Thursday, June 21, 2012


Art is Austria runs deep, mostly because it lies in the heart of art-inspired Europe. I have an appreciation for art, but I can’t name names when it comes to classical art. Some genres where Austrians excelled are in paintings and architecture. Austrian art more or less went through its own eras of art history yet also followed what was happening elsewhere in Europe.

One artist I came across is Gustav Klimt. Although he never married and supposedly lived with his mom, it was rumored that he often had affairs with the models he painted and even may have fathered children with some of them. His favorite subject to portray was women – in all aspects of their lives, from childhood through pregnancy and motherhood to old age. One of his most famous paintings is called “The Kiss.” But the one I really enjoy that touched my heart is one called “Mother and Child.”

One of Klimt’s friends was fellow artist Egon Schiele. He also had some issues with “relationships” with young girls (in fact, it actually got him a short stint in prison). His style looks mostly like sketches and watercolor, and he tends to either paint himself or paint nudes in provocative situations, or both.

Oskar Kokoschka was one another painter around the same time, but his issues lie in the fact that he would often portray violence, which got him kicked out of art school. He also made a name for himself in the literature field as well. I like his style of painting: he uses a lot of colors. And while the edges are not defined – almost in an early Impressionist style – he creates the illusion of definition with the colors he uses, contrasting light and dark.

Adolf Hitler (who was born in Austria and lived there until he was seven years old) was actually an artist as well.  A friend of mine sent me an e-mail years ago that had some of his art work in it, a lot of landscapes and buildings and such. And to be honest, I really like his artwork. Some of them are kind of peaceful. It seems so anathema from someone who had such skewed views of the world.

Architecture in Austria is a contrast between modern buildings of glass and steel to ancient castles of stones and mortar. Many of Austria’s cities hold onto its classic Baroque-style buildings from the past, yet have some of the leading architectural styles of the world nearby.

One of Austria’s more famous writers is Franz Kafka. I have one of his works The Metamorphosis on my massive Master Reading List. (One day, I’ll get to it I swear. I’m still working my way through Charles Dickens’ Bleak House and Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh right now.) The attributed term “Kafkaesque” is a term that loosely means anything that is disorienting, senseless, highly complex, and almost schizophrenic. That isn’t too far from the reality: certain sources and psychoanalysts claim that Kafka had low-level schizophrenic disorders and some even suggested he had some sort of anorexia disorder.  As the old saying goes, “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps.”

One of my favorite books I read growing up was the Madeline books, written by Austrian Ludwig Bemelmans. Now I want to go find the books again. (I’m thinking a trip to Half Price Books is in store for this weekend.)

Although not necessarily considered literature, there were many Austrian who were writers in their field. Sigmund Freud is one of the most famous psychoanalysts of all time, especially in the field of dream interpretation among other studies. I have his Interpretations of Dreams on my list as well AND on my bookshelf waiting for me. Hans Asperger is another doctor who studied autism and the namesake of Asperger’s Syndrome. Gregor Mendel is thought to be the father of modern genetics, discovering breakthroughs in inheritance and traits in the pea plant. Not really a writer, but rather written about, the father of the von Trapp family (Baron von Trapp), made famous from The Sound of Music, was originally from Austria. There are many other inventors, engineers, and highly educated people in all fields that have written extensively in their fields.

Up next: Music and Dance

Wikipedia: “Franz Kafka” “Adolf Hitler” “List of Austrians”

1 comment:

  1. I went to a contemporary art fair in Shanghai recently, which was a real eye-opener. Chinese contemporary art
    has come leaps and bounds from the watery Zen landscapes to huge canvases of strange-looking beings. The
    prices being asked and paid were huge too.
    Oriental, if not Chinese, my print of Jean-Léon Gérôme's painting,,
    bought some time ago from, is as lovely as ever.