K is also for Klimt and Klee and Kokoschka. Taken together these artists introduced me to Art (Kunst in German) in Vienna. Of course they are by no means all that I’ve been exposed to here – there’s also Egon Schiele, the entire Biedermier lot (names unknown) and the Gaudi-esque Hundertwasser (to whose work I’ll have to devote a separate post), but the K-series embody the most memorable of my Art museum experiences this summer.

Klimt’s Kuss (Kiss): Reality surpassed all expectation, which I think is true of many arts and artifacts unlike cinema, where more often than not, the hype has diluted the effect for me. But both with Klimt’s paintings as well as the King Tut artifacts in the Egyptian museum, the real things really made me profoundly glad for the opportunity to bear witness. One thing the hype over Der Kuss did was obscure information about his other works. Even more than that painting I was taken with two others that are also displayed in the Upper Belvedere. I can’t remember their titles, but will describe them. The first is a silver-gray themed portrait of a woman, whose decorations left me with a misty impression that evokes romance in the same way that a light drizzle does in Northern India (and in certain well-done Bollywood films). This painting is in the same room as the more famous Kiss and Judith. The other painting is another room amid works by other Austrian artists, and is a portrait of a beautiful young woman, who was the wife of an industrialist and may or may not have been Klimt’s lover while he painted her. She is wearing a pink dress full of frills and ruffles, which should look girlish and ridiculous but does not. Instead she is a lovely and uplifting confection, whom I have since asked my Mom and my cousins (on separate occasions) to say hello to on my behalf.

Vienna really is/was Klimt’s city – his work is everywhere here. In a ceiling at the University, in a mural at the Secession building and in several other museums besides the Belvedere. Somewhere in town is his last studio, which I shall certainly try to get to before I leave.

The second K is Klee, (pronounced more as if it were klay not kli) who was Swiss originally (as Hannes reminded me) and whose bright colors and cartoon-y and architectural work I was vaguely familiar with. His work is one of the exhibits this summer at the Albertina. Turns out my impression of him as architectural was correct for he is was associated for many years with the Bauhaus school as a teacher. I liked his stuff and am glad I got to see it but as a body of work it didn’t blow me away.

The works of Oskar Kokoschka, another Bauhaus teacher who lived for a time in Vienna, were also displayed at the Albertina. He was a totally new name, and though I might not be able to identify his work from a line-up, his subject matter left more of an impression than Klee. Especially his portraits/paintings of various cities. He did a gorgeous one of London and a lovely golden-hued one of the Viennese Stadtsoper by night, which perfectly evoked (for me at any rate) the glittering spectacle that the Opera house here is (or should be when a show is done right).

Besides the K-trio another artist I should mention is Egon Schiele, whose main body of work at the Leopold museum I’m yet to see, but the few portraits I did catch at the Belvedere and the Karlsplatz museum are haunting to say the least. His gaunt images, somewhat reminiscent of Francis Bacon’s work, are not pretty or upliftng, but they demand reaction and leave a lasting impression.