11 November 2013

Viennese Portraits at the National Gallery

When the title of an exhibition includes a date, as does Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900, currently at The National Gallery in London, it shouldn’t always be taken at face value. Certainly, earlier this year, the Courtauld’s Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 was exact as to artist, place and time, whereas in 2000 the Royal Academy’s 1900: Art at the Crossroads covered the decade up to 1900. In 2002 the RA’s Paris: Capital of the Arts 1900-1968 was specific, and, if that example had been followed, the title of the NG show would probably be something like Portraiture in the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1867-1918. How much less immediately appealing this would have been to those whose primary interests are Klimt and Schiele is hard to say.

As it is, if the well-known Viennese modernists are what you are seeking out, you may feel that you have had to make your way past a lot of their rather less interesting Austro-Hungarian predecessors. But it’s worth it. After all there is only one painting by Gustav Klimt (1862 - 1918) in a public gallery in the UK, the NG’s own Portrait of Hermine Gallia 1904 (above right), currently in this exhibition as might be expected. There is now the chance to see, among others, his Lady in Black, c.1894 (above left), Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl 1917-18 (poster above), and Posthumous Portrait of Ria Monk III 1917-18 (above centre).

There are no works by Egon Schiele (1890-1918) in UK public collections, so we should take the opportunity to view The Family (Self-Portrait) 1918 and Erich Lederer 1912 while we can (above left and right). Portraits by Oscar Kokoschka (Count Verona 1910) and Richard Gerstl’s Nude Self-Portrait with Palette 1908 (just before his suicide) are also worth seeing.

Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900 continues until 12 January 2014.


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