Location: Upper Belvedere
In line with the central responsibilities and strengths of a museum – preserving, presenting, and expanding its collection as well as conveying information about it – the Belvedere has been presenting its exhibition series Masterpieces in Focus since 2009. Twice a year, it highlights special aspects of Austrian art history, thereby concentrating on certain themes, individual artists, or exceptional masterpieces from the collection. The tenth exhibition and publication project realized within the Masterpieces series is dedicated to Michael Neder, this highly idiosyncratic exponent of Austrian Biedermeier, whose oeuvre is difficult to classify in terms of both style and motifs when compared to the output of his more prominent contemporaries. Displaying some 60 works, MICHAEL NEDER - Without Compromises is the first show to analyse the largely unexplored and unnoticed production of this sober chronicler of his time. Integrated into the permanent collection at the Upper Belvedere, this first monographic exhibition on Michael Neder is meant to demonstrate the superior artistic quality of his work in the form of oil paintings and drawings. By comparing his early to his late output and juxtaposing his portraits to his genre scenes, the show traces the evolution of the artist’s personal style and illustrates how he deliberately employed his characteristically austere style as a means of expression, thereby condensing form, reducing movement, and eventually arriving at an ideal mode of rendering his rural subject matter.
Due to his uncompromising style and characteristic choice of motifs, it is difficult to associate Neder’s work with the mainstream painting typical of the Biedermeier period and practiced by his more prominent contemporaries, such as Peter Fendi, Friedrich von Amerling, Moritz Michael Daffinger, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, and Josef Danhauser. Neder’s artistic production rather took place at the periphery and has therefore largely remained unexplored and unnoticed. This very lack of attention needs remedying and has consequently prompted this exhibition. Michael Neder did not aim to produce pleasing images, but to depict his surroundings as they presented themselves to him. His works illustrate facts and are not intended to embellish or literarily elaborate on the given circumstances, so that today they represent valuable documents of the past. His pictures show people in inns, merry get-togethers at country fairs or in wine taverns, and such everyday routines as servants performing their chores and winegrowers doing their work. Throughout his long career, Michael Neder displayed a consistent tendency to condense form and reduce movement to the absolutely necessary minimum, so that he increasingly distanced himself from common contemporary taste. Neder contrasted the schematized organization of his compositions with a superbly painterly modelling of his figures. Due to its formal reduction and spatial flatness, The Return of the Herd, one of his masterpieces, betrays entirely modern traits as early as 1844, designating the artist as a pioneer whose style was far ahead of his time and which only was to find a modern equivalent in the realism of the interwar years.