Egger-Lienz and the War

Danse Macabre

Existential questions of life and death run through the entire oeuvre of the painter? Albin Egger-Lienz (1868–1926), one of the most important pioneers of Austrian Expressionism, to whom the Belvedere will devote an exhibition in spring 2014. The artist’s war paintings are impressive memorials warning against the horrors of fighting and violence.
In 1906, the purchasing commission of the Modern Gallery, today’s Belvedere, commissioned the artist to create a work. In time for the diamond jubilee of Emperor Francis Joseph I and shortly before the 100th anniversary of the Tyrolean Wars of Liberation, Egger-Lienz delivered the painting Danse Macabre of 1809, the earliest surviving version of a motif with which he frequently dealt between 1906 and 1921. When the painting was first presented publicly on the occasion of the jubilee celebrations, its non-festive atmosphere was felt to be a provocation; in 1914, it was interpreted as foreboding of World War I, whereas the National Socialists tried to abuse the work in order to justify the idea of dying a hero’s death.

Starting out from the painting Danse Macabre of 1809 and presenting numerous further works by the artist, the exhibition Danse Macabre: Egger-Lienz and the War traces Egger-Lienz’s artistic evolution and elucidates various references and lines of interpretation.