The Viennese Academy played a decisive role in defining art in the Hapsburg Empire from the 18th century onwards. An important role was played by painters such as Jacob van Schuppen, Martin van Meytens, Paul Troger, Friedrich Heinrich Füger or Johann Baptist Lampi the Elder, who served as professors and rectors. Franz Anton Maulbertsch is certainly counted among the most notable graduates, whose expressive style broke with tradition. Alongside Maulbertsch, who acquired great popularity in later years, there are other painters of this era who deserve mention: the brothers Franz Anton and Franz Xaver Karl Palko, Franz Sigrist the Elder, Josef Ignaz Mildorfer or the now obscure Franz Anton Schunko. Many of the graduates of the Viennese Academy gained fame throughout all areas of the Hapsburg Empire and thus ensured that the practices and teaching taking place in Vienna became widespread.
Following the death of Paul Strudel in the first half of the 18th century, Georg Raphael Donner emerged as one of the most outstanding and influential personalities in the disciplines of sculpture and the plastic arts. Although he never did belong to the academy, his style was introduced to the institution by his younger brother Matthäus. In addition to Donner, Giovanni Giuliani and Lorenzo Mattielli were the most important master sculptors active in Austria. Later Balthasar Ferdinand Moll, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt and Friedrich Wilhelm Beyer would be counted among the most highly favoured sculptors – most of all by the Imperial Family. It is also important not to forget Johann Georg Dorfmeister and Johann Baptist Hagenauer when speaking of Austrian sculpture of the Baroque period.
The diverse range of application of art in the Baroque period obliged artists to specialise in one of the many genres. While an artist – whether a sculptor or painter – might be capable of succeeding as a portrait artist, others acquired work mainly in the decoration of churches, monasteries or castles. Several oil sketches in the Belvedere collection are reminiscent of these large frescos and alter pieces. Alongside all of this, the landscape painters – at the time already internationally recognised – continued to produce fantastic work. Johann Christian Brand assumed a prominent position in this area. He acquired acclaim not only for the development of the painting of real landscapes – landscape portraits– but also paved the way for the landscape painting of the 19th century through his teaching endeavours at the Viennese Academy.
A significant task undertaken by Baroque painters and sculptors was the artistic decoration of churches and monasteries. Masters such as Paul Troger and Martin Johann Schmidt, referred to as “Kremser Schmidt”, and also Franz Anton Maulbertsch produced exceptional work in precisely this area. The Baroque principle of harmonious interplay between the individual art forms is clearly evident in the castle chapel in the Upper Belvedere with its altarpiece by Francesco Solimena and the frescos by Carlo Innocenzo Carlone.
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