VIENNA.- The exhibition Monet to Picasso offers an informative overview of one of the most exciting chapters in the history of art: the turn from figural to abstract art, the progressive deconstruction of traditional picture forms. In approximately 250 artworks paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures the development of the most important, and one could well say revolutionary, stylistic epochs of the last hundred years can be traced in the continual progression from Impressionism to modernism. . The fortunate combination of the Batliner Collection and the Forberg Collection with the Albertinas inventory has brought together work groups by pioneering artists, making it possible to provide a comprehensive look at the many isms of the modern era. At the centre of this presentation is the Batliner Collection, which was transferred to the Albertina by the Herbert and Rita Batliner Foundation in May 2007.
Impressionism and Der Blaue Reiter
The point of departure is French Impressionism, with exceptional late works by Monet (Water Lily Pond) and Degas (Two Dancers) and Post-Impressionism, primarily represented by artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec and Cézanne, the latter with his favourite themes such as the Arc Valley and the Sainte-Victoire Mountains or the bathers. The show continues with the Nabis group with Bonnard and Vuillard, whose predilection for ornamental composition in surfaces is manifested most of all in lithographs. The wild, intensely colourful works by Matisse, Vlaminck and Derain exemplify the Fauvist movement, while the Signacs Pointillist approach represents Neo-Impressionism. Orphism is presented in key works by Delaunay and Kupka, followed by the German artists of Der Blaue Reiter, Marc, Macke and the early Kandinsky, who were decisively influenced by this ism.
Cubism and Russian avant-garde
An important step on the path to abstraction is represented by Cubism, which is brilliantly represented by Braque and Picasso. Picassos late work, which played a uniquely significant role in shaping the art of the 20th century, forms a further highpoint of the exhibition. Alienation and mystification are reflected in the Surrealist paintings of Miró, Klee, Arp, Magritte and Delvaux. An independent chapter of no small significance is represented by the Russian avant-garde with Lissitzky and Malevich. The show concludes with impressive examples of Abstract Expressionism, including Appel, Rothko and Newman, and the New Realism of Yves Klein.
THE BATLINER COLLECTION
Herbert and Rita Batliner started collecting art almost 50 years ago. Their close friendship with Ernst Beyeler influenced them from the very start to base a specific part of their collection on French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting. Meanwhile, the couple concentrated from the beginning also on works by Pablo Picasso; more than forty of them are in the Batliner Collection today, among them ten paintings, as well as many drawings and unique one-off ceramic works.
Thanks to his extensive travelling, the long-time president of Liechtensteins Constitutional Court and managing partner of a large law firm in Vaduz came to know and love the Russian avantgarde. The couple were particularly fascinated by the collections of Russian avant-garde art at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Guggenheim Museum/New York, the Ludwig Museum/ Cologne, and the Russian Museum/St. Petersburg. Over the years, they consistently and with great connoisseurship built up their own collection of Russian avant-garde art of the period between 1905 and 1935. Marc Chagall plays a central role here, but the collection is also remarkable particularly for groups of works by Natalia Goncharova and Popova, by Michael Larionov, and a major work by Kasimir Malevich, which he painted immediately after his release from prison during the Stalin era as a remembrance and picture of his resistance against his arrest.
The legacy of a collector couple
The collection, which has grown over the course of many decades, enjoys the highest esteem among connoisseurs and museums. Herbert and Rita