Last week I attended the final art group meeting of the “semester,” as the sponsor refers to it. The setting was the Baroque Winter Palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy here in the city; the exhibit was titled, The Power of Pomp (in English).
I like the Winter Palace, with its elegant and understated rooms. Add in a little bit of art and a visit is a sweet treat. Whomever is curating the recent exhibits should be commended; twice in recent months I have returned with Tony and served as his “private guide” to exhibits I have enjoyed with my group.
This exhibit was about the “art of order” (a perfect theme for me!) and the development of public art galleries from royal collections, which had their origins in the gifting of books containing reproductions from private collections to visiting diplomats and dignitaries, and evolved into the art catalogs and museum exhibits that we view in contemporary times.
Did you know that there is even an order to the display of art? Until last week I had not considered that concept. In galleries with numerous paintings on a single wall, in general the historical narratives are placed at eye level; the individual portraits are generally below; and surrounding both are landscapes and still life paintings. Check it out the next time you’re in an art history museum.
Prince Eugene grew up in the court of Louis XIV. Though of weak physique he desired a career in the French military. But, a little scandal involving his mother and the Sun King found him being rejected to serve the French military, so he promptly bid the country, Au Revoir and gave his loyalties to the Hapsburg Empire.
But, he did have a small fondness for the decorating style of the Sun King nonetheless, even going so far as to place his bed to face the morning sun a la Louis XIV.
The private chapel adjacent to Prince Eugene’s chambers.
The inclusion of a reproduction of this simple Spanish portrait in one of the gallery collections was groundbreaking for its time, as most of Europe had yet to recognize that “art” could come from Spanish painters.
By the by the enormous art reproduction books became expensive to produce, and so evolved into portable “travel” books that could be easily used when visiting a collection. The book below is one of the first guide books printed, and describes the collections at Schloss Belvedere.
Soon travel books were all the rage across the kingdoms.
Over time, modern techniques replaced hand drawings; and of course, today art guide books contain photographs of paintings.
I’m not going to go all introspective or philosophical, but just as the projection of art has evolved, and my understanding of art has evolved as well, so have I as an ex-pat. Hiding in one of the many English-language worlds here was never an option for me; the important advice given to me early on by an outgoing American ex-pat remains my motivation: “Go out and interact every day.” While not all of my interactions have been positive, I am out every day, integrating. My perspective has certainly evolved, too; I no longer assume that just because my passport is from the same country as someone I meet, that we necessarily have anything else in common.
I have the luxury (or the burden, depending) of not “needing” to be gainfully employed now or in the foreseeable future, and over the last four years, especially this recent year, this realization has led to considerable self-discovery, some good and some, just discovery.
So, as the end of our fourth year in Vienna comes to a close I congratulate myself on my own evolution as an ex-pat, and look forward to the challenges and excitement of being an ex-pat and Trailing Spouse in my “graduate” years. But all that will resume soon enough. The next ten weeks are dedicated to day trips, road trips, holidays and getaways, and integrating here at home. My kind of summer school.