Sunday, 21 June 2015

Biedermeier Exhibition - National Gallery of Slovakia

Our guide book had promised that the gallery in Bratislava held a Caravaggio, plus examples of the work of one or two other big hitters of the gallery world. I didn't find them, but some sort of renovation is going on, which may have been the reason, (or my incompetence, equally likely).

Anyway, on an upper floor I did find an exhibition about the Biedermeier movement, which I've never really understood. Although I still don't really, despite going round the whole exhibition, I'd recommend going along yourself, should you happen to be in Bratislava with an hour or two to spare.

I think the thesis the curators are putting forward is that Biedermeier emerged at a time when the home became more important and the way it was furnished became a more important expression of individuality - and family and being comfortable all together in the house also became more important. 

I'm not convinced that I've got that quite right, but anyway they also seemed to be putting forward some kind of argument that all of this led to more portraiture. Unfortunately, the portraits weren't particularly interesting, except perhaps this one, but only because of the dog:
Painted by Josef Ziegler, it is a portrait of Elisabeth Erdody, who may be related to Count Erdody, of whom there is a terrific photograph in Zagreb. In it, he is doing his party trick, which is leaping over a park bench. I have a copy at home and I'll dig it out when I get home and put it into a post here, provided I remember.
I'm guessing that, if I've got the feeling-more-comfortable-at-home-and-becoming-more-cosy-as-families argument right, this painting of a family that is part of the exhibition shows them in the before rather than post Beidermeier stage:
It makes me think of Kantor's Dead Class, which I saw at the Adelaide Festival about a hundred years ago and is still one of the best things I've ever seen at the theatre.

I liked some of the pictures of town and street scenes, again sometimes partly on account of the dogs included:

 Sadly, Bratislava has lost the peaceful look of these scenes and the park from which the picture was painted is now overbuilt with hideous blocks of flats. The city has been sadly unlucky in its recent planners.

A couple of the pictures I liked because they were scenes that I know (the Stephansplatz and the Praterallee in Vienna), plus I thought my mother might be interested in the way the horses and carriages were put together, harness-wise, (and there were some dogs included as a bonus, at least in the one of the Stephansplatz):




The exhibition also provides tantalising glimpses of a couple of private sketchbooks, together with the rest of the images in the books being shown on an Ipad within the glass museum case, (the images are on a perpetual loop, and I think it would be extremely nice if the museum could put these images onto its website as well, as they are really wonderful, giving you a sense that you are seeing into the domestic lives of the families they belonged to):

I liked the rather naive, (both in style and name), "Gala Performance of the Police and Firemen of Banska Stiavnica and Banska Bela, 1846":









There was also a case of German 19th century greetings cards. They were actually described as a "Set of cards with congratulations, 1820-1840", but I'm not sure congratulations were exactly what they were all wishing. A lot of them were designed to move if you tugged at a little cardboard tab. It's remarkable they've survived in such good condition:








This one I find especially baffling










I cant make much sense of this one




The exhibition runs for several months at the National Gallery of Slovakia. I wouldn't have missed it. It is really well put together and enjoyable.

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