The Biedermeier era covers the period between the Congress of Vienna in 1814–15 and the revolution year of 1848. Yet paintings as late as the 1860s have been attributed to this epoch. The pictures are characterized by striving for a true-to-life representation of the visible world and are thus termed Biedermeier Realism. This period’s most important artists were Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Josef Danhauser, Friedrich von Amerling, Peter Fendi, Michael Neder, Johann Baptist Reiter, and Friedrich Gauermann.
The Belvedere owns the world’s most comprehensive and significant collection of works from the Biedermeier era. It originated from the wish of Emperor Franz II (I) and Ferdinand I to acquire at least one work by every contemporary artist. It is thanks to this endeavor that today one can superbly trace the development of Austrian art in the first decades of the nineteenth century.
In landscape painting artists were in constant quest for true-to-life realism. Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller’s views of the Prater park in Vienna and the Salzkammergut from the 1830s demonstrate these concerns, as does Landscape near Miesenbach by Friedrich Gauermann and the scenes from Salzburg by Friedrich Loos.
In portraiture the aim was to capture a complete image of the person, rendering sitters with all their individual idiosyncrasies. Whereas Waldmüller depicted people with maximum realism, as if presenting a “snapshot”, Friedrich von Amerling strove to create a complete image, in which the sitters’ emotions were captured as well. Thus, his large-scale portrait Rudolf von Arthaber and his Children Rudolf, Emilie, and Gustav (1837) addresses the family’s grief after losing their wife and mother.
In the Biedermeier era, flower and fruit painting excelled in painterly quality, supported by well-researched scientific observation. This is demonstrated by many examples in the collection, including the large-scale painting Jacquin’s Monument by Johann Knapp.
In the first half of the nineteenth century genre painting developed its own distinctive character. This usually focused on episodes from everyday life, occasionally tackling current events. Peter Fendi, for instance, addressed the thriving gambling industry in his painting Girl at the Lottery (1829). Artists’ own experiences were also documented, as the Coach Drivers’ Quarrel (1828) by Michael Neder reflects. Josef Danhauser, on the other hand, transported literary subjects into the present day, thus highlighting their timelessness. For example, the artist based his painting The Rich Glutton (1836) on the Biblical parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In his Monastery Soup (1838) he continued the story: the rebuffed beggar forgives the now poverty-stricken glutton by offering to share his bread with him.
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