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Broncia Koller-Pinell, the painter who shone a century ago culture

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A large-format full nude presides over the anthology that the Belvedere museum in Vienna dedicates to Broncia Koller-Pinell (1863-1934) until September. Unlike Gustav Klimt, the painter shows her model, Marietta, without any erotic charge, without voluptuousness or ornament, in the innate and spontaneous act of finding the most appropriate pose. She is sitting on a sanitary white sheet and looks confidently into his eyes. Paradoxically, the oil painting that is celebrated today was discarded for the Kunstschau of 1908, an exhibition in Vienna that is remembered with an aura of legend, due to its resemblance to Klimt’s nudes.

Art changes, and at that time Koller-Pinell was already a prominent figure. Her presence at the Kunstschau was guaranteed with four other paintings and nine woodcuts; she was the most prominent woman artist in Klimt’s circle and had exhibited in the previous decade, in 1893, at the Chicago International Art Fair. At only 27 years old she had hung the oil painting Afternoons with grandma at the Künstlerhaus in Vienna. His solid artistic career shows like a palimpsest the evolution of the avant-garde: the dark palette of the Munich School in his early works; the visual language of German impressionists such as Fritz von Uhde or Max Liebermann and the symbolism of the secessionists in their later works. Then came the experimentation with expressionism and the New Objectivity. In 1918, Egon Schiele founded the New Secession in the living room of his house.

Self-portrait of Koller-Pinell.Belvedere Museum of Vienna

The Belvedere retrospective brings together his main works, a set of 80 paintings that cover five decades of uninterrupted art, and investigates his personal network of contacts. Together with her husband, the liberal physicist and intellectual Hugo Koller, she formed one of the most audacious artistic patronage couples of Austrian modernism. The design and furnishing of her residence in Oberwaltersdorf, a town thirty kilometers south of Vienna, was commissioned by Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser.

Women were banned from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna until 1920. Educated in an influential Jewish family, Koller-Pinell received private lessons and trained at the women’s academy in Munich. She met Schiele at the 49th Exhibition of the Secession (the painter designed the famous poster of him, in which he reserves the place of Christ at the Last Supper and replaces the plates with books). Koller-Pinell approached the young 27-year-old expressionist painter with the security granted by economic solvency and artistic intellectuality: she bought him an urban landscape and commissioned a portrait of her husband and private drawing classes for her young daughter. she Silvia. In the summer of 1918, Schiele portrayed Hugo Koller, an inveterate bibliophile, ensconced in his favorite green armchair behind his books. His personal library impressed Schiele.

'Nature death with the image of a saint', by Koller-Pinell.
‘Nature death with the image of a saint’, by Koller-Pinell.Lower Austrian state collections

The oil painting is exhibited alongside a series of tempera paintings that Schiele made during his stay in Oberwaltersdorf. Next to it are the obituaries of Edith and Egon Schiele that the family preserved. They died just three days apart that same fall during the flu epidemic. Klimt had done it in February. “On August 31,” Silvia Koller wrote in her diary, “exactly two months ago! He (Egon Schiele) drew me while I drew his wife. We never dared to draw him, although perhaps he would have liked to sit next to us; “The evenings after dinner were always very pleasant.”

The figure who most influenced Koller-Pinell was Klimt. The dissolution of the Kunstschau group in 1932 isolated the artist from her prestigious artistic circle. As a woman and a Jew, she was prohibited from entering the Secession. “The anti-Semitic atmosphere of the 1930s, the National Socialist turn and the hesitant rediscovery of her work made her representation in museums late. With this solo exhibition we show the quality of her painting and remember her important contribution to the art scene of Vienna in 1900″, says Belvedere director Stella Rollig.

The oil painting 'Silvia Koller con jaula', by Koller Pinell.
The oil painting ‘Silvia Koller con jaula’, by Koller Pinell.Belvedere Museum of Vienna

Her career was marginalized first by Austrofascism, then by Nazism and by a conservative society after the end of the Second World War that did not find the reasons to awaken the work of a Jewish woman artist. The Belvedere did not acquire her first work, Harvest (1908), until 1961. The disdain lasted until the end of the 20th century. In 1980 the newspaper journalist Delivery man Jan Tabor presented an exhibition of Koller-Pinell as “the works of art of a housewife painter.” That year the art historian Sieglinde Baumgartner defended her doctoral thesis at the University of Salzburg with the title Bronce Koller-Pinell. 1863-1934. An Austrian painter between dilettantism and profession.

The curator of the anthology, Katharina Lovecky, responds: “A dilettante would not have exhibited without interruption between 1890 and 1931 in the main art exhibitions of Vienna, Munich, Chicago, Warsaw or Rome, to name just a few of the metropolises where she exhibited her work. painting, and where he was also part of the selection committees.”

Portrait of Anna Mahler painted by Koller-Pinell.
Portrait of Anna Mahler painted by Koller-Pinell.Belvedere Museum of Vienna

In recent years there have been two exhibitions that shed light on women artists in Vienna: The Better Half in 2017 at the Jewish Museum and City of Women in 2019 at the Belvedere. “These two exhibitions,” Lovecky explains, “have been feminist statements against the lack of resonance that female artists suffered due to the erasure of the Nazi regime and the time that followed. Koller-Pinell’s work was exhibited at both events, which has contributed to igniting her interest in it.” The Nazi blackout was effective: during the preparations for the second collective exhibition, it was found by chance Early market in the funds of the Belvedere (the national gallery of Austrian art, let us not forget, and therefore in Nazi hands during the Third Reich), an oil painting from 1907 by Koller-Pinell that was believed to have been lost. A contemporary critic of the artist compared it to the work of Pieter Brueghel the Elder. It was when Broncia Koller-Pinell shone in Viennese modernism.

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