A hidden jewel

Vienna, Austria It is a gorgeous day in Vienna and spring has definitely sprung — though we might be back to hats and gloves soon. We took a little excursion to what is called the Klimt Villa, the last studio of the artist, which he used from 1911 till his death in 1918.

His studio was a humble ground floor Biedermeier cottage with a large garden full of flowers and fruit trees. The simplicity and relatively rural location (at the time) were its attractions. He is shown here in the garden in 1915.

What you see now is not his studio, but rather a house built over the studio in 1923, cleverly integrating it into a two-story neo-baroque building.

The Jewish family responsible for the careful remodeling had to flee in 1939 and sold the villa, which had been restituted in 1948, in 1954 for 500,000 shillings to the Republic of Austria, which used the building for a school. In the last 20 years, research proved the existence of Klimt’s studio and it was turned over to an association which has lovingly restored it.

We entered from the rear of the house, with its charming outdoor café. The tour started with the front room of the studio, which Klimt used as a reception area, and which displayed his treasured collection of Japanese art and a reproduction of the original carpet.

The main north-facing room in the rear was Klimt’s studio, with copies of his final paintings.

The upstairs, which was formerly the living quarters of the house, is now used as a performance space with reproductions of various works surrounding the hall.

But the most important part of the museum is an exhibit called “Klimt Lost.” This focuses on looted art, lost artworks and the stories about collectors, perpetrators and victims, related to Klimt. It does so unsparingly, actually referring to the Nazis, rather than to the National Socialists, as is the standard here.

The stories of several families were told, focusing on the difficulties they have faced reclaiming their stolen treasures. The Nazis took everything they could find – in the cause of “Aryanizing” the loot.

Perhaps most well-known is the story of the Woman in Gold — Adele Bloch-Bauer. The repatriation of this portrait was very controversial, and people in Vienna lined up for weeks to see this painting one more time, some thinking it was about to be “stolen” from them. (Now they must come to New York to see her.)

Sitting in the peaceful lovely garden, it was difficult to think about all the beauty created in this place, and all the ugliness that surrounded that beauty — and continues to surround it to this day.

Don’s Food Corner

Lunch was easy today. We went to an Italian restaurant and had Viennese specialties. Who wants to risk having Italian food in the land of wiener schnitzel?

That means, of course, Jo had wiener schnitzel with the obligatory side of cold potato salad. Her grade for the wiener schnitzel? A-. The breading had an especially crunchy texture. The veal wasn’t pounded as thin as it could have been. (Thus, the minus.) But the potato salad was excellent. More flavorful than recent servings.

I went with roast beef (tender) and roast potatoes (crispy on the outside, tender on the inside), all swimming in some pretty thick (but tasty) gravy. It was garnished with gherkins and fried onion rings.

These are the kind of dishes we expect all Viennese to make with their eyes closed. Even when they are trying to pretend to be Italian.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: