The Albertina was a stunning revelation in central Vienna. Close to the Hofburg complex, it started life in the 18th Century as the Court Construction Office, before becoming the home of Duke Albert of Saxen-Teschen. He was the husband of Archduchess Maria Christina, one of Austrian Empress Maria-Theresa’s eleven daughters. As well as being the brother-in-law of Maria Antoinette (or Maria Antonia as she was known in Austria), he was one of Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg Gotha’s godparents and a prolific art collector.
The Palace is somewhat unique in that it stands on one of the bastions, the Augustinerbastei, of the old city walls that were removed to make way for the stately boulevards of the RingStraße in the mid 19th Century. This explains why the building stands above modern day buildings on a sort of pedestal. The term Albertina only came into use after the palace passed into public ownership with the end of the Austrian monarchy.
A visit includes entry to some rooms preserved as state rooms, a wonderful (and unexpected) collection of modern art, and rotating exhibitions. We focused on three of those exhibitions: Monet to Picasso; Martha Jungwirth, and the Director’s Choice from their extensive photography collection.
The Palace’s position on the old bastion gives commanding views over the opera house, and makes for a statement stairway entrance that is used to great effect (there’s a lift and escalator too). The grounds and terrace were a lovely oasis where locals and their dogs were resting before heading off for another stroll in the midday heat.
Inside, this was one of the most intimate palaces that I’ve ever been able to visit – it was possible to get so close to the displays in twenty of the state rooms to really appreciate them. A real pleasure. I loved the gorgeous Hall of the Muses.
Jungwirth is a Viennese abstract painter whose work was beautifully displayed in the palace setting.
Monet to Picasso
Where to start here! This is a permanent collection – the Batliner collection – of Modernist art spanning the time between Monet and Picasso. The masterpieces just keep on coming, and post impressionism, impressionism, Russian avant-garde and more all feature. My pictures only scratch the surface, so do explore the videos and more on the Albertina’s website.
Photography: The Director’s Choice
The Albertina has a collection of some 100,000 photographs, and this was a specially curated selection by the Museum’s Director General.
I was mesmerised by these images from the 1930s by society photographer Trude Fleischmann – they feel much more recent, don’t they?
With a cafe and extensive rotating exhibitions (we chose to skip the Viennese watercolours as well as the Keith Haring exhibit) it would be possible to spend hours and hours exploring all this spectacular site has to offer.
Have you visited? What was your favourite part of this great location?