An indefatigable socializer whose network extended far beyond Austrias borders, Wilhelm Thöny (Graz, AT, 1888New York, NY, US, 1949) nonetheless guarded his creative independence and built an oeuvre that does not align with any of the major tendencies of his time. The motifs of his art reflect the pervasive unease of the interwar years, whose apprehensions he rendered in works such as the sometimes grotesque, sometimes nightmarishly somber drawings he produced around 1920 for his unpublished Book of Dreams. Yet even in the direst circumstances he often also created serene landscapes and cityscapes, scenes from the life of society, or portraits of individuals he held in high regard. The alternation between idyllic relief and utter despondency that is characteristic of Thönys oeuvre is on especially moving display in his Scrap Book of the 1930s, which mixes observations from everyday life captured with lighthearted humor with reflections on the increasingly oppressive political situation. Unlike earlier presentations at the Rupertinum, the new exhibition showcases both the Scrap Book and the Book of Dreams in their entirety, a Salzburg premiere. The drawings, watercolors, and paintings from between 1920 and 1940 in the museums collection round out the exhibition, complemented by loans generously provided by Galerie Welz, Salzburg.
I am very pleased that, after a long time, we are seizing this opportunity to present the set of works by the artist Wilhelm Thöny in the Museum der Moderne Salzburgs possession, and in unprecedented breadth. The exhibition also continues the review of our collections we successfully launched last year, notes Thorsten Sadowsky, the museums director. Lena Nievers, who curated the exhibition, emphasizes that these works are of great interest to us not only for their art-historical value, but also as documents of recent history. Thöny was a critical and witty observer and analyst of current affairs and charted his own creative path in an oeuvre that has earned him a singular position in the canon of Austrian modernism.
A restless cosmopolitan throughout his life, Wilhelm Thöny had a peripatetic career whose stations reflect the history of the first half of the twentieth century. Having studied art in Munich and spent several years in Switzerland after the end of the First World War, Thöny then returned to his native Graz; in the 1930s, he left for political as well as personal reasons, settling first in Paris, then in New York, where a fire in 1948 destroyed many of his works.
The exhibition Dreaming in Times of Crisis at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg
invites visitors to renew their acquaintance with a preeminent representative of Austrian modernism and rediscover his multifaceted oeuvre.
Curator: Lena Nievers