Female Perspectives on Vermeer
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Maria-Theresien-Platz, 1010 Wien, Austria
21. March 2023 - 8. October 2023
In this temporary installation the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna is juxtaposing Johannes Vermeer’s The Art of Painting with works by two pioneering contemporary female artists – and we are using ‘contemporary’ in both senses of the word: one of the female perspectives is that of a contemporary of Vermeer’s, the other that of a contemporary of ours.
The Art of Painting
Some 35 paintings by Vermeer are known today and one of the artist’s main works is part of the permanent collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: The Art of Painting. The painting depicts an artist in his studio with a model posing as Clio. The Greek muse of history inspires the painter and proclaims the glory of painting in the Old Netherlands, which she has immortalised in the book of history. With this allegorical painting Vermeer created one of the major works of the Dutch Baroque. This year, as part of a special hang, The Art of Painting will be flanked by two works by pioneering female artists, Maria van Oosterwijck (1630–1693) and Maria Lassnig (1919–2014), to bring a female perspective of Vermeer into focus.
In 1668, and thus more or less contemporaneously with The Art of Painting, Maria van Oosterwijck, the celebrated Dutch specialist in flower still-lives, produced a Vanitas Still-Life in which she includes herself in such a subtle way as to rival Vermeer. While the latter depicts himself seated at his easel giving us his back, van Oosterwijck incorporates her self-portrait as a discrete reflection in the glass bottle placed in the foreground. Framed by the reflections of the large windows of her studio, she is facing us, her palette in her hand. One of the period’s most celebrated specialists in flower painting, the artist was internationally renowned and her prized works were included in the great collections amassed by art-loving European princes.
Almost three centuries later, Maria Lassnig created Art Education (1976), an animated cartoon film that functions as a feminist parody of The Art of Painting, satirizing the traditional relationship between painter and model. The contemporary Austrian artist breaks up the silent dialogue between the two protagonists, staging a mocking exchange of words between the impatient painter and his recalcitrant model. In the final frame the two have changed places: now the model is painting the artist posing in the nude.
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien