Location: Lower Belvedere
The era of Maria Theresa is widely seen to epitomize the magnificent Baroque style and luxurious splendor. The many abbeys, monasteries, and palaces dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries – including Prince Eugene’s former summer residence, the sumptuous Belvedere – have shaped the image of Austria to this day, further cemented by the revival of the Baroque style in Historicism. The exhibition Baroque since 1630 reflects this connection between country and style as a symbol of national identity by posing the questions: What is Baroque and how do we identify with it today? The show traces various strands in the development of Austrian art and focuses on artists from later generations. By combining works by Anton Faistenberger, Gerhart Frankl, Oskar Kokoschka, Hans Makart, Franz Anton Maulbertsch, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, Lilly Steiner, Paul Troger and other artists, the show should convey that far from wallowing in the past, Baroque in fact formed the foundations of modernism.
In 1923 – now ninety years ago – the Austrian Baroque Museum was opened in the Lower Belvedere. The aim was to present the public with a coherent impression of this glamorous epoch, which to this day is associated with splendor, luxury, and opulence, and to establish Baroque as a significant chapter in Austrian art history. The exhibits were originally from various state collections, augmented by loans from private collections and the Church. Thanks to active acquisitions – currently there are over 900 masterpieces in the museum’s Baroque holdings – the Belvedere today has one of the greatest collections of art from the styles Baroque and Historicism, including the largest cohesive collections of works by Franz Anton Maulbertsch and Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.
Since 1630 – Austria from the Baroque to the Present
The exhibition Baroque since 1630 shows works from the Baroque epoch of Maria Theresa as well as the art of Historicism, classic modernism, and the twenty-first century. It juxtaposes art from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with works containing traces of Baroque masters and motifs from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As Baroque art was long tainted by the image of being old-fashioned and overly ornate it was not until the second half of the nineteenth century, at a time of historical revivalism, that Baroque gained widespread acceptance as a style. In the centuries after the purported “Golden Age” of Maria Theresa, the glorious days of Baroque were usually invoked at times of political weakness. Baroque theatricality, for instance, was emulated in the architecture of Historicism and appeared in many buildings. Shortly after 1900, the young generation of painters associated with Oskar Kokoschka recognized the expressive character of Baroque art; similarly post-war artists defined themselves by adopting a Baroque language of forms in their expressive compositions.
Religious Art, Sensory Delights, Still Life, Beauty – Death
Baroque since 1630 encompasses paintings and sculptures from the seventeenth through to the twenty-first century and illustrates the influence of Baroque art in all its variety, ranging from imitation to inspiration to paraphrase. A delight for the senses, vitality, and death are key concepts. The exhibition makes space for large sculptures, religious and allegorical depictions from the Counter Reformation, exquisite still lifes, as well as illusionistic ceiling frescoes, detailed landscapes, and compelling portrayals of the human body. The Baroque works are always grouped with modern examples in order to demonstrate the profound influence of certain characteristics on subsequent art.