Currently at the Belvedere Museum there is a new exhibition of art from an often neglected period: the time of transition between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when artists were beginning to develop new themes, beyond the exclusive focus on religious themes, and new techniques such as a move towards showing depth and perspective. Live tours are back on, and I was lucky to get a tour with the wonderfully erudite Markus Hübl.
The Renaissance is the heyday of well known painters like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Albrecht Dürer, a period that began in Italy and gradually spread to the region north of the Alps around 1500. It was a time marked by tremendous changes in European art. The exhibition ‘The Age of Dürer. Austria at the Gate of the Renaissance‘ pursues the question of what happened in the cultural area of today’s Austria around 1500. The exhibition features works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Albrecht Altdorfer, Jörg Breu, and more of the artists, known and unknown, who were active in Austria around 1500 and thereafter as contemporaries of Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528).
Albrecht Dürer is still considered by art historians as a forerunner of a new artistic movement, who developed a new understanding of art’s purpose and modes of representation. He gave impetus to artists across Europe. If previously artists focused on purely educational/religious materials, they now began to focus on on aesthetics and to develop an interest in realism. Witness the graphic detail in a scene of Christ being flagellated with blood dripping from his pores, or the landscape perspective discernible in a scene of a boar hunt.
Sacral art of course remained important, but new genres emerged during this time. Portraits and self-portraits became a popular genre, and changes in society made it possible for wealthy commoners and merchants to commission portraits (see, for example, the portrait of the children of Hans Thenn by Wolfgang Huber).
Realism became an increasingly important aspect of painting. If you take a look at the two portraits of aristocrats, you will hardly get the impression that the artist “beautified” the characters ;-).
Sorted loosely by theme, the exhibition galleries shows artworks from genres such as nature, landscape, and expressivity, topics traditionally associated with the so-called Danube School, but practiced by artists all over Austria and indeed by many international artists who were active in Austria at the time. Several significant works have benefitted from new research findings and are presented in a new light. Among them an altarpiece with vaulted wing panels now in its original configuration after being meticulously restored.
Curated by Curated by Björn Blauensteiner.
Exhibition Duration 21 October 2021 – 30 January 2022
Beyond this exhibition, if you like medieval art, the Belvedere also has a permanent gallery dedicated to it and has developed a virtual exhibition that you can see online.