The Würth Collection

The Würth Collection

The Leopold Museum presents the first comprehensive exhibition in Austria of highlights from the Würth Collection. The Würth Collection is among the largest private collections in Europe and one of the most eminent compilations of artworks worldwide. For the conception of the exhibition, which unites works from Classical Modernism to contemporary art and thus allows for a unique journey through 100 years of art history, the Leopold Museum’s Director Hans-Peter Wipplinger was given carte blanche to select 200 masterpieces from the approximately 20,000 works comprised in the collection and to show these highlights from the Würth Collection on two exhibition levels at the Leopold Museum.

On one floor of the presentation, the emphasis is on Classical Modernism with museum works by Max Liebermann, Max Pechstein, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Edvard Munch, Gabriele Münter, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Ferdinand Hodler, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, René Magritte and Oskar Schlemmer, among others. Entire rooms are dedicated to the likes of Max Beckmann and Pablo Picasso with around ten paintings each. The second exhibition level focuses on contemporary art, featuring works by Fernando Botero, Gerhard Richter and Per Kirkeby. The artist couple Christo and Jeanne Claude, as well as Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer, are accorded their own exhibition rooms. The strong presence of Austrian artists in Reinhold Würth’s collection (the largest outside of Austria) is another striking feature. Two rooms are dedicated to works by Fritz Wotruba, Maria Lassnig, Arnulf Rainer and Erwin Wurm.

Curator: Hans-Peter Wipplinger

“I have always felt my interest in art to provide an emotional antithesis to the rationality of my work as a businessman.”

Prof. Reinhold Würth

In the early 20th century, emotion became a stylistic device – to observe meant to feel. Edvard Munch acted as a pioneer of Expressionism even before the term entered into art history. Another eminent stylistic loner and early Expressionist was Paula Modersohn-Becker.

The new movement was characterized by emotional expressiveness and intense colors beyond the academic canon. In protest against industrialized society and its conventions, the artists’ collective Die Brücke [The Bridge], founded in Dresden in 1905 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, aspired to a life reform in tune with nature.

The group of artists surrounding the editors of the Munich almanac Der Blaue Reiter, Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, meanwhile, strove towards a new introspection in art which would allow for purely intuitive elements to coexist alongside sophisticated reason. Even before the foundation and first exhibition of the artists’ association Der Blaue Reiter in 1911, the artist couples Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter, as well as Alexej Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin, got together in 1908 in the Bavarian town of Murnau to create Expressionist works of intense colors and highly suggestive impact.

The entrepreneur and patron of the arts, Prof. Dr. h. c. mult. Reinhold Würth (*1935), began collecting art in the 1960s. Over the following six decades, he compiled more than 18,000 exquisite works of painting, sculpture and graphic art from the late 15th century to the present. Along with the section dedicated to Classical Modernism, which makes up the largest part of the collection, another prominent focus is on contemporary sculpture, illustrated with eminent works by sculptors including Hans Arp, Robert Jacobsen, Alfred Hrdlicka, Tony Cragg and Anish Kapoor. The first Würth Museum opened in 1991 in Künzelsau, while the collector launched his most recent, fifteenth exhibition venue, the Museum Würth 2, in 2020.

MAX LIEBERMANN, Nannies in the Tiergarten, 1898MAX LIEBERMANN, Nannies in the Tiergarten, 1898 © Würth Collection | Photo: Ivan Baschang München/Paris

The oeuvre of the painter Max Liebermann (1847–1935) was initially characterized by Realism, and from the 1890s onwards by an Impressionism of French provenance. Over six decades, he kept reinventing both his motif repertoire and his style. The artist initially focused on themes of rural and industrial work. This period, during which he executed his paintings with muted colors, was followed around the turn of the century by depictions of the leisure activities of the bourgeoisie. Painting had now become a field of experimentation for the artist, and his works increasingly defied stylistic classification: Impressionist elements merged with aspects of Expressionism in a highly subjective manner, but without seeking to express emotions. The oeuvre of this pioneer of Modernism had an important impact on subsequent generations of artists.

“When you visit a museum, you look around, form an opinion, perceive the artworks as an ensemble, and, depending on the theme of the exhibition, return home feeling glad or pensive, thankful or perhaps sad or angry. Certainly, your visit will affect and change your emotions.”

Prof. Reinhold Würth

Georg Baselitz (*1938) first appeared on the art scene in the 1960s with his impressive Hero Pictures and Fracture Pictures. His neo-expressive motifs, painted upside down, won the artist international renown in the 1970s and 80s. His figurative painterly and sculptural oeuvre is deeply rooted in the history of European and American art, and is characterized by a wealth of styles and content. Appropriating and playing with art historical traditions, he creates entirely new iconographic and stylistic pictorial inventions. What is especially important to the artist is that his paintings convey a sense of sensuality, i.e. the power of the medium of painting.

GEORG BASELITZ, The Big Night of that Time (Remix), 2008GEORG BASELITZ, The Big Night of that Time (Remix), 2008 © Würth Collection, Photo: Jochen Littkemann © Georg Baselitz 2022


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