An exhibition of the work of the Victorian artist Lawrence Alma Tadema is currently on in Vienna and it will be coming to Leighton House in July. Inspired by the prospect of a pre-view of the work a trip was arranged for members, an event which then grew to include visits to three other leading cultural centres in the city.
The group was welcomed to an evening reception at the British embassy by the ambassador Leigh Turner, a sparkling occasion in exquisite surroundings. Blessed with warm, sunny, spring-like weather the following day meant it was easy to make an early start at the Belvedere where we had the privilege of seeing the Alma Tadema exhibition free of the large crowds it has attracted. In addition to historical background we gained insight into the curating of the exhibition from Arnika Schmidt of the Belvedere and Peter Trippi, co- curator of the exhibition and editor in chief of the periodical Fine Art Connoisseur. Daniel Robbins, curator at Leighton House, was also on hand to show us where particular paintings would be hung when they came to London.
We then sped off to the iconic Secession Building, an outstanding example of Art Nouveau style and housing the famous Beethoven Murals by Gustav Klimt. A short walk to the Kunsthistoriches, the largest art museum in the country, then gave us a well-deserved break when we enjoyed lunch in the fabulous Cupola restaurant. The afternoon started with a guided tour of a selection of masterpieces from the vast Hapsburg collection of art and craft including the Cellini Salt Cellar, a part-enamelled gold table sculpture by Benvenuto Cellini. Our final destination was the Albertina, renowned for having one of the largest and most important print rooms in the world, where the guide set in context the somewhat disturbing and controversial drawings of the Austrian artist Egon Schiele.
It was an exceptional day, full of strongly contrasting images and artefacts. From the calm elegance of the Ambassador’s residence to the sensual paintings of antiquity by Alma Tadema and the intense, expressive drawings of Egon Schiele. From the lavishly decorated interior of the Kunsthistoriches to the minimal, severe, white cube space of the Secession building there was something for all tastes.
It was the third special event organised for members this year and many in the group extended their stay to see other aspects of this interesting and fascinating city.
Our special thanks go to Sir David and Lady Verey, Trustees of the Friends of Leighton House, without whose personal contacts in Vienna and enthusiastic energy this trip would not have been possible