Today was the day I fell in love with Hundertwasser and Picasso

Vienna Travel Blog

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Impressive facade of Upper Belvedere
I really never understood these modern artists..  Picasso and his crayon-colored flat-perspective paintings (wait, or is that Cezanne?) or his crazy-eyed, anatomically misplaced portraits, and then Hundertwasser and his ridiculous acid trip images... I was always someone who appreciated realism, renaissance and the classics. That is, until I paid a visit to the utterly remarkable Kunsthaus Wein here in Vienna.

I had started off my day a little later than expected.. I woke up at 6am, but went back to sleep a couple of times and realized only at 10am that I had totally overslept. The plan was to get up at 8, have the high acclaimed 17 Euro breakfast downstairs and then leave at 9am in order to get to the Belvedere super early to avoid the crowds.
Front area of Upper Belvedere
But as is the theme of my visit to Vienna, the word "crowded" does not exist here. Nor does "noisy" or "happy", however =( By the way, Belvedere means "pretty view" - new to me!

Dashed over to the U-bahn around 10:40am and made the connection in Praterstern which connects the U2 to the U1. It seems there are quite a few of these connecting areas that are just chock full of awesome shops, I'm talking about full on restaurants and grocery stores - the kind you find in Penn Station in NY, but these are subway stations! Fantastic! I was able to stop off at a grocery store and get something to drink and then stop by a bakery next store and get very delicious filled-crossaints - whoo! I took a second checking out the many offerings.. they like to fill crossaints with stuff and they also had all sorts of pretzel offerings too! =)

If you're going to visit the Belvedere, it's undergoing a bit of construction and I have to say that only the Upper Belvedere is worth seeing.
The last place you can take pictures - the Marble Hall in Upper Belvedere
If you've got a ton of time on your hands, the combo pass is 13.50 Euro, whereas the Upper Belvedere alone is 9 Euro. I spent probably 3 hours in the Upper Belvedere and maybe 1 hour in lower Belvedere, the Orangerie (a short hall of modern randomness that they call the "passions" of Lord Eugene), and there were no stables to be found anywhere.

It's truly an amazing thing to see Klimt's "The Kiss" in person - it's life-sized and what you don't see in most of the replicas is the blank darkness on the right of the painting. This emptiness actually gives the painting a bit more dimension and relevance as it (if at all possible) emphasizes the couple more. Also, there was the painting of Judith and accompanying story - she was a heroine from the Bible that Klimt painted with such arrogance and sensuality - a really gorgeous painting.
Entrance to lower Belvedere
The Belvedere also has a handful of nice, but second-rate-but-still-famous pieces, a pretty one of a girl from Auguste Renoir, one from Monet of the house and garden at Giverny, etc. but overall, the MET in NY is far, far superior in terms of its collection. Except that it doesn't have "The Kiss"! =)

I had a nice time here, and the audio guide is absolutely imperative. 4 Euro will give you hours and hours of well-done stories next to some of the more important pieces in the museum.

I left the Belvedere via lower Belvedere and found myself on a terribly busy street that was nowhere near a freaking U-bahn. Oh, and I forgot to mention that following the directions on the website, it took almost 20 minutes to walk from the UBahn to the freaking Belvedere.
Fountain between Upper and Lower Belvedere
Yeah..

Searched in vain for a taxi and didn't see a single one, but somehow, by some stroke of luck, one stopped right in front of me to let some passengers out so I grabbed him and asked to go to the Kunthaus Wein which I couldn't pronounce for the life of me. I managed to communicate with him a little and he agreed to stop for a minute at the famous Hundertwasserhaus before heading over to the museum. YAY! =) I didn't want to waste too much time finding the Hundertwasserhaus because you can't go inside, etc. I wanted to concentrate on the museum and it was a total bonus to be able to stop by this public housing project on the way there.

Just to give a little background on Hundertwasser - he's an artist/architect from Vienna who is best known in architecture for his undulating, uneven floors and the presence of "resident trees".
Staircase leading down into the tiny garden maze before Lower Belvedere
He hated how cities took over and destroyed the environment so he incorporated these 1-meter-square spaces INSIDE apartments for trees to grow and jut out the windows. He also loved having grass roofs where things could be planeted and people could walk around and enjoy the greenery. He truly thought that grass roofs provided natural cooling in the summers and insulation in the winters. Not quite sure that's true, but hey whatever. He also believed plants could naturally filter dirty water - he believed plants were like the universal sieves. Which as a scientist is somewhat true but probably not as all-encompassing as he thought it was. I wonder why there is no obsession with say.. composting then?

I have to give a little shout-out here to the staff at Kunsthaus Wein.
outside of Hundertwasserhaus
I find Vienna a bit introverted and quiet. Too quite considering the rambunctious countries I've gotten used to, in all their warmth and closeness. This was the first place that people actually cared, and smiled at you, and were so so polite and open. My waiter at the cafe on the ground floor took my camera (asking first) to take pictures of me. The ticket seller was kind enough to call me a taxi when I was done.

There was a Picasso "mythology" exhibit (all sketches) on the third and fourth floors of the Kunsthauswein so there were 4 floors of goodies to see! Once again, the audio guide is absolutely essential unless you already know the histories and tales of these two artists. Which you can't possibly know everything, as they're portrayed so differently in the US as they are in Europe.
Kunsthauswein from the back


Hundertwasser was what I can only describe as a total environmentalist. He thought humans destroyed the earth, believed in incorporating plants into everyday architecture, and envisioned a city much like the opening scenes of Lord of the Rings where the Hobbits lived in these hovels practically indistinguishable from the rolling hills and valleys they were in. No surprise that Hundertwasser spent much of his life in New Zealand - where LOTR was filmed. He has some outrageous quotes all over the walls. Some are wonderful "Real illiteracy is the inability to be creative" while others are inappropriately dogmatic "the straight line is godless!"

It's always great seeing an artists' progression, and not just his "most famous" works. As you can see by the postcards that depict precisely that category of Hundertwasser's work, you kind of wonder how much acid he might have taken in his life to achieve this style.
a waterfall that flows UP!
But I saw some of his earlier work, before he decided to take depth perspective and straight lines completely out of the equation. And guess what? He can do it ALL with such precision it's unbelievable. Looking at one of his earlier sketches or paintings reveals an unbelievable sense of perspective, color and texture. Things literally pop out at you and evoke feeling. And then he got bored and decided to do away with perspective, and disappear forever into the abstract world.

My favorite part of the exhibition were his wood carved prints - maybe I just like shiny metallic things, hehe! And his stamps! What I would give to have his stamps, but they're highly sought after. He made quite a few for the UN (unbelievable!), a country in Africa (I think Angola), and Cape Verde.
Yes, this is the inside staircase - can you imagine?!
He was really weighty about some of his work, particularly his flags and stamps - he believed stamps were like little ambassadors from your country to the rest of the world. Very sweet, very serious, this man. What manifests as whimsical (his architecture, his vibrant colors) seem pretty deliberate and seriously thought out when you listen to his little speeches (and sometimes little tantrums).

I love little glimpses into an artists' life, and luckily there were quite a few candid ones that I thought were so, so neat. There is one of him in a shabby little room sleeping on a tiny twin-sized bed with iron frame. The walls are peeling, there are pieces of cloth everywhere, a single bulb hangs from the ceiling with a makeshift shade over it, and on the window, he has painted huge raindrops.
Picasso exhibit!
And in the picture, it was raining!! It was sooo charming and sad and inspiring all at the same time. Then there was another photo of him sitting in a tub of hot water in the woods. His dirty tub is placed on a sort of stand and has a fire roaring underneath it and he's got the happiest, most successful smile on his face. =) It is so precious, the minds and delights of these artists =)

Ah, and then I go upstairs to the Picasso exhibit. I didn't expect much, the brochure truly doesn't do the exhibit justice.
What I love most about this exhibit is discovering that Picasso redid his sketches (and probably paintings) over and over and over again in different styles. I was absolutely shocked at some of his "normal" sketches that proved to have such depth and proportion and a natural sense of how light plays.
My Hundertwasser postcards
And then you see him muck it all up by flattening all the perspective out of his sketches - anyway you get my gist. His work is really astonishing though, there are a ton of bullfight sketches and paint on paper scenes of bulls (did you know he was a Spaniard?!) and they're literally like this blots of ink on paper, but you take a second look and I swear to god they move the brush strokes or blots are so evocative!! And to top it all off, I have discovered my favorite sketch of Picasso's, it nearly made me cry in delight - it's titled something like "bullfight with friends" but it's just a sketch of a victorious bullfighter riding through a crowd. A measily few lines, and these bright dots of color framed in these crayon-like borders. But there's an absolute joy in the colors and how they're placed, it's so hard to describe.
outside of Kunsthauswien
Damn these museums for not allowing me to take pictures!!! =(
jenn79 says:
no, the museums in vienna have staff in EVERY ROOM ready to knock me down whenever I took out my camera!! =(
Posted on: Jun 17, 2009
TRE69 says:
As if the "no photos" placard has EVER stopped you before...remember the museum in Montmartre? HAHAHAHA! Now I want to go to Vienna too!!!
Posted on: Jun 17, 2009
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Impressive facade of Upper Belvede…
Impressive facade of Upper Belved…
Front area of Upper Belvedere
Front area of Upper Belvedere
The last place you can take pictur…
The last place you can take pictu…
Entrance to lower Belvedere
Entrance to lower Belvedere
Fountain between Upper and Lower B…
Fountain between Upper and Lower …
Staircase leading down into the ti…
Staircase leading down into the t…
outside of Hundertwasserhaus
outside of Hundertwasserhaus
Kunsthauswein from the back
Kunsthauswein from the back
a waterfall that flows UP!
a waterfall that flows UP!
Yes, this is the inside staircase …
Yes, this is the inside staircase…
Picasso exhibit!
Picasso exhibit!
My Hundertwasser postcards
My Hundertwasser postcards
outside of Kunsthauswien
outside of Kunsthauswien
peek-a-boo gardens in front of Low…
peek-a-boo gardens in front of Lo…
Ill tell you, it aint no Trevi F…
I'll tell you, it ain't no Trevi …
some statues in front of lower bel…
some statues in front of lower be…
Staircase leading to the exhibits …
Staircase leading to the exhibits…
these windows in the Marble Hall l…
these windows in the Marble Hall …
My Klimt postcards
My Klimt postcards
Vienna
photo by: EmyG