Picture this!

The Belvedere Collection from Cranach to Lassnig

Artists in their time: How does an era shape its art? How do artists respond to upheavals and crises while themselves being part of social developments?

This presentation of the collection looks beyond a purely stylistic history of art to focus on the interactions between art and society. Influenced by the political and social environment, migration, international networks, and also by economic conditions, artistic production reflects the complexity of its time.

Each section of the display highlights selected self-portraits. They act as a leitmotif, offering an insight into the changing image and self-conception of artists through the centuries, ranging from anonymity and dependence to autonomy. The self-portraits accompany the visitor on this chronological tour through the world-famous collection of the Belvedere—through eight hundred years of art history from the Middle Ages to the 1970s.

Curated by Björn Blauensteiner, Verena Gamper, Sabine Grabner, Arnika Groenewald-Schmidt, Maike Hohn, Alexander Klee, Harald Krejci, Georg Lechner, Katharina Lovecky, Franz Smola and Luisa Ziaja.


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1200 – 1600

Middle Ages – Renaissance

The earliest works in the Belvedere’s collection are paintings and sculptures dating from the late 12th century up to around 1600. These displays chart the transition from Romanesque to Gothic art and finally to the emerging Renaissance. A key development was the shift from anonymous art in the service of religion to self-confidently signed works that gave a new visibility to artists.

1600 – 1800


Pomp and drama characterize Baroque art, yet in this period we also encounter realistic depictions of landscapes and everyday objects. Important works com- missioned by the aristocracy and the Church paint a diverse picture of the time. Entirely unique are Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s “Character Heads,” a mysterious series that has inspired multiple interpretations and continues to fascinate viewers to this day.

1800 – 1865

Neo Classicism – Biedermeier

In the late 18th century, society and conceptions of art started to change. Artists began looking less to the events of the past for their subject matter and turned their attention to the here and now, with all its social contrasts in town and country. At the same time, the depiction of nature gained in importance with the mountains of the Salzkammergut and the Berchtesgadener Land as particularly popular motifs.


Vienna around 1900

Toward the end of the 19th century, Vienna was growing into a metropolis. Numerous artists were engaged in creating decorative schemes for the grand buildings of the Ringstrasse. This flourishing of the arts paved the way to the foundation of the Vienna Secession. Gustav Klimt was already Vienna’s most acclaimed painter; the Belvedere acquired The Kiss during the artist’s lifetime. This period also saw growing recognition and renown for women artists.


1900 – 1920

Emerging Modernism

Industrialization fundamentally altered society. Higher educational standards were needed and the state professionalized schools and vocational training, drawing tuition included. This had a profound impact on artistic creativity. At the same time, new technology simplified and accelerated communication and exchange, as demonstrated by artistic networks and their magazines such as Der Sturm and Die Aktion.

1920s – 1950s


For many artists, the end of World War I restored opportunities to discuss concepts and utopias in an international exchange of ideas. The rise of nationalism, totalitarian dictatorships, and finally World War II isolated artists and destroyed livelihoods. It was only after 1945 that combined efforts gradually reunited artists and international commonalities fostered an openness to new approaches in art.

1960er – 1970s


In the 1960s, the relationship between art and society became highly dynamic. Viennese Actionism reacted to the repressive religious and post-Nazi atmosphere by provocatively introducing the human body as a material of art. At the same time, in the course of the civil rights and women’s movements, a generation of feminist artists emerged who dismantled patriarchal structures and gender roles.




Installationsansicht "CARLONE CONTEMPORARY: Dara Birnbaum. Bruckner: Symphonie Nr. 5 B-Dur"
Installation view "CARLONE CONTEMPORARY: Dara Birnbaum. Bruckner: Symphonie Nr. 5 B-Dur"
Photo: Johannes Stoll / Belvedere, Vienna
exhibition room with arched ceiling and moss green walls,vague pictures of people on them
Exhibition view Georg Eisler. Tracing life
Photo: Johannes Stoll / Belvedere, Vienna


Accompanying the redisplay of the collection, contemporary art will be introduced to the Baroque Carlone Hall in six-monthly shows. These will engage with the mythological pictorial programme and build a bridge between the art of the old masters and the present. The museum thus questions itself and is repositioned as a place of inspiration, reflection, and experience.


Current exhibition


IN-SIGHT is a series of temporary exhibitions held at the Upper Belvedere to highlight specific aspects of the museum’s collection. The public is presented with works of art in the context of new scholarly research.


Current exhibition

Smartify Audiotour

Gustav Klimt, Liebespaar (Kuss)
Gustav Klimt, Liebespaar (Kuss), 1908 (vollendet 1909), (Detail)
© Belvedere, Wien

Vienna 1900. Gustav Klimt and His Time

Vienna on the cusp of the twentieth century: grand imperial city, magnet for artists and intellectuals, melting pot of many nations. Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka shaped fin-de-siècle Vienna with their artistic innovations. This tour brings together outstanding works of art from this tumultuous time.

Available in:  🇦🇹 🇬🇧
Available until 31 December, 2024
Upper Belvedere
18 audio stops, 40 min.



Ausstellungsansicht der Schausammlung
Exhibition view of the Permanent Collection
Photo: Ouriel Morgensztern / Belvedere, Vienna

Picture This! The Belvedere Collection from Cranach to Lassnig

How does an era shape its art? How do artists respond to upheavals and crises while themselves being part of social developments? Discover eight hundred years of art history from the Middle Ages to the 1970s on a chronological tour through the Belvedere’s world-famous collection!

Available in:  🇦🇹 🇬🇧
Available until 31 December, 2024
Upper Belvedere
32 audio stops, 60 min.



Außenansicht Oberes Belvedere
Exterior view Upper Belvedere
Photo: Eva Würdinger / Belvedere, Vienna

The Belvedere in Austrian Sign Language (ÖGS)

Discover the Belvedere in Austrian Sign Language! Helene Jarmer, President of the Austrian Federation of the Deaf, guides you through the history of the palace and gardens and accompanies you on a chronological tour of the Belvedere collection.

Available in:  🇦🇹 🇬🇧
Available until 31 December, 2024
Upper Belvedere
14 audio stops, 30 min.