14 July 2012

Klimt, Vienna and coffee

1912 is the 150th birthday of the incomparable Viennese artist, Gus­tav Klimt (1862-1918). In 1890 the committee in charge of Vienna's newly-built Imperial Museum of Fine Arts/The Kunsthist­or­isches Museum) had commissioned a series of forty paintings from a group of young artists called the Company of Artists i.e Gustav Klimt, brother Ernst Klimt and their partner Franz Matsch. All the paintings were to be executed in oil on canvas, in the Company of Artists’ communal studio.

The Kunsthist­or­isches Museum Vienna, staircase spandrel by Klimt.

Specifically the three young men were to decorate the spandrels above the arcades along the north wall of the The Kunsthist­or­isches Museum’s main staircase i.e the narrow spaces between the columns. The works were to feature different periods of art, inspired by Ancient Egypt and up to the 18th century.

In 1890/91 Gustav Klimt completed his quota, a total of thirteen paintings. And in 1891, six months before the formal opening of the museum, they were glued to the wall of the main staircase.

visitors standing on the Klimt-bridge, 12 metres in the air.

122 years later, the wall paintings are still in the place but now a very special Klimt-Bridge has been erected in the main staircase of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. The bridge has been extremely popular because visitors can enjoy a close-up view of Klimt’s early Art Nouveau paintings displayed in situ, 12 metres above the floor.

 As my own students will attest, there is no reduction in interest in the Ringstrasse, early 20th century Vienna, the Secessionist movement and Klimt. So the Vien­na Museum has also mounted a temporary Klimt show in 2012; located in the Special Ex­hib­ition Gallery, it presents Klimt’s oeuvre from his Ringstrassenperiode. Paintings and graphic works from the holdings of the Kunsthis­toris­ches Museum in Vienna have been added to by loans from public and private collections in Switzerland and Germany. The Klimt celebrations will continue until mid January 2013.

Even more importantly for me, the Museum coffee shop has been completely redecorated. The new elegant furnishings feature an impressive bar area, comfortable couches and beautifully decorated tables that reflect the artistic atmosphere of the Cupola Hall.

If Klimt fans are visiting Vienna this year, they should also go to The Belvedere, home to the world's largest collection of Klimt works. The Lower Belvedere and the Orangery have been specially adapted to stage special exhibitions. And this year’s is very special; Gustav Klimt and Josef Hoffmann - Pioneers of Modernism will continue until March 2012.

restaurant, Cupola Hall, Kunsthistorisches Museum


Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

P. M. Doolan said...

Thanks for the tip regarding the coffee shop. I'll have to try to make it to Vienna this year.

Hels said...


I don't know where you live, but it would be well worth getting yourself to Vienna before Jan 2013.

Hels said...


I am in Italy as we speak, for my annual winter (ours) pilgrimage to Europe. Damn it... I won't be getting to see the movable Klimts, but the ones mounted high above the staircase are ours to enjoy forever. And coffee and pastries, of course :)

Vienna Girl said...

I hope they keep the Klimt bridge. The view of the paintings is super.

Joseph said...

Vienna Girl,

alas no. The bridge comes down 6th Jan 2013. Perhaps the museum fears the construction looks too much like builders' scaffolding to leave it up permanently.