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Exhibition at Leopold Museum focuses on depictions of women as well as on works created by female artists
Exhibition view, 2017 © Leopold Museum, Vienna, Photo: Lisa Rastl.

VIENNA.- The series of themed presentations featuring the permanent collection continues with the exhibition Female Images – From Biedermeier to Early Modernism, which focuses on depictions of women as well as on works created by female artists from the 19th and early 20th century. In keeping with the emphasis of the Leopold Collection, the selected works hail from the period between 1830 and 1930.

The first part of the presentation shines the spotlight on various themes, including female portraits, mother-and-child depictions and women as nude models. Female depictions can initially be found predominantly in the portrait genre. These portrayals of women are strongly informed by certain expectations of their commissioners, such as the demand for beauty, charm and grace. Along with portrait depictions, female images often show women assuming traditional roles, such as that of wife, mother and caregiver to the family. An important factor in this context is the fact that over centuries, depictions of women were largely determined by the view of male artists – this is apparent in the visualizations of nude models in which the lines towards erotic presentations often become blurred. Examples of this genre are the famous nude drawings of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, as well as works referencing biblical and mythological themes, which often furnished a pretext for transporting erotic content. Renderings depicting women as professionals or performing tasks which show them assuming an active role in society are much rarer. Among them are depictions of artists, actresses and singers, some extraordinary examples of which can be found in the Leopold Collection.

The second part of the exhibition is dedicated to works created by female artists, who are also surprisingly well-represented in the Leopold Collection. Famous female painters and graphic artists, including Tina Blau-Lang, Marie Egner, Olga Wisinger-Florian and Broncia Koller-Pinell, feature in the exhibition with large groups of works. Another emphasis is devoted to the diverse oeuvre of the German artist Käthe Kollwitz. The presentation further seeks to acquaint visitors with lesser known artistic positions, for instance by the Vienna-born artist Emma Bormann who emigrated to the US and left behind a rich graphic oeuvre. The exhibition concludes with a group of ceramic works from the 1920s created by Gudrun Baudisch-Wittke, Irene Schaschl-Schuster, Kitty Rix-Tichacek and Wally Wieselthier, who in 1927/28 acted as artistic director of the Wiener Werkstätte.

Rendering these artistic positions visible, the exhibition also invites visitors to reflect on the role of female artists around 1900, which often appears in contrast to the depictions of women presented in the first part of the exhibition: not only were female artists banned from studying at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts until 1920/21, they also faced limited opportunities for exhibiting their works. Team of curators: Birgit Piringer and Franz Smola

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