In the seventeenth century, it was primarily international artists who achieved great renown in the territory of present-day Austria. Only towards the end of the century can one begin to speak of Austrian painting of the High Baroque, which nonetheless was marked by a strong Italian influence. Among its prominent representatives, besides Martino Altomonte, are most notably pupils of the German-Venetian Johann Carl Loth, including Johann Michael Rottmayr, Hans Adam Weissenkircher, Johann Carl von Reslfeld, and not least Peter Strudel, who was a celebrated painter in his day and founded a protoacademy to ensure that young artists received an education. This academy, which engaged specialists from every genre, later became the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. From the eighteenth century onwards, the art of the Habsburg Empire was marked by the influence of the Vienna Academy, where painters like Jacob van Schuppen, Martin van Meytens, Paul Troger, Friedrich Heinrich Füger, and Johann Baptist Lampi the Elder were active as either professors or rectors. One of its foremost graduates was certainly Franz Anton Maulbertsch, whose expressive style broke with tradition and who later gained great popularity.
Other important artists of the time were the brothers Franz Anton and Franz Xaver Karl Palko, Franz Sigrist the Elder, Josef Ignaz Mildorfer, and Franz Anton Schunko, whose career is difficult to trace today. Many of the graduates scattered to the far corners of the Habsburg Monarchy, thereby spreading what they had practised and learned in Vienna.
After the death of Paul Strudel, one of the most outstanding and influential personalities in the field of sculpture in the first half of the eighteenth century was Georg Raphael Donner. Although he never belonged to the Academy, his style was nevertheless propagated at this institution by his younger brother Matthäus. Apart from them, Giovanni Giuliani and Lorenzo Mattielli were the most important masters active in Austria. Later on, Balthasar Ferdinand Moll, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, and Friedrich Wilhelm Beyer numbered among those sculptors who were in favour – especially with the imperial family. Johann Georg Dorfmeister, Johann Baptist Hagenauer, and members of the Schwanthaler dynasty were other important representatives, especially in terms of Austrian Baroque sculpture.
The diverse applications of art in the Baroque also required that an artist specialize in one of the various genres. While some artists – whether sculptors or painters – were able to succeed in portraiture, others would find work mainly decorating churches, convents and monasteries, or castles. Numerous oil sketches in the Belvedere’s collection are reminders of these large commissions for frescoes and altarpieces.
Several landscape painters also achieved major accomplishments. Johann Christian Brand occupies a special place in this area, for he not only contributed to the development of realistic landscape depictions, the so-called ‘landscape portraits’, but also paved the way for the landscape painting of the eighteenth century through his teaching at the Vienna Academy.
A primary task of Baroque painters and sculptors was the artistic decoration of churches, convents, and monasteries. It was precisely in this domain that masters like Paul Troger and Martin Johann Schmidt, called Kremser Schmidt, as well as Franz Anton Maulbertsch, created their most exceptional works. The Baroque principle of a harmonious interaction of the individual genres is illustrated by the palace chapel in the Upper Belvedere, with its altarpiece by Francesco Solimena and the frescoes by Carlo Innocenzo Carlone.
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