From 24 October 2014 to 8 February 2015, the exhibition LOOKING AT MONET in the
Orangery presents icons of Impressionism within a synthesis unique
across Europe, as well as their multiple impacts on domestic art production. Thanks to
first-rate loans from around the globe, the exhibition assembles key works by
Claude Monet, some of which have never been on view in Austria. Eighteen years after
its legendary Monet exhibition in 1996, the Belvedere presents some 30 principal works by Claude Monet, some of which have never been on view in
Austria, including the world-famous paintings of Rouen Cathedral, several versions of
Waterloo Bridge in London, and the late paintings of the water lilies. These will be juxtaposed
with works by such Austrian contemporaries and followers as Gustav Klimt, Herbert Boeckl,
Heinrich Kühn, Carl Moll, Emil Jakob Schindler, Max Weiler, and Olga Wisinger-Florian. Their
works exhibit and visualise the traces the Frenchman left in Austrian landscape painting and photography.
Monet as a Source of Inspiration
The life of those days was marked by profound changes: such technological inventions as the
steam engine, the railway, the telegraph, the chemical industry, and industrial production
provoked an unbelievable acceleration of life, to which photography could not respond
properly. It may well have been able to reproduce faces, buildings, objects, plants, or
landscapes much more exactly, yet initially it could not capture movement. Atmospheric
manifestations were also largely excluded from being rendered by photography.
This is where a new type of painting came into play. It was able to lend expression to modern life, to this
enormous acceleration of daily routine, and to the diversity of new societal developments curator Stephan Koja says. And it was able to deal with such fleeting phenomena as weather, atmospheres on the surface of water, fog, mist, wind, and smoke, declaring the
interplay of light and colour its favourite theme. It was capable of addressing the subject of
progress, considering smokestacks, locomotives, steamships in the harbour, etc. as motifs Stephan Koja explains.
An aestheticism of the spontaneous of swift representation emerged, relying on the
tradition of a bravura painting style that had been cultivated by painters from the Baroque age
to the present day. Austrian artists, too, were faced with the phenomena of a rapidly changing
epoch and the challenges of its adequate depiction, and they also tried to find answers.
However, they were confronted with a cultural climate that was by far more conservative and
which, in the sphere of the visual arts, was dominated by the Künstlerhaus in Vienna as the
institution moulding and dictating taste. Nonetheless, there had been such painters as
Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller or Rudolf von Alt, who, in their constant search for a more
convincing rendering of nature, had painted outdoors and sought to augment the intensity of
Impressionist Tendencies in Austrian Painting
Particularly French art produced from the late nineteenth century on undoubtedly paved the
way for modern European painting of the early twentieth century. Many artists felt attracted to
Paris as an art metropolis. However, around the turn of the century there were also more and
more possibilities to study contemporary French art in the German-speaking area.
Nonetheless, it took a while until Austrian painters began to deal with Impressionism in their
art: first Impressionist tendencies can be observed around 1890. It was primarily younger
artists who adopted typically Impressionist themes.
Austrian painters also voluntarily embraced the Impressionist principle of perceiving an object
as a manifestation of light. Younger artists increasingly felt at ease with Impressionism, so that
references to the style were openly made from the turn of the century onwards.
Claude Monet, Path in Monet’s Garden in Giverny, 1902