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City, Country, River – 5 pictures you should not miss

It is easy for us to record a beautiful landscape using our smartphone. Earlier, when artists produced studies of nature that they then completed in their studios, this was more complicated.

In its exhibition “Stadt und Land. Zwischen Traum & Realität” (City and Landscape: Between Dream and Reality), the Albertina invites visitors to take a stroll that is full of contrasts with the help of 170 landscape paintings from five centuries – all from its own collection. Some of these are highly realistic, others fictitious. And the works on show also demonstrate how the world and people’s lives have changed over time. Here, Assistant Curator Constanze Malissa presents five works that you certainly should not miss.

1. Albrecht Dürer: Innsbruck von Norden (Innsbruck from the North), c. 1495

Albrecht Dürer spent the two years from 1494 travelling through Italy as a means of escaping the plague that was raging at the time. On his way home, he spent some time in Innsbruck. His small painting of the city is strongly reminiscent of a postcard. It shows a scene stretching from the mediaeval Hofburg to the Innbrücke, the bridge over the river that gave the city its name. It bears little resemblance to the Innsbruck of today. Yet the attention to detail in the work is fascinating.

2. Rembrandt van Rijn: Bauernhäuser vor gewittrigem Himmel (Cottages under a Stormy Sky), c. 1640

The Albertina was strongly shaped by one person. Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen – who founded our collection. He spent some time as Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands. Hence, Dutch painting was particularly close to his heart. Rembrandt was a star of his time and drew many landscapes close to his home city of Amsterdam. Here, we can see a typical thatched cottage, which Rembrandt painted from his imagination and which has a particularly dramatic impact upon the observer as a result of the lighting.

3. Jean Pillement: Flusslandschaft (River Landscape), 1770

The works of Jean Pillement are a wonderful recent discovery. They are exhibited here for the first time in many years. Pillement travelled widely, toured Portugal and lived in England. In 1763, he also came to Vienna, where he worked for Maria Theresa. In addition to this, he gave drawing lessons to her daughter, Marie Christine, the later wife of Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen.

As the city continued to grow during the course of the 18th century, people became nostalgic for an idyllic view of nature. They sought an idealised image of human life – as exemplified by this river landscape.

4. Jakob Alt: Blick auf Wien von der Spinnerin am Kreuz (View of Vienna from the Spinnerin am Kreuz), 1817

In this painting, city and countryside were woven together. One sees the carriages approaching the city. And in the background one recognises the Kahlenberg, the Leopoldsberg and the Bisamberg. The Vienna of the time appears remarkably sparsely developed. The artist stood on the Triester Straße. This was already one of the main transport routes into the city and remains a key way of entering Vienna today. We particularly liked this painting. This is why it is also the subject of our poster and graces the cover of our catalogue.

5. Egon Schiele: Alte Häuser in Krumau (Old Houses in Krumau), 1914

Egon Schiele turned his attention to his mother’s birthplace. In contrast with his previous paintings, his approach here was extremely personal. Schiele painted with pencil and gouache. We see parts of the houses in sketch form while others have already been painted in colour. The interwoven nature of the town can be clearly seen. The composition is free of people. Only the washing lines in front of the windows hint at the existence of the inhabitants.

You can find everything about the exhibition here