The Biedermeier era was the period between the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the 1848 revolution. Austrian painting at this time is marked by its endeavour to present a realistic portrayal of the visible world. Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller is the chief representative of this artistic movement, other key figures alongside him were above all Josef Danhauser, Friedrich von Amerling, Peter Fendi, Michael Neder and Friedrich Gauermann. The Belvedere owns the largest and most inclusive collection of Viennese Biedermeier in the world.
During the Biedermeier era, Viennese painting scaled quite superlative heights of quality. Content and form harmonised during this epoch into an aesthetic unity, moreover, the creative spirit was born on the aspiring wings of change.
Landscape painting was constantly searching for a realistic rendering that approached nature, for instance Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller’s views of the Prater or the Salzkammergut from the 1830s, also the Landscape near Miesenbach by Friedrich Gauermann, and the Salzburg motifs by Friedrich Loos.
Historical painting was not only a vehicle for describing the past, but also a contemporary way of reporting the present, an exact record of experience, for instance the Controversy of the Coachmen (1828) by Michael Neder.
Portraiture for its own part strove to represent people with their own, personal idiosyncrasies: realistically and mostly "warts and all". Here again it is Waldmüller who earns the most laurels. Amerling, on the other hand, painted figural ensembles of exquisite delicacy; he hadn’t so much the wish to recreate a "copy" of the face as to convey an image of the subject’s total persona. In doing this, he interwove a story into the composition, as in the Portrait of the Arthaber Family (1837).
Meanwhile, pictures of flowers and fruit were invested with supreme painterly expertise and based on profound scientific observation.
However, the most impressive achievements of this era were in genre painting. Whether inspired by the rural population, the bourgeoisie, or the working classes, it communicates to us today a graphic impression of everyday life and special festive occasions. Waldmüller’s Corpus Christi Morning relives children’s joys, The Brushwood Gatherers in the Vienna Woods (1855) by the same artist documents the daily drudgery and toil of the farming population. Danhauser then again illustrates the depths of the human character is his Opening of the Testament (1839).
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