Sculpture in focus

Leopold Museum shows Wilhelm Lehmbruck and Berlinde De Bruyckere

The Director of the Leopold Museum Hans-Peter Wipplinger presents eminent artistic positions of Classical Modernism and contemporary art



Launching the exhibition season 2016/17, the Director of the Leopold Museum Hans-Peter Wipplinger presents two eminent exhibitions of Classical Modernism and contemporary art. The presentations "Wilhelm Lehmbruck. Retrospective", the most comprehensive exhibition in Austria to date dedicated to the eminent German sculptor Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1881-1919), and "Berlinde De Bruyckere. Suture", the first exhibition in Vienna dedicated to the Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere (born in 1964), are now shown at the Leopold Museum.


The first two exhibition projects held under the artistic direction of the Leopold Museum’s new Museological Director Hans-Peter Wipplinger unite two artistic positions which, though they seem contrary at first, reveal many parallels on closer inspection. Both Wilhelm Lehmbruck and Berlinde De Bruyckere are sculptors for whom drawing is on a par with sculpting. Both have divided the human body into fragments, reduced the human figure, created torsi and revealed man’s vulnerability and fragility in their oeuvres.


Wilhelm Lehmbruck, the most important sculptor of German Expressionism, is arguably among the most eminent artists of the 20th century. The Leopold Museum dedicates the most comprehensive retrospective to date in Austria to this influential innovator and pioneer of modern European sculpture. The exhibition curated by Hans-Peter Wipplinger affords detailed insights into Lehmbruck’s oeuvre with around 50 sculptures as well as some 100 paintings, drawings and etchings. Supplemented by approximately 30 works of International Modernism, Lehmbruck’s oeuvre is embedded into an international context in the exhibition. Thus, the presentation features not only the most important works of Lehmbruck’s oeuvre but also select exhibits by other artists, including the influential French sculptors from the turn of the 19th to the 20th century Auguste Rodin and Aristide Maillol, the Symbolists George Minne and Edvard Munch, Lehmbruck’s companions during his fruitful period in Paris Alexander Archipenko, Constantin Brâncuşi and Amedeo Modigliani as well as contemporaries such as Käthe Kollwitz, Ernst Barlach and Egon Schiele.


Hans-Peter Wipplinger:

“There can be no better venue for this exhibition than the Leopold Museum. For in this museum famous for the most eminent Egon Schiele collection in the world, we need to think about creating connections throughout the museum’s floors from the Lehmbruck exhibition to the permanent Schiele presentation.”

This connection was first established over a hundred years ago by the patron and collector Karl Ernst Osthaus who presented works by Schiele and Lehmbruck in a dual exhibition held in 1912 at his Folkwang Museum in Hagen.


Created in cooperation with the Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, the exhibition at the Leopold Museum traces Lehmbruck’s artistic development in a largely chronological presentation from his years at the Düsseldorf School of Arts and Crafts (1895–1899) and as a student at the Düsseldorf Academy of Arts (1901–1906) all the way to his most famous works created during his time spent in Paris (1910-1914). The exhibition further focuses on the uncompromising oeuvre Lehmbruck created during World War I as well as on the works created during the final period of the artist’s oeuvre prior to his suicide in 1919.


Hans-Peter Wipplinger:

“The exhibitions bridge the gap from Classical Modernism to contemporary art. From Egon Schiele’s ‘Seated Male Nude’ shown in the permanent presentation via Wilhelm Lehmbruck’s late sculptures through to Berlinde De Bruyckere’s recent creations – all these artworks are united throughout the eras by their creators’ unrelenting search for new ways of expression and form.”

