious, but Johannsen’s archival research has revealed, among other things, an active collaboration of the Academy of Fine Arts and the Vienna Porcelain Manufactory. The academy instituted a specific class for flower painting that became part of the production process for porcelain floral pieces, which were in great demand due to the taste of the growing middle class and the new Biedermeier fashions.
The first heyday of flower painting was in the Biedermeier period with its magnificent arrangements of flowers. The genre of flower painting in this period includes the "discovery" of Austrian nature, the opulence of the Ringstrasse era, and also the transformed blooms that return to stylization in around 1900 (Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele).
The exhibition opens with works by some little known artists of the Biedermeier era—Josef Kleiber, Josef Nigg and Franz Xaver Petter—but culminates with some outstanding paintings by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, whose fine, lustrous brushstrokes, alongside pieces of silverware or porcelain, ennobled his simple garden flowers.
Left: Josef Nigg. Blumenstrauß, 1838.
- Pauline Koudelka-Schmerling. Blumenkranz mit Madonnenrelief, 1834. Belvedere, Vienna
- Olga Wisinger-Florian. Blühender Mohn, um 1895/1900. Belvedere, Vienna.
Flower painting had a subsequent flourishing from the second half of the century to 1914. The city’s population and wealth increased, notably following the enfranchisement of the Jews. Here was another great market for domestic-scale works of art like the flower paintings, which Barbizon- and Impressionist-inspired Austrian artists such as Anton Romake and Carl Schuch.
Hans Makart’s flower pieces mark the Modernist turn and introduce the paintings of his most famous student, Gustav Klimt, and his Secessionist contemporaries, Koloman Moser, Michael Powolny and Egon Schiele, with which the exhibition concludes.
Left: Egon Schiele. Bildnis Dr. Franz Martin Haberditzl, 1917. Belvedere, Vienna.
Based on materials from official site of Belvedere museum, the Artnewspaper