Look Around You

Vienna, being the seat of the Holy Roman Empire for centuries, is lavishly abundant in high culture. The list of museums reads long and the quality of exhibits in each is top-notch. There are a handful of notable Art Museums, one has Egon Schiele, another has Monets, the next Cézannes, the next Picassos, Klimt, Renoir, Chagall. Seriously, it’s incredible to be surrounded by the works of so many world-regarded artists.

This past weekend, I returned for my second time to this lovely city to stay with Kat’s hospitable aunt and uncle in their very classic European-esque apartment with a guest room fit for at least 5 people complete with the comfiest beds. Europe really does know how to do bedding. Skip the top sheet, stick to a fluffy, enveloping duvet. They wined and dined us, bringing us to infamous Viennese Cafés with their sassy and classy wait staff, the Naschmarkt to eat authentic Turkish kebabs and drippingly sweet baklava, and hip underground bars. We spent the weekend forgetting we were broke college students and marveling in their generosity.

Getting to explore and wander the city I enjoyed so much the first time was a perfect way to spend a misty Fall weekend. But seeing two of the world’s best art museums was an incredible experience.

Marc Chagall
The Kite 1926

The Albertina was this glorious palace built in the 17th C. originally as a Court Construction Office and later became the Palais Taroucca as the Court director refurbished it and made it his residence. In 1919, possession passed from the Hapsburgs to the (newly-founded) Republic of Austria to whom it still belongs.

Still Life with Guitar
Picasso 1942

They house a permanent Modernism exhibit, displaying rooms and rooms of Picassos, Klees, Delveauxs, Chagalls, and Delaunays. The pieces were stunning, but I still prefer Impressionism.

Paul Delveaux
Landscape with Lanterns 1958

The Leopold Museum on the other hand was only opened in 2001 and mainly displays Austrian works of art from the 19th and 20th C. It houses the world’s largest collection of Egon Schiele. The core of the museum shows the gradual shift from Secession to Art Nouveau to Expressionism.

A little piece of my life has been completed after a visit to the Leopold, as I got the chance to see my favorite piece of art of all time. “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” was being shown as part of the “Japan – Fragilität Des Dasiens” (Fragility of Existence) Exhibit. It was a beautiful collection of artwork – wood-block prints, calligraphy scrolls, painted panels, nature photography-  and infused the art patrons with a sense of serenity and revelry of nature.

My mom has had a print of “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” hanging in her office for years and years while I was growing up. I would see it in passing day after day but never particularly proclaimed it as lovely, it was just part of the scene, unthought of and passed over. She didn’t know and I didn’t know that I would grow to love the image so very much just through being in its presence as a child. I surprised even myself when I saw the image at school once and my heart filled with excitement and certainty of my love of it. It proves the significance of our environment and the influence it suffuses over our lives and its power to affect you subconsciously.

Katsushika Hokusai
The Great Wave off Kanagawa 1829–32

So surround yourself with good things, good people, and good adventures!

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