My hero is busy in the recording studio today, so I’m out on my own. Left to my own devices.
I had the makings of a cunning plan but had every intention of being flexible and going where the mood took me. This morning, it took me to the tram stop, where I stood looking at the Rudolfinium concert hall, lamenting the fact that right now, there’s nothing more interesting going on than non-stop Vivaldi and other touristy programmes. Come the weekend, the Spring season kicks off and the Vienna Philharmonic are here for a few days, but for now, nothing for us.
Oh well, one of us is getting plenty of music anyway.
The number 17 tram took me over the river and along the other side, stopping right outside my first destination. The National Gallery. I had no idea what I wanted to see, or indeed, what there was to see…I simply thought it could prove interesting.
My intention was to focus on Czech art, then. To see works that I might not see elsewhere. I began on Floor 2. A modern building, the galleries were set around a central atrium and were cold, grey characterless areas with strong overhead lights.
(two works by Jindfich Styrsky)
I had no map or floor plan but just a list of artists on each floor and needless to say, almost all of the names meant nothing to me. So, I just went with the flow and meandered, taking a closer look at anything which caught my eye.
(Diver by Toyen, Aquarium by Jindfich Styrsky)
These first pieces I encountered looked interesting, mostly because of the pale, almost chalky palette of colours used. Whether it was this palette, or the very strong aroma of boiled cabbage that filled the building, I don’t know, but there was a distinctly Eastern European feel to the whole place.
A little further in, still with no other person in sight, I came across more domestic scenes such as this one(At the shop window by Karel Soucek) though the overall atmosphere remained rather bleak.
I suppose I expected to come across political statements at some point.
I just wasn’t prepared for the lack of colour, or of natural forms really.
Though around the corner was a hint of fun in the form of this cute scooter and sidecar!
Here too was a corner of designs from the Brussels Worlds Fair in 1958, an occasion when Czech design came to the fore and “Brussels Style” captured the imagination.
But around the corner was more gloom, more grey walls and dark, dark artworks.
I continued to follow the “way of the visit” and hoped for something lighter in the next part!
I peered over the balcony of the atrium at this rather strange installation, which shuddered and shook and made me feel rather ill!
I decided to find out more and look properly at it later! On through the photography, then.
then to the next floor up. Let’s hope for something to lift the spirits!
More like it, wouldn’t you say?
Though really, the gallery continued in much the same vein. Apart from the occasional glimpse of a security guard, I saw no-one but another couple of women with whom I shared the lift. They were starting on floor 5 and working their way down and I was working my way up. Maybe we’d meet at some point?!
Here was the work of Czech cubists, not really a style I understand or admire.
But here were a few items inspired by cubism, such as this sofa. What struck me most about this section, however, were the Germolene-pink walls!
My original intention was to visit the museum of applied arts today, but it appears to be closed indefinitely so I was disappointed. I was especially pleased to see these pieces of glassware, then.
Around the corner, pink turned into peach and at last I spotted a bit of colour (Bouquet by Vaclav Spala)
Rather exuberant colour too! But on the wall, high above it was written:
Perhaps that explains it all?
I smiled at the arrangement of this pair of ladies in front of a few naked figures, though.
Nearby was a self portrait of the artist (Otto Gutfreund) who had created them alongside the figure of his wife. Such a relief to come across life!
But tragedy was never far away, with figures from a monument to dead miners by Pokorny amongst other figures set against a dark grey wall.
Just as I was feeling ready to give up on the gloom and return to the sunshine, I found myself in the French art collection. Never have a few impressionists been so eagerly spotted!
The same empty galleries with the same peachy walls, though, even if the pictures hanging there contained more light and sunshine.
All the “big names” were represented here too: The Lovers by Renoir above
Orchard in Bloom by Monet and more. No matter that none of these were the best these artists created, it was simply a relief to look at rather more uplifting subjects. After a while absorbing the French spirit, I moved on up to the fourth floor and hoped for something inspiring on which to end my visit.
As soon as I got out of the lift, I smiled. How’s this for a turn of the century masterpiece?
Entitled Prague and the Vltava River by Stanislav Sucharda, it was created in 1902 and purchased by the museum in 1904. It’s really rather three dimensional and is made of bronze, red marble and onyx.
So very much of its time, I think he’s the strong, silent type, don’t you? I love it!
Once inside the galleries of this floor, I found a few paintings which suggested a more comfortable family life. I rather liked the composition of this family portrait with man and wife side by side with their children. (The family of the woodcarver by Karel Purkyne)
I liked this picture too, of Thursday afternoon at the Stromovkapark by Viktor Barvitius.
and at last, a little pre-raphaelite, a touch of art nouveau was beginning to creep in, with these two enormous pictures by Pirner. The earlier of the two, on the right hand side is labelled “Frenzy, Hatred and Death – unfinished” and the other, lighter one “Love, thought and life – unfinished”. A metaphor, perhaps?!
Here too were a couple of works by Alfons Mucha; “Charity” above
and a rather more familiar style of portrait alongside it. Sweet.
But around the corner was this large painting which instantly caught my eye. The marks had been quickly made, there was energy and sheer fun in every one of them.
I mean, look at the baby’s face! Maybe it’s his mother alongside looking sultry, but she’s looking rather pleased with herself, for sure.
Even the cow looks to be having a good time.
As I stood and smiled at this little corner of fresh air and fun, I took a closer look at the label: it was a poster design for the Nestle company, no grand master or great work. How potent cheap art can be!
As i turned to return to the atrium, I smiled. I thought that today I had found the key to avoiding the groups. Not only had I avoided groups, I appeared to have avoided everyone, so far! But just as I was feeling smug, there they were with their guide. I continued past them, happy to have ended my visit on a sunny note!
Though actually, there were one or two more treasures to enjoy, including these beautiful glassworks by Gabriel Argy-Rousseau and a couple of small piece by Tiffany too
There was a series of windows by Mucha depicting the four seasons
and some beautiful architectural drawings, including one for the bridge I had travelled over by tram this morning.
I must say, it looked rather more splendid in the drawing than in reality! Though actually, the detail had caught my eye as we crossed it earlier, but not enough for me to get my camera out
Finally, totally overcome by reflections, a drawing of my next destination: The Municipal House. Far too much to include in this post, I’ll continue later.
For now, the brutal lettering of a wall design
and another, calmer view of the installation Touch of Time, by Magdalena Jetelova, taken from the rather amazing bookstore on the ground floor of the museum.
As I waited for my tram, I took a picture of the view. What an amazing city this is! What a wealth of architectural treasures are here to be explored.
And it’s only lunchtime! (well, 12:10 to be precise, as you can see )