True highlights of the exhibition are those figures by Lehmbruck that illustrate his development away from corporal towards spatial sculptures. While the "Large Standing Figure" (1910-1912) is still invested with a sense of classical tranquility, Lehmbruck made a breakthrough with the artistic solution he chose for his work “Kneeling Woman” (1912). With it, the artist embarked on an entirely new path by combining a new space-consuming dimension with a clearly recognizable sense of movement and introverted gestures, thus breaking with classical tradition. And while the work "Ascending Youth" (1913) is a testament to the artist’s search for a new image of man, the work "The Fallen Man" (1915) created two years later during World War I is a symbol of a failed human existence broken by war. The sculpture represents Lehmbruck’s dramatic and innovative reaction to the traumas of war which he experienced as a medical orderly and war painter.


Two central works created in 1918 stand out from his late oeuvre – the sculpture "Head of a Thinker", which is arguably Lehmbruck’s most expressive work and is characterized by fragmentation, and "Praying Woman" which can be regarded as an allegory of his unrequited love for the actress Elisabeth Bergner.

Joseph Beuys (1921-1986), arguably the most important German sculptor after 1945, was directly influenced by Wilhelm Lehmbruck. “Everything is sculpture”, he thought when he first encountered Lehmbruck’s works, a discovery that prompted him to abandon his plans for a future in natural sciences in favor of a career in art. In his speech accepting the Lehmbruck Prize in 1986, tragically given only a few days prior to his death, Beuys emphasized the intuitive, spiritual power of Lehmbruck’s sculptures. Select works by Joseph Beuys are placed into a dialogue with Lehmbruck’s in the final part of the exhibition.


Born in the Belgian city of Ghent, Berlinde De Bruyckere is among the most internationally famous sculptors today. Her first solo exhibition in Vienna comprises some 50 sculptures and drawings by the artist from the past two centuries which focus on the human body in its raw beauty and vulnerability.

The uncanny realism of De Bruyckere’s waxen sculptures is both irritating and fascinating, for her works illustrate the “thrownness” of human beings into the world. In her oeuvre, the artist places an equal emphasis on grief, death and pain as she does on love and empathy.

The term “suture” used in the exhibition’s title can be regarded as a metaphor for the artist’s sculptural thinking. The suture as a central motif in De Bruyckere’s oeuvre refers not only to the artist’s method of “sewing together” individual body fragments with different materials but also serves to emphasize the vulnerability of man as one of the most important themes of her work.


Stephanie Damianitsch:

“Berlinde De Bruyckere’s oeuvre and her method of depicting everything as connected over time is borne by a strong ethical aspiration. Her call for attention and respect evident in all of her works can, from this perspective, be summed up in one sentence that may be interpreted as a driving and constituent element in Berlinde De Bruyckere’s oeuvre: We are all flesh.”


De Bruyckere often draws on pictorial forms deposited in society’s cultural image archives and in the canon of art history, particularlyin Renaissance and Baroque painting. The wealth of motifs found in Christian iconography, and the culture of pain reflected in it, provides a particularly important point of departure for her reflections.This is illustrated in a special part of the exhibition through works including the sculpture “Piëta”. Created between 2007 and 2008, its highly abstracting manner of depiction emphasizes the fact that De Bruyckere’s works should not be misinterpreted as quotations of Christian pictorial forms.


Stephanie Damianitsch:

“Berlinde De Bruyckereendeavors to release an expressive potential through the body language rooted in Christian tradition that allows her to convey timeless human conditions.”


The Directors of the Leopold Museum Hans-Peter Wipplinger and Gabriele Langer hosted an exclusive fundraising dinner on the evening of 6th April, which included a preview of the two exhibitions. More than 200 invitees – above all the Minister for Culture Dr. Josef Ostermayer who welcomed the guests together with Director Wipplinger – enjoyed a preview of the two exhibitions followed by a dinner in the presence of the artist Berlinde De Bruyckere and her family. Also in attendance were descendants of Wilhelm Lehmbruck, represented by Christine Rotermund-Lehmbruck and Herman Rotermund, among others. They were joined by the Flemish embassy counselor David Maennaut as well as by Söke Dinkla, director of the Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, and Marion Bornscheuer, curator of the Lehmbruck Museum.


