“… I would like to be an Austrian”. Judaica from the Eisenberger Collection
February 9 to April 30, 2000
The most important private collection of Judaica from the time of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was put together by Vera and Jenö Eisenberger. It forms the core of an archive that also includes Austrian art and contemporary Israeli art. The Jewish Museum Vienna is marking the start of its tenth anniversary by presenting outstanding items from the Judaica collection together with selected examples of modern Israeli art.
“We collect Austria” is the leitmotif behind the Eisenbergers’ collecting enthusiasm, driven by the couple’s attachment to their adopted home and their fascination with the Austro-Hungarian empire. They have always been interested, in addition, in doing something different from other collectors and discovering new and hitherto largely ignored fields of interest. The result is an impressive collection of artworks as well as everyday silverware items, from samovars to snuffboxes and sugar bowls.
Until a few years ago historical Judaica was collected and appreciated by only a few individuals in Austria. Today this part of the Eisenberger Collection is regarded as one of the most important privately owned collections of its type in existence. The material value of the objects has never been the prime consideration, but rather their aesthetic and historical interest. Jenö Eisenberger sees similarities between a collector and an artist, for both of whom creativeness and individuality are of the utmost importance. In the case of Judaica an awareness of the history of the Jews and the need to keep it alive is an additional factor. Since Judaism is an integral component of Austrian culture, Judaica forges a link between the Jewish and Austrian aspects of this culture.
This feature, which permeates the Eisenberger Collection, is thus closely tied up with the Austro-Hungarian dynastic tradition. Jenö Eisenberger repeatedly draws attention to the contribution that Jews made to this multination state in the reign of the Emperor Franz Joseph. Today the ritual objects that survived the Hitler era are among the few remaining testimonies to this rich culture. These objects are prized items at international auctions even if they are in need of careful restoration in many cases to return them to their former glory.
Curator: Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek
Chaim Soutine. A French Expressionist
March 8 to June 4, 2000
The Jewish Museum Vienna is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a sensational exhibition entitled “Chaim Soutine. A French Expressionist”. The exhibition features more than forty outstanding works, on show in Vienna for the first time, from all periods of the artist’s life. Portraits, landscapes and his famous animal still lives have been collected on loan from all over the world. Born in 1893 in Smilovichi (Lithuania), Soutine was regarded as an outsider in his own lifetime. He died in France under dramatic circumstances in 1943 as the result of an overdue stomach operation. Today, by contrast, he is mentioned in the same breath as Chagall and Modigliani. To escape the poverty of the shtetl he decided to try his luck in Paris, where his unusual and tragic fate has contributed to the legend that surrounds this representative of the Expressionist school. Despite his significance, Soutine is barely known in Austria.
Soutine’s works do not feature in any collections in Austria and there has never been an exhibition devoted to him in Vienna. By making up for this deficit, the Jewish Museum Vienna is also paying tribute to one of the major Jewish representatives of the Paris School, whose pictures, while difficult to classify, remain today the subject of controversial debate among art historians. By way of contrast, works are also shown by two Austrian artists – Jean Egger and Hermann Nitsch – whose expressive style harks back to Soutine.
Curator: Tobias G. Natter
Lucie & Paul Peter Porges - Style and Humor
May 31 to September 17, 2000
Lucie and Paul Peter Porges met as teenagers while escaping from the Nazis, married almost 50 years ago and made their careers in America, Lucie as a fashion designer and Paul Peter as a cartoonist in top magazines such as The New Yorker and the cult comic Mad Magazine. The exhibition shows selected works by these two artists and chronicles the stages in their lives from working-class districts of Vienna to New York’s Upper West Side.
Lucie Eisenstab and Paul Peter Porges met in 1945 in Geneva. Both had fled to France from Vienna in 1938, Lucie with her parents, and Paul Peter through evacuation to the children’s camp at La Guette. From there he managed to reach Switzerland on his own. After the War, Lucie, who had studied fashion design, went to Paris where she immersed herself in the world of haute couture, while PPP, as Paul Peter Porges called himself, followed his parents to New York. After touring the country with a circus for several months, he was drafted into the US Army, where he published his first drawings and cartoons in military magazines.
On his return to New York his career took off: the Saturday Evening Post published his cartoons, and he also worked extensively for the cult comic Mad Magazine and the more serious magazine The New Yorker. His cartoons showed New York and the madness of daily life there. Lucie Porges, who arrived in New York in 1951 and married Paul Peter there, was artist in residence at Pauline Trigère’s fashion house. She worked as a designer and, together with Pauline Trigère, helped define the company’s fashions from the 1960s until the 1990s: a Viennese designing French fashions in New York.
Curators: Werner Hanak, Petra Bacher, Gerhard Treml
Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack – Bauhaus Artist and Visionary
June 14 to October 22, 2000
Born in Frankfurt/Main in 1893, Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack was one of the most important representatives of the younger generation in the Weimar Bauhaus. Using projections of coloured light, his “reflected light compositions” made a practical contribution to the discussion of movement in the art of the early 1920s and put him at the forefront of the avant-garde movement of the day. These light compositions were shown in many German cities and also in Vienna during the 1924 Music and Theatre Festival, which was under the artistic direction of the architect Friedrich Kiesler. A light machine has been specially reconstructed for the exhibition.
Apart from the light compositions which, from a historical point of view, are the major contribution of Hirschfeld-Mack to contemporary art, he also left behind a large number of less well-known drawings and paintings. They show his thoughts on the works and teachings of some of the most renowned Bauhaus masters, including Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger and Moholy-Nagy. In line with the development of the Bauhaus style, his repertoire progressed from expressionist and primitive lyrical symbolism to a constructive, self-analytical style combining aspects of both representational and abstract art.
With his practical studies of the mutual interaction of colour and form, particularly within the colour seminar initiated by him at the Bauhaus in 1922/23, Hirschfeld-Mack also laid the foundations for his future artistic development and teaching work. His investigations in this direction and his belief in the possibility of a new unity between art and technology can be seen not only in isolated items of furniture designed by him but also in the form of a doll’s house, which he made in 1923/24 for use in the classroom. This modular construction, made up of surfaces in the three primary colours, helps to convey the link between one-dimensional and two-dimensional forms. It was intended as a teaching tool in preliminary and technical drawing classes.
Because of his Jewish origins, he was forced to emigrate to England in 1936, where he was interned when the Second World War broke out and deported to Australia, just before he was able to embark on a planned onward journey to the USA.
Curator: Peter Stasny
“… and Rachel was beautiful.” Abel Pann´s Bible Illustrations
September 27 to December 3, 2000
The Jewish Museum is devoting an exhibition to one of the pioneers of Zionist and Israeli art, Abel Pann. Pann, today largely forgotten outside of Israel, was born as Abba Pfeffermann in 1883 in Kreslawka, Latvia, the son of a rabbi. His father encouraged his son’s drawing talent and enabled him to study art under the famous Jewish artist Yehuda Pen. His artistry first took shape in Paris where from 1903 onwards he studied at the Académie Julian under Adolphe William Bouguereau. His career began in drawing room art where he made a name for himself with small oil paintings depicting “Belle Époque Ladies”. He also worked as a caricaturist for the satirical magazines “Mon Dimanche” and “Le Rire”. In 1913 Pann made his first journey to Palestine, teaching at the Bezalel School of Art. There he created his first drawings of “Jerusalem Types” and the Palestine landscape. In 1914 he returned to Paris to prepare for his permanent move to Jerusalem. The outbreak of the First World War thwarted these plans.
News which reached him about pogroms against Russian Jews inspired him to create a cycle depicting their suffering. This cycle, known as “The Jug of Tears”, brought him renown in wider circles as an artist with extraordinary empathy for the misery of his people. Several sheets from this cycle will be on show in this exhibition. It was not until 1920 that Abel Pann settled down for good in Jerusalem and was able to begin with his main task of illustrating the bible. These illustrations were done in pastel paint, a technique difficult to master. He saw the biblical stories in a realistic light, employing the people and landscapes as he saw them in Palestine at that time.
Unmistakable in his work is the influence of the school of Bouguereau as well as drawing room art and nineteenth-century orientalism. The bourgeois view of the Orient, with its half-exotic, half-erotic visions of harems, is never far off. Black curls, almond eyes and “lips like roses” – these are the recurring features of Pann´s biblical women. Success in Europe followed on from these works and the Viennese critic Felix Salten lavished Pann’s paintings with praise on the occasion of his 1925 solo exhibition at the Vienna Secession.
Curators: Oz Almog, Gerhard Milchram
East Meets West – Galician Jews and Vienna
November 7, 2000 to February 18, 2001
In the late 19th century and early 20th century the Jewish community in Vienna experienced a strong influx of Jewish immigrants from Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary and, in particular, Galicia. The immigrants from Bohemia and Moravia came for the most part from assimilated families and did not therefore differ much from the established Vienna Jewry. This was not the case with the Jews from Galicia, however, who were often referred to pejoratively as “Ostjuden”. Yiddish, the language they spoke, was looked down on by the Viennese; their piety, clothing and general appearance merely fanned the flames of anti-Semitism, and many Viennese Jews also felt threatened in their attempts at assimilation. In this way these Eastern European immigrants became the focus of hostility from Jews and non-Jews alike. But the negative stereotype of the “Ostjuden” had a positive side as well, with the romanticisation of Eastern European Judaism as the “true, authentic and unadulterated” form of the religion. This glorified picture reflected anti-bourgeois resentment and disappointment at the failure of the enlightenment to put paid to anti-Semitism. The “Ostjuden” were regarded as representatives of the authentic religion, as opposed to the over-assimilated “Westjuden”, who had alienated themselves from their own traditions.
The image that many Galicians had of Vienna was one of hopeful yet unreal expectation. They imagined the city to be the gateway to the world that would rescue them from the discrimination and poverty they had suffered in Galicia and would offer them a better and fairer existence. Needless to say, this idealised image also had negative connotations: many religious Jews in particular feared that Vienna offered far too many dangerous worldly temptations ready to undermine the foundations of religious belief. The exhibition looks at the multifaceted relationship between Galicia and Vienna and the fundamental conflict within Judaism between East and West. It features contrasting images and myths – seen from both sides – and also addresses the romanticised and nostalgic view of Eastern European Jewish culture that prevails today.
The exhibition shows the various religious, cultural and political influences on Galician Judaism: Hasidism, Haskala, Jewish nationalism, Zionism, the Jewish workers’ movement, loyalty to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Yiddish culture, and also the affinity to German and Polish culture. One of the prize items in the exhibition is a sumptuous Torah curtain from the private prayer house in Vienna of the Sadagorer Rebbe, who brought it with him from Galicia. The curtain was confiscated by the Nazis in 1938. The homage paid by the Galician Jews in Palestine to the Emperor Karl on his accession to the throne in 1916 testifies to the loyalty of Austria’s Jews to the ruling monarchy. It is in the form of a panegyric to the Emperor written in Hebrew, rolled up in a silver tube decorated with precious stones and adorned with a portrait of the Emperor. It was created at the Bezalel School of Art under the direction of Boris Schatz.
Curator: Gabriele Kohlbauer-Fritz
The Works of Ili Kronstein. Art that is meant to be discovered
December 13, 2000 to March 25, 2001
The Jewish Museum Vienna is devoting an exhibition to Ili Kronstein, one of many Austrian artists of Jewish origin sharing a common fate: they were forgotten due to persecution by the Nazis. Ili Kronstein fled with her two daughters from Vienna to Liechtenstein in 1938 after weeks of imprisonment by the Gestapo, where her husband, who had had the foresight to open a pharmacy in Vaduz some years earlier, was waiting. But Kronstein, who was born in 1897, had studied with Itten and had had her own workshop in the centre of Vienna, remained only a short time in the provincial capital of the Principality. Driven by an incredible urge to create and to wrap herself in a world of art far from the brutality of the War and the persecution of the Jews, she took the unusual step for an exile of leaving her husband and daughters and settling in Spartan circumstances in a village near Nice.
The years 1939 to 1942 were a time of exciting artistic discovery: in southern France, where she met many exiled artists, she found her own distinctive use of colour and began to move from figurative to abstract portraits. She remained in the South of France until 1942, survived imprisonment in the concentration camp at Gurs and chose the uncertainty of Nice in preference to the relative safety of Liechtenstein. It was not until 1942 that a mysterious disease started to paralyse her, preventing her from painting and forcing her to return to her family. Ili Kronstein died of multiple sclerosis six years later near Zurich. Although her body could no longer move, her mind remained alert until the last.
Much of Ili Kronstein’s work was lost during her years of exile. Some 120 drawings and pastels were rescued by her daughter Nora and brought from Liechtenstein via England to Israel. In 1997 she and her sister Gerda Lerner donated these works to the Jewish Museum Vienna. The exhibition presents a selection of 70 drawings and pastels by a woman in exile who used her art to try to find an alternative world to the life-threatening reality of the time. It shows not only her artistic talents but also her desire to teach. An audio installation gives an idea of the painting and drawing course she devised in the tradition of her teacher Johannes Itten. Her thoughts on line, colour and light, and also on breathing techniques and yoga in art, provide an insight into the creative world of ideas of a hitherto unknown 20th-century Viennese artist.
Curators: Werner Hanak, Elke Doppler