Sunday, May 13, 2012

Celebrating 150 Years of Gustav Klimt in Vienna

Gustav Klimt, Head Study for the Reclining Girl for the Theater of Shakespeare, 1887

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Gustav Klimt and in celebration several art museums in Vienna are having special Klimt exhibitions. I was fortunate to be able to see 2 of the exhibits while in Vienna last week; The Painter Gustav Klimt at the Belvedere art museum and Gustav Klimt The Drawings at the Albertina. I went to see the Belvedere exhibit first but if I were to see the exhibits again I would view the Albertina show first as it consists of many of his preliminary drawings for his paintings at the Belvedere. In the start of his career, Klimt studied as an architectural painter receiving numerous commissions and specializing in interior decoration, especially for theaters and worked on these projects along with his brother and a friend. Many of Klimt's figure and head sketches for the theater paintings are on view at the museum, and as an artist who loves to draw with a pencil, I found these early works so inspiring. Each is beautifully rendered and he has captured the essence of his subjects so well in these small sketches, one can feel the emotion or personality of his subjects. In later years Klimt began drawing the female body more loosely as perquisites for his paintings. These drawings are worked with more fluid line and less shading and detail than his earlier works. This is also the period when Klimt's drawings of women took on a very erotic nature. What I really enjoyed seeing was how well he thought out each of the many figure sketches for each painting, Klimt worked out things like facial expressions, position and composition in his sketches for each painting.

The Albertina as it is mainly a museum that exhibits works on paper; drawings, watercolors and prints which are a delight to see. I won't detail all of the exhibits except for the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist exhibit featuring paintings, pastels, drawings and watercolors of so many well known artists, the description read the artists painted and drew sketchily and preferred light and brilliant colors. Monet preferred pastel for his small plein air sketches, Pissaro often worked in gouache and Degas' pastel work was wonderful also.

In the Belvedere galleries, the exhibit is of Vienna in the succession years, 1880-1914 and Klimt's paintings are exhibited with several of his contemporaries Schiele and Kokoschka as well as works of French Impressionism and the Vienna Biedermeier era. All wonderful galleries of work but I enjoyed seeing the Klimt paintings the most especially his golden phase, in which he is most well known, he influenced by Japanese art, Byzantine Mosaics and medieval paintings. In his portrait works, he delicately rendered his subjects flesh with beautiful pink and green tones while surrounding them with gold leaf and a design-like colorful quality. Viewing these paintings up close was a delight for me.

The remainder of the Belvedere is also not to be missed, I especially enjoyed the Realism and Impressionism exhibit and the Modern Art - Interwar Period exhibit. And there are several other exhibits in which I unfortunately had to just glimpse because I spent so much time at the others!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Austria and a Side Trip to Slovenia

Continuing with our photo workshop, we've had a busy itinerary. From our hotel in Felsoszolnok, we took a few more day trips to Graz, Austria, and Maribor, Slovenia which was one of the highlights on the trip for me. Graz is the second largest city in Austria after Vienna. A busy university city with many students, buildings and architecture styles in the Old Town are beautiful. We took the funicular (tram) to the top of Graz, Castle Mountain and wandered around the Old Town. Our next day trip was an hour and a half ride over the border to Slovenia. We visited Maribor and enjoyed it immensely. Another university town, the streets are busy and people are friendly. Red tile roofs contrast with the blue of the sky and earth tones of the buildings. Again we visited the old town section, smaller than Graz but beautifully located along the River Drava. We've now been in Vienna for three days, leaving this afternoon. One of the highlights of this city has been the Klimt exhibits. The city is celebrating 150 years of Gustav Klimt's work in several exhibits around the city. I will write about what I've seen in the next blog entry as I am heading out to see one more today.

 Hofsburg Palace gates with fascinating skies.
 Old Town Graz Austria
 Roman ruins sculptured at the Hofsburg Summer Palace
 Just outside of Maribor, Slovenia we stopped to photograph the landscape and wonderful skies.
 St Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna
 One of the many beautiful domes in Vienna
 A main street in Vienna
We traveled just outside of the city of Vienna to dine at one of the heurigers, wine gardens where wine from local wineries is served with a variety of buffet style or kitchen cooked Viennese foods. There is live music, background music is not permitted! The balsam branches hanging under the sign means guests are welcome. We had a really fun dinner and I enjoyed the area so much.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Travels to Budapest &Hungarian Countryside

I am having a fabulous time traveling in Hungary and Vienna, Austria with one wonderful day spent in Slovenia. This part of the world is absolutely beautiful and filled with castles and art but also the tragedies of WWII and the communist invasion. I am on this trip as part of a photography workshop with Profundo Journeys. There are ten of us in the group and I am also learning to use my Canon SLR digital camera the proper way, not on the automatic setting! And I am proud to say that not only can I operate my camera manually but I also know what every setting in the Menu is for. My plan is to learn to take better reference photographs for my own artwork. I am writing this from Vienna, Austria but I will begin with a little bit about Budapest and Hungary. We spent four days in the Pest side of Budapest (main part of the city) with two side trips to the Buda side. 

Much of the city has been rebuilt but there are still signs of destruction from the Nazis during WWII, this building is damaged from bullets and mortar shells. The Nazis left in 1945 and Budapest was under communist rule until 1989. We had dinner with a young couple and the husband talked about living in Budapest under the communist laws. Homes and buildings were divided up into apartments, residents were allowed to have only so much space. He said you had to apply for a passport in order to leave the country and residents were only allowed to leave once every three to five years. He recalled a time when his mother was leaving on a trip and physically pulled off a train and sent back home because it was believed she was going to flee. 

St Matthias, Buda, is a beautiful church with beautiful tile roofs and a variety of architecture styles.

 This photo is a little out of order, it is Sacred Heart Church in Koszeg, Hungary.
 Back to Budapest, this is Liberty Bridge over the Danube River connecting Buda and Pest. The trolley is crossing the bridge in this picture.
 Parliament buildings taken from Buda.
 Out of order again ... we visited Sárkány Panzio (small inn or B&B) in the Hungarian countryside for lunch and to photograph the horses. Our hostess is Millie and she loves her horses very much!
 Here is the skating rink in Budapest during the summer. I loved the composition of the boats and took several pictures .... I think they would look great in colored pencil!
We visited the Jewish synagogue which is the second largest synagogue in the world. During WWII there were 70,000 Jewish people living in Budapest and they were forced into the Jewish ghetto or killed. It is such an atrocity because 600,000 were killed by the Nazis but even more so, with the help of Hungarians. There is a moving memorial outside of the synagogue with a giant "weeping willow" tree in which each leaf holds the name of a person who died. This is a close up of one of the branches.