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Book Review: Leopold, Masterpieces From The Leopold Museum, Vienna

By Antoine du Rocher

NEW YORK, 10 December 2002—With the opening of the Leopold Museum in the $160 million MuseumsQuartier in downtown Vienna in 2001, a major assemblage of Austrian modernist masterpieces, including the world's largest collection of Egon Schiele, became available to the public view for the first time.

Housed in a white limestone cube on the site of the former Imperial stables, the collection, estimated at 574 million Euros and accumulated by Rudolf and Elisabeth Leopold, encompasses well over 5,000 works of art. Apart from the extraordinary Egon Schiele collection, major works by Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Albin Egger-Lienz etc. are on display, as well as significant works from the 19th century by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Friedrich Gauermann, August von Pettenkofen, Anton Romako, Carl Schuch and many others. Schiele's Portrait of Wally from Leopold's collection made international headlines when it was seized by the Manhattan district attorney as possible Nazi-era stolen art, while on loan to New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1998.

Handsomely produced by Yale University Press and edited by Rudolf Leopold, Leopold, Masterpieces From The Leopold Museum, Vienna is the catalogue of the Leopold Museum's core holdings of Austrian art. Over 220 full-page illustrations present two centuries of Austrian paintings, drawings, and graphics including works from the Vienna Secession, Viennese Expressionists as well as important examples from the Wiener Werkstatte, the Austrian arts and crafts movement around 1900 by Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos and Josef Hoffmann.

Rudolf Leopold considers this to be an introductory catalogue and therefore omitted whole sections of his collection, notably all objects from the second half of the 20th century, masks and ethnological objects from Africa and Oceania as well as Japanese carvings and wood engravings. Moreover, the Viennese collector acknowledges that African and Oceanic art and objects were a source of inspiration for the Expressionists. Given that background, it would have been fascinating to see several such works in the catalogue as a point of contrast. Nonetheless, it is a splendid volume, providing those who might not make it to Vienna with a look at an exceptional collection.

Leopold, Masterpieces From The Leopold Museum, Vienna

Leopold, Masterpieces From The Leopold Museum, Vienna
Rudolf Leopold, editor
Yale University Press, New Haven; 1 August 2002
264 pages, 60 b/w + 140 colourplates
ISBN: 0-300-09228-8 (cloth)

Related: Leopold Museum Web Site

Antoine du Rocher is a French cultural journalist and writer based in New York. He is also a member of the editorial board of

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