Jakob and Rudolf von Alt – At His Majesty’s Service / Albertina Wien





Albertina Vienna



Jakob and Rudolf von Alt
At His Majesty’s Service
10 February – 24 May 2010





With its exhibition Jakob and Rudolf von Alt. At His Majesty’s Service , on view from 10 February to 24 May 2010, the Albertina is presenting masterpieces from the heyday of Austrian watercolour painting.


Jakob Alt


Jakob Alt
View from the Artist’s Atelier in the Suburb of Alser Looking Out Over Dornbach, 1836
Watercolour, preparatory pencil drawing
© Albertina, Vienna


The townscapes and landscapes on display were meant to reveal to Ferdinand I the beauties of the Austrian Empire and some of its adjacent lands. This is the first time that an overview of this series, which consists of large-sized and highly finished watercolours and was made by order of His Majesty, is offered on such a comprehensive scale.

It was the best and most renowned watercolourists that Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria commissioned with the compilation of a “picture book” of the most beautiful regions and most prominent spots across the Austrian monarchy and its neighbouring countries. Eduard Gurk was the first to be entrusted with the project, which was presumably launched in 1830. Soon Jakob Alt, who worked in a team with his son Rudolf, also came to be involved in the commission, and several years later, the artists were joined by the history painter Leander Russ. The last watercolours date from 1849, one year after Emperor Ferdinand’s abdication during the Revolutions of 1848.


The Albertina preserves 227 out of these altogether three hundred impressive and highly decorative works. Further examples are accommodated in the Austrian National Library’s picture archives and at Konopiště Castle near Prague. That the series was created over a lengthy period of time is also reflected in the large spectrum of themes addressed in the pictures. The scope of subject matter ranges from depictions of prominent buildings and panoramic views of towns to exceptionally beautiful scenery and renderings of social life in rural and urban environments. If the focus was initially primarily on vedute, the thematic variety widened noticeably when Ferdinand ascended the throne in 1835. No longer did the imperial family function merely as a patron, but its members also appeared on the scene as protagonists: depictions of coronation ceremonies or documentations of travels undertaken by the emperor and his entourage were meant to demonstrate the imperial family’s presence, even in remote territories of the monarchy.


The most splendid contributions to this topographical panorama from the pinnacle of Austrian watercolour painting were made by Jakob and Rudolf von Alt.





Rudolf von Alt



Rudolf von Alt
The Residenzplatz in Salzburg, 1844
Watercolor
© Albertina, Vienna

Rudolf von Alt


Rudolf von Alt
Lake Traun, 1840
Watercolor
© Albertina, Wien



  • The “Peepbox Paintings” of Emperor Ferdinand I/li>

    It was the leading watercolourists that Archduke Ferdinand (as from 1835, Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria) entrusted with the compilation of a “picture book” of the most beautiful and outstanding spots of the Austrian monarchy and its adjacent lands. The first assignments went to Eduard Gurk, presumably starting around 1830, and soon also involved Jakob Alt, who worked in a team with his son Rudolf. Later on they were joined by the history painter Leander Russ. The last watercolours date from 1849, one year after Ferdinand’s abdication during the Revolutions of 1848. The Albertina preserves 227 out of these more than 300 large-sized and highly finished watercolours; further examples are accommodated in the Austrian National Library and at Konopiště Castle near Prague. The lengthy period during which these works were executed goes hand in hand with a broad thematic scope, ranging from prominent buildings, panoramic views of towns, and scenic beauties to renderings of urban and rural social life. span>

    That mention was made of a peepbox, which according to Ludwig Hevesi, Rudolf von Alt’s biographer, was used to view the works, prompted their being referred to as “peepbox paintings” in art historical literature. The latest research, however, has revealed that the works preserved in Vienna are unlikely to have been viewed with the aid of an “optical apparatus”, contrary to those at Konopiště: the former’s condition and brilliant colours are much too perfect. Initially, the works may have been intended as peepbox paintings. However, in order to experience their effect, the utilization of an optical device was merely a possibility, but never a necessity, as is impressively demonstrated by this display of works by Jakob and Rudolf von Alt, Eduard Gurk, and Leander Russ, the first comprehensive presentation of a well-protected treasure of Austrian nineteenth-century art. span>


    Eduard Gurk


    Eduard Gurk
    The Embankment near the Augarten on 3 March 1830, 1830
    Watercolor
    © Albertina, Vienna

    Rudolf von Alt


    Rudolf von Alt
    The Dachstein in the Salzkammergut, Viewed from Lower Lake Gosau, 1840
    Watercolor
    © Albertina, Vienna







    Courtesy Albertina Wien
    Images © Albertina, Wien





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    ~ by Stampfli & Turci on May 5, 2010.

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