AND YET THERE WAS ART! LEOPOLD MUSEUM SHOWS AUSTRIAN ART FROM 1914-1918
Utl.: Anti-war exhibition dedicated to the fates of artists Schiele, Egger-Lienz and Kolig
Vienna – One hundred years after the shots of Sarajevo, the Leopold Museum dedicates a compelling exhibition to the fates of Austrian artists during the war years 1914 to 1918, which was opened on Thursday, the 8th of May, by Federal Minister Dr. Josef Ostermayer. The Leopold Museum Managing Director Peter Weinhäupl summarizes the presentation as an "interdisciplinary exhibition which examines the collection from the viewpoint of World War I, places the works of the Leopold Museum into a new context and views the theme from a critical and contemporary perspective."
Zwtl.: SCHIELE - EGGER LIENZ - KOLIG: THREE IN NINE MILLION The comprehensive exhibition, which features some 280 objects, focuses on the fates of Egon Schiele, Albin Egger-Lienz and Anton Kolig. While they only represented a tiny minority among the millions of Austrian soldiers who fought in World War I, their works reflect the sorrowful fate of all soldiers. They also mirror the conflict between executing art to orders from above, for instance from the Kriegspressequartier [War Press Office] (KPQ), and creating art from an innermost motivation.But whether as commissions or out of an inner necessity, these artists created battle scenes, portraits of soldiers, spontaneous sketches of everyday life at the front as well as escapist renderings of an idyllic, albeit doomed world.
Zwtl.: AND YET THERE WAS ART! The idea for the exhibition was born by Leopold Museum Director Peter Weinhäupl around two years ago. He asked the literary scholar Stefan Kutzenberger to come up with a concept. Kutzenberger was then joined by Elisabeth Leopold and the art historian Ivan Ristic, who together form the exhibition’s team of curators. Kutzenberger emphasizes that he and Ristic primarily focused on a narrative approach, while Elisabeth Leopold’s main objective was to highlight the artistic achievements and the unbroken creative power that prevailed during these dark years. Leopold wanted to show that art was still created despite all the hardships of this time, prompting Ristic to suggest turning this motto into the exhibition’s title. "AND YET THERE WAS ART!" alludes to the continuous creation of art during World War I despite the unfavorable conditions. While the exhibition can be interpreted in many ways, it certainly refers to the art market, which continued almost unabated between 1914 and 1918 and showed no signs of stopping: comprehensive exhibitions were organized, commissions placed and the sale of artworks initiated.
Zwtl.: ART 1914-1918 IN THE LEOPOLD COLLECTION: "DRAWING ON UNLIMITED RESOURCES" Leopold Museum Director Franz Smola points out the dynamics created by the commemorative year. In this whirl, in which one exhibition is followed by the next, it was an “exciting but also a big task” to develop one’s own perspective within this plethora of projects. Smola: "Few museums are in the Leopold Museum’s fortunate position of being able to draw on almost unlimited resources of artworks from this period, a fact that we owe to the immense collection complied by the genius museum founder Rudolf Leopold."
Zwtl.: SCHIELE 1914-1918 A special room is dedicated to illustrating Egon Schiele’s stylistic changes from 1914 in a condensed manner, starting with the work "Blind Mother" (1914) and the geometrizising shapes of the Krumau houses in "Crescent of Houses" all the way to the "Squatting Women" (1918). According to Elisabeth Leopold, Schiele arrived at a certain Classicism and a painterly perception in this rendering: "It appears as though he now refused to acknowledge the fragility of life as well as the existence of melancholy and death, fear and desperation."
Zwtl.: "AUSTRIAN ART EXHIBITION" - STOCKHOLM 1917 In 1917 a large-scale exhibition of Austrian art was held in neutral Stockholm. It featured 600 objects, including 240 oil paintings, sculptures and graphic works of the highest quality, which provided an impressive cross-section of Austrian art. Stefan Kutzenberger: “Right in the middle of the seemingly endless fighting of World War I, while the Eleventh Battle of the Isonzo was raging on the Southern Front, Austria presented itself at the “Liljevalchs Konsthall” as a peace-loving cultural nation." Anton Faistauer was praised as "the most French of the Austrian painters". Oskar Kokoschka’s idiosyncratic pictorial worlds, however, were met with little understanding. At least his work “Fortuna” was one of the few paintings in the exhibition to make some reference to the War, with a cavalryman, probably the artist himself, riding in the background of the depiction. In the end, neither this nor similar exhibitions held abroad had any impact on the course of the War.
Zwtl.: "HEAVEN OF PAINTINGS" VERSUS "TERRORS OF HELL" Elisabeth Leopold describes her selection of paintings for the exhibition as a consoling alternative world, as a “heaven of radiant paintings” to counter the “terrors of hell”. The exhibited works range from Kolo Moser’s colorful lovers created around 1914 and Hans Böhler’s reminiscences about his faraway pre-war travels all the way to Herbert Boeckl’s and Oskar Kokoschka’s paintings created immediately after the War. Kokoschka experienced the horrors of war first hand. Having sustained life-threatening injuries several times, he emerged from the battlefields a deeply traumatized man. Leopold: “All this bitterness and his uncertainty about the future found expression in his epochal work “Self-Portrait, One Hand Touching the Face” (1918/19)”. The painting is an undisputed highlight in the artist’s oeuvre.
Zwtl.: EGGER LIENZ: "THE UNYIELDING STRIDE OF FATE" Albin Egger-Lienz volunteered for military service in 1915, before Italy’s entry into the War, but was dismissed from active duty soon afterwards due to a heart condition. The fourth version of “Danse Macabre” was created in 1915. Exhibition curator Ivan Ristic: “Painted on canvas with casein, the work“Danse Macabre” is characterized by a matt surface, whose fresco-like appearance is no coincidence – although it was to be many years before the artist would meet the challenge of creating actual frescoes”. On the Italian front Albin Egger-Lienz pondered the “unyielding stride of eternal fate”. An official member of the Kunstgruppe [Art Group] of the k.u.k. Kriegspressequartier, Egger-Lienz painted on the Southern Front in 1916, but later worked only in his studio.
Zwtl.: EGON SCHIELE: "THE HARDEST DAYS OF MY LIFE" Egon Schiele was spared direct experiences of the front. Yet he suffered from being a soldier: “I am a soldier now and have just lived through the hardest 14 days of my life”, he wrote in 1915 about his initial military training. During his active service, Schiele created portraits of Russian prisoners of war at the Lower Austrian prisoner of war camp in Mühling near Wieselburg as well as of his superiors. As Sonja Niederacher elucidates in her essay in the exhibition’s catalogue, Schiele declared his sympathy for the foreign in a letter: “[…] but in any case, I’m much more partial to the other side, in other words, to our enemies – their countries are much more interesting than ours – freedom actually exists, there – and there are more thinking people than here”. He also harbored pacifist thoughts. In 1917 Schiele was commissioned by the “k.u.k. Konsumanstalt für die Gagisten der Armee im Felde” [Imperial and Royal Supply Depot for Officers on active service], situated in the Mariahilfer Straße in Vienna, to create drawings of the Konsumanstalt’s offices and warehouses. Towards the end of the War, in March 1918, Schiele celebrated his greatest success to date. At the 49th exhibition of the Vienna Secession the large central room of the exhibition hall was dedicated to Schiele’s works. In the autumn of the same year, at the zenith of his career, Schiele died from the Spanish Flu.
Zwtl.: ANTON KOLIG: "I AM PAINTING IN GREAT DISTRESS" "I am painting in great distress", reported Anton Kolig from the war zone in 1916.During this time, Kolig primarily painted portraits of officers, but also of prisoners. He realized that his works were not suitable to be used for war propaganda. However, he created artistically remarkable renderings such as "Field Operation". Kolig only became an official member of the Kriegspressequartier in 1917. He was commissioned to paint landscapes and captured the ruins along the frontlines.
Zwtl.: WARTIME ART: ON THE FRONT AND IN THE HINTERLAND. While some artists created detailed renderings of the horrors of war in the service of Austro-Hungarian war propaganda, art also flourished away from the frontlines. Kolo Moser created works of intense colors, including “Lovers”, “Venus in the Grotto” as well as “The Wanderer”. Gustav Klimt worked on depictions of women and allegories such as “Death and Life” during those years. When Klimt died in February 1918, Schiele drew him on his deathbed.
Zwtl.: CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS FROM THE FORMER WARTIME ENEMY COUNTRIES During World War I, the Imperial and Royal Army predominantly fought on the frontlines against Italy, Romania, Russia and Serbia. 100 years on, the Leopold Museum has therefore invited artists from these very countries alongside Austrian artists to present their views of World War I from today’s perspective. Ivan Ristic: "The exhibition dispenses with instructive closing remarks. Instead, we attempt to create a discursive connection to the present". The Italian artist Paola De Pietri shows her emphatic, large-scale photographs of the mountain landscapes around the Isonzo, once the site of bitter battles. Positions, blasted rocks and water-filled craters act as silent witnesses to the former horrors. Based on the escape into war of Thomas Mann’s protagonist from his novel “The Magic Mountain“, Raluca Popa (RO) emphasizes individual decisions, like the one taken by Romanian-born soldiers to desert from the Imperial and Royal Army in order to join the Romanian side. Dmitry Gutov from Russia quotes his “favorite author" Lenin, who turned out to be a pacifist – a TV screen shows Lenin’s criticism of a "reactionary war". Opposite Gutov’s revolutionary thoughts, the Serbian artist Rasa Todosijevic presents a semi-religious approach to the subject of war in general and World War I in particular. His "Bloody Baptism" shows a cross created with blood-spattered bathtubs. Underneath, a "heap" of suitcases alludes to the Serb‘s Golgotha, to war and displacement, but also to the nation’s resurrection after the War. Veronika Dreier has created a carpet out of innumerable toy soldiers. With his installation in the museum’s atrium “For God, Emperor and Homeland", fashioned out of cheap materials and featuring elements borrowed from Habsburg monuments, Franz Kapfer contradicts the so-called “hurrah patriotism” of this time. With his written installation "Sarajevo '84" on the façade of the Leopold Museum, Marko Lulic invites beholders to ponder the symbolism of words and dates, alluding to the shots fired in Sarajevo in 1914, to the Olympic Games held in 1984, to the city’s occupation in the 1990s as well as to Sarajevo today.
Zwtl.: ANTI-WAR EXHIBITION Owing to the rapid technological advances in weapons and warfare, this conflict proved to be more devastating than any previous war. And yet, this period of the “Great War”, with all its misery and confusion, saw the creation of eminent art. Elisabeth Leopold has placed the entire exhibition under the motto "Never again war!": "It is an anti-war exhibition, a clamoring plea against war and pointless killing."
Zwtl.: THE EXHIBTION “AND YET THERE WAS ART!” 9TH MAY TO 15TH SEPTEMBER The exhibition features a total of approx. 280 objects, including some 40 works from the collection of the Leopold Museum, 30 from the Leopold Collection II as well as 130 works from public and private Austrian and international lenders. The selection comprises paintings, works on paper, such as drawings, prints and posters, as well as historical photographs, autographs, documents and original footage. The exhibition architecture was designed by "archiguards". The exhibition will be shown from the 9th of May to the 15th of September at the Leopold Museum. Opening hours: Mon and Wed-Sun: 10 am – 6 pm, Thu: 10 am - 9 pm. Throughout June, July and August the museum will also be open on Tuesdays. For more information, please visit: www.leopoldmuseum.org
Zwtl.: "AND YET THERE WAS ART!" – CATALOGUE ACCOMPANYING THE EXHIBITION A comprehensive catalogue in German and English was published on the occasion of the exhibition. ISBN 978-3-85033-809-7, 256 pages, price: 29.90 Euros, available at the LM Shop, ed. by: Leopold Museum, Vienna, with essays by Elizabeth Clegg, Carl Kraus, Stefan Kutzenberger, Elisabeth Leopold, Sonja Niederacher, Ivan Ristic, Uwe M. Schneede, Franz Smola, Peter Weinhäupl.
Zwtl.: SYMPOSIUM ON THE EXHIBITION "AND YET THERE WAS ART! AUSTRIA 1914-1918" 15TH AND 16TH MAY 2014 AT THE LEOPOLD MUSEUM One hundred years after the outbreak of World War I, numerous commemorative exhibitions in Austria are dedicated to the “great seminal catastrophe” of the 20th century. But how is one supposed to exhibit war? Is it possible, is it appropriate, is it allowed? The symposium featuring eminent participants held at the Leopold Museum examines the question of whether wars can be exhibited and explores the various effects of different “images from the war”. Program information: www.leopoldmuseum.org/de/termine/symposium
SOLO THEATER PERFORMANCE "FEUERSEELE" 15TH MAY AND 12TH JUNE 2014 AT THE LEOPOLD MUSEUM A pacifist intervention, Maxi Blaha‘s solo theater performance "feuerseele" is dedicated to the life of the tireless freedom fighter Bertha von Suttner. The play by Susanne F. Wolf illustrates to what an extent Suttner’s biography and the external circumstances of her time merged and how they diverged. Based on scientific research, “feuerseele” highlights the most important political, psychological and emotional facets of Suttner’s life. In the commemorative year 2014, this play serves as a theatrical plea to carry the ideas of this great humanist forward and to keep them alive. For further information, please visit: www.leopoldmuseum.org/de/termine/kalender
For pictures accompanying this press release, please access AOM / Originalbild-Service or the OTS picture archives at: http://bild.ots.at