The Belvedere, Vienna

I am heading to the Belvedere museum today with new friend Michelle. We decide to walk there through Vienna’s criss-crossing streets and the walk is beautiful and hot. Michelle aims us towards shade whenever possible.

Corner of Karlgasse in Vienna

The Belvedere is in the middle of an enormous park. We eventually find one of the entrances which deposits us at the lower Belvedere. This section has two exhibitions: ‘Hundertwasser, Japan and the Avant-Garde’ and ‘Decadence’ about the development of Austrian symbolism in art.

We opt for Hundertwasser first and I am lost as I wander amongst some of his earliest paintings, including the beginning of his famous ‘circular’ paintings. I am looking forward to getting to his museum, Kunst Haus Wien, later this week.

The surprise winner of the lower building, however, is the Decadence exhibition. It turns out I love symbolism in art (who would’ve guessed). There are stunning pieces from Klimt, Schiele, Segantini, Moreau… It’s all decay and luscious colour, bright and crumbling and beautiful and heart-wrenching. I am mesmerised by a painting depicting the river of lost souls (The souls at the Acheron by Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl) where a woman is curled, wrapped in ethereal blue gauze, burning out of the frame in the midst of all the dark, despairing colours depicting the rest of the souls. You should look it up.

We’re not allowed to take photos, but the paintings are locked in my memory.

There is a beautiful garden stretching between the upper and lower buildings, though whether a space so huge and manicured can be termed a ‘garden’ I’m not sure. Perhaps outdoor work of art would be more appropriate. I think of my mum as we walk through all the green. She would like this place.

The upper Belvedere has a huge range of beautiful Klimt pieces, including one of my very favourites – a field filled with red poppies. ‘The Kiss’ is also there and Michelle and I sit in the darkened room staring for a long time. I love the way the sections of gold shine into blocks of pure light when you stand at just the right angle.

We find some lovely street art on the walk back and I reflect on how different the graffiti scene is here compared to Berlin. Vienna’s street artists seem almost reserved, or else well curtailed. In Berlin every spare sweep of wall is covered in colourful spray art; in Vienna street art is hidden and unexpected. This is rather nicely reflected in the stencilled words on the right side of the image below.

Graffiti in Vienna