Also attending the dinner were the Leopold Museum board members Elisabeth Leopold and Helmut Moser as well as numerous members of the newly founded Circle of Patrons headed by Georg Pölzl (general manager of Österreichische Post AG).


Further in attendance were the Dorotheum’s general manager Martin Böhm, the general manager of Sotheby’s Vienna Andrea Jungmann, the general managers of the auctioneers im kinsky Michael Kovacek and Ernst Ploil as well as Jacqueline Nowikovsky of the auction house Bonhams.


Other guests included Prof. Elisabeth Stadler, chief executive of the Vienna Insurance Group, the general manager of Eucarbon Michaela Kamler, the general manager of the Austrian Post Georg Pölzl, the president of IVA Wilhelm Rasinger and the entrepreneur Bettina Breiteneder.


The event was also attended by Peter Pakesch (chairman of the Maria Lassnig Foundation), the publisher Christian Brandstätter, the curator of the Kunsthaus Bregenz Rudolf Sagmeister as well as the gallery owners James Koch, director of Hauser & Wirth in Zurich, the Düsseldorf art dealer Klaus Schwarzer, Petr Nedoma, director of the gallery Rudolfinum in Prague, as well as Wolfgang Bauer, Julius Hummel and Eberhard Kohlbacher. They were joined by the art critic Bazon Brock, the psychoanalyst and publisher of the journal “Nu” Martin Engelberg, by the director of the Jewish Museum Vienna Danielle Spera, the director of the Dom Museum Johanna Schwanberg, as well as by Johann Kräftner (director of the Liechtenstein Princely Collections), Christiane Maria Schneider (artistic director Langen Foundation) and Peter Weinhäupl (chairman Klimt Foundation).


Among the guests were also numerous artists, including Eduard Angeli, Plamen Dejanoff, Martha Jungwirth, Peter Kogler, Constantin Luser, Lukas Pusch, Gregor Schmoll, Daniel Spoerri and Walter Vopava, who were joined by the psychoanalyst August Ruhs, the stage designer Christof Cremer, Franz Pichorner (KHM), the art collectors Diethard and Waltraud Leopold and the collector Toyoko Hattori, as well as the art historians Susanne Längle, Dieter Buchhart, Christian Witt-Döring and Thomas Zaunschirm.


Further enjoying the evening were the art insurer Nikolaus Barta, the cultural manager Günter Rhomberg, Karl Regensburger (director of ImpulsTanz), Tomas Zierhofer-Kin (designated artistic director of the Vienna Festival Wiener Festwochen), Christian Knobloch (Siwacht), chairman of the Austrian Post Walter Oblin, the managing director of Pantarhei Markus Schindler as well as the advertiser Alois Schober.


The exhibitions were officially opened on the evening of 7th April with speeches by Director Hans-Peter Wipplinger, Stephanie Damianitsch, the German ambassador Johannes Haindl and the Belgian ambassador Willem Van de Voorde. Over 500 guests viewed the presentations that evening.

“Wilhelm Lehmbruck. Retrospective” 8th April to 4th July 2016
“Berlinde De Bruyckere. Suture” 8th April to 5th September 2016


The exhibitions are accompanied by comprehensive catalogues:

Wilhelm Lehmbruck. Retrospective
Edited by Hans-Peter Wipplinger
256 pages
Languages: German/English
Authors: Marion Bornscheuer, Bazon Brock, Söke Dinkla,
Stefan Kutzenberger, Franz Smola, Hans-Peter Wipplinger
Published by: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne
Price: 29.90 Euro (museum’s edition)
Berlinde De Bruyckere. Suture
Edited by Hans-Peter Wipplinger
160 pages
Languages: German/English
Authors: Arno Böhler, Stephanie Damianitsch, Angela Stief
Published by: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne
Price: 24.90 Euro (museum’s edition)


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