Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Up close and personal

Vienna is celebrating the 150 anniversary of the birthday of one of it’s most prominent and beloved sons – Gustav Klimt. I had no idea until I arrived to Vienna a week ago. Gigantic posters announce special Klimt events all over the city. To say I was overwhelmed would be a major understatement.
Wein Museum, Art History Museum, Leopold Museum, Succession, Belvedere – just to name a few must-sees in the next several months in Vienna. Each exhibition is designed differently and focuses on a particular facet of Klimt’s life.  I had only two short days in Vienna and it was virtually impossible to see everything. 

I enter Leopold Museum holding my breath. “Klimt - up close and personal” is the name of the exhibition. Throughout the gallery there is a glass display with hundreds of postcards.   
Just a few meters away from his paintings I stop and look at the glass case. And I cannot move. I see Klimt himself. Not the renowned artist but a man. His handwriting, his thoughts, his signature “Kindest regards, GUS”. All of the cards are addressed to Emilie Flöge, his faithful friend and life companion.
Portrait of Emilie Flöge by Gustav Klimt, 1902
None of them are remotely romantic, which just adds to a theory that they had a platonic connection (he did father 14 children from various women during the years of their friendship).
119 Postcard from Gustav Klimt in Vienna to Emilie Flöge, in Paris 27.02.1909, private collection.
TIVOLI- Saturday 27.02.09 –around zero degrees, some sun, hung-over, conference, then (Cabaret) Fledermaus (…) , back at 3 o’clock, slept badly, unfortunately. Kindest regards, GUS

It might sound strange, but it was my best “Klimt moment”. There will be other moments, of course. Vienna fascinated me deeply and I am planning to go back soon. My first impression of the city was that I found myself in a clean, calm Paris. And just like Paris Vienna is famous for it's authentic cafés. Café Central, Café Mozart, Café Sacher offer everything a demanding gourmand can expect. But if you are looking for a quiet and intimate atmosphere, go to Café Hawelka  in the old town (Dorotheergasse 6).
Opened in 1936 by Leopold and Josefine Hawelka, and re-opened right after the II World War in 1945, this cafe quickly became a refuge for local and international artists and intellectuals (Andy Warhol, Peter Ustinov, Udo Jürgens – just to name a few guests). In the evening they serve delicious dumplings filled with fire hot jam, being faithful to an original recipe of Josephine Hawelka.
Afterwards there has been a wonderful day in Prague, but I will leave it for another post.

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