header image


Better Times? Waldmüller and Biedermeier Vienna

Hardly any era is considered so apolitical or has become so synonymous with the “the perfect world” as Biedermeier period. The painting of the time appears to confirm this impression: the people portrayed seem modest, domestic bliss appears carefree, rural life idyllic. Yet this is only one side of the coin. Closely connected to political developments, the Biedermeier period began after the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15 and ended with the Revolution of 1848. It was the Vormärz, the Age of Metternich, with his pervasive system of spying, his censorship of the press and theater—and the retreat of the bourgeoisie into their private lives. Indisputably the most significant artist of the age was Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller. Born in humble circumstances in 1793, Waldmüller rose to the position of Vienna’s leading portrait painter around 1830, while also becoming the artist who discovered the Salzkammergut and the Vienna Woods. With pictures like On Corpus Christi Morning and Early Spring in the Vienna Woods, he created works that continue to shape our notion of the era to this day. Yet Waldmüller and his fellow artists, a few of them women, also shone a light on social ills: the poverty of broad swaths of the population, loneliness, and social ruin. The latter affected Waldmüller himself from the 1850s: No longer understood by his contemporaries, his art was increasingly derided and ridiculed, his modernity went unrecognized. He was only rehabilitated around 1900, over thirty years after his death in 1865, when the Secessionists and their promoter Ludwig Hevesi declared him a “proto-Secessionist” and hence one of their own.

Curator: Rolf Johannsen

45 mins


© Belvedere, Vienna / Production: tonwelt.com
Images © Belvedere, Vienna

Where you'll find this