Covering painting, sculpture, graphic design, photography, drawing, prints and architecture, as well as boasting 20 painstakingly restored royal state rooms, a visit to Vienna’s Albertina Museum might be any art lover's dream day out. Located in the city centre, just steps away from the State Opera House and the Schmetterlinghaus, it’s a place where Picasso meets pop art and where Leonardo da Vinci meets Lisette Model.
The Albertina is particularly famous for having one of the world’s largest and most highly regarded print rooms, with a collection of over one million prints and 65,000 drawings. With a selection that big, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the roll call of artists reads like a who’s-who of the biggest names in art history: Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Gustav Klimt, Picasso and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, among others. Basically, if you can name an artist, they’re probably in there.
The collection was first founded by Duke Albert of Saxony-Teschen, who installed his own private graphics collection after making the Albertina’s building his private residence in 1770. By the time of his death in 1822, it was home to around 14,000 drawings and 200,000 sheets of graphic prints, dating from the Middle Ages to the 1800s. Successive heirs then continued to add pieces, before the site and its contents were taken over by the state in 1920.
Following this move, the collection grew further, with a notable increase in the number of French and German drawings in the years up to 1934. During the Second World War the Albertina was badly damaged in Allied bombing raids; post-war, a focus was put on both rebuilding and on obtaining more work by famous artists. In the past 20 years, the Albertina’s purchasing policy has increasingly shifted towards expanding its collection of international contemporary art, as well as focusing on key works by Austrian artists in the 20th and 21st centuries.
With a collection so extensive, it’s impossible to display everything all at once. However, some of the most famous paintings from the last 130 years are to be found among the permanent collection:
Monet’s ‘Water Lily Pond’ - This iconic work was painted during the First World War, following the death of Monet’s wife and son in short succession. The water lilies it depicts were purposely planted in the pond in his garden so that he could paint them in all seasons.
Picasso’s ‘Woman in the Green Hat’ - Painted in 1947 by the man often referred to as the ‘master of cubism’, this is just one of 40 works by Picasso that the museum owns.
Renoir’s ‘Portrait of a Young Girl’ - By the time this famous pastel portrait was created in 1879, Pierre-Auguste Renoir had already made quite the name for himself on the Parisian art scene; the girl in question is said to be Elisabeth Maitre, the six-year-old niece of an art collector.
Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Glass and Lemon before a Mirror’ - From the early 1970s onward, Roy Lichtenstein, who is best known for his dynamic representations of people, started experimenting with still life. This work is just one of those created during this period. When you visit, see if you can figure out what’s missing from the mirror…
To make sure that other works are able to be viewed, the Albertina also hosts various temporary exhibitions, each focusing on one particular time period, artist or theme. Previous shows have included ‘Contemporary Art’, which featured work from post 1945 artists including the legendary Andy Warhol, and a display of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch’s greatest works. Head to their website to see what’s going to be on during your visit - or even better, plan your trip around it.
Throughout the Year
Entry to the Albertina Museum
Austria 1010 Wien