The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (museum of art history) is an icon in the Austrian museum landscape with its permanent collection spanning from classics such as Raffael, Rubens or Caravaggio to ancient Egyptian and Greek art. The museum’s architecture is no less iconic. This year, the museum invites visitors to take a close look at its main staircase, which was painted by nobody other than Gustav Klimt.
Even though I have been to the museum several times, I paid only little attention to the Klimt paintings. Like many visitors, I mainly focused on the impressive marble staircase and the beautiful café area on the first floor. The museum decided to cast a spotlight on those paintings and set up a temporary structure enabling visitors to take a closer look at Klimt’s artworks. These paintings pay tribute to what Klimt considered the most important periods in art history.
Right when you enter the structure on your left, there is “Egyptian Art”, depicted as a woman in full nudity. She stands not only for the idea of the afterlife but also for life itself.
“Greek Ancient Art” pays tribute to the sculptor Phidias by depicting Athena, the goddess of wisdom and warfare (on the right). Phidias made two Athena sculptures which, unfortunately, only survived as marble copies.
Klimt stressed Italy’s importance for artistic development with three depictions: The first one is a painting of Ecclesia – the personification of the Catholic Church (above). She refers to Rome by holding the pontifical tiara. I really liked how this painting continues behind the column. The reference to Venice is made by the depiction of a Doge.
Secondly, Klimt mentioned the period of the 14th and early 15th century in Florence and its surrounding area and, thirdly, the Florentine Quattrocento and Cinquecento (15th and 16th century) – both paying tribute to the importance of Florence as an art centre.
Is it worth visiting the museum just for the Klimt paintings? While these paintings are interesting to look at, I recommend going to the Kunsthistorisches Museum for its permanent collections. Whether you are interested in ancient Egyptian, Greek or Renaissance art, this museum has so much to offer. Currently, the exhibition “The Shape of Time” pairs Old Masters with art from the 20thand 21stcentury, aiming to illustrate how their topics are still relevant. I think is an interesting approach.
As there are no special tickets for Stairway to Klimt, you have to buy general tickets for the museum anyways. I would enjoy the collection and end the tour with the Klimt paintings and a coffee in the beautiful cupola café.
Stairway to Klimt will be open until 2 September 2018. Tickets are EUR 15 (about USD 17). Concessions are available.
Opening times of the Kunsthistorisches Museum:
June to August
Daily, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thu, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
September to May
Tue – Sun, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thu, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Admission until half an hour before closing time.
All information as of 4 May 2018. Information based on the museum website and the material available at the exhibition. We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date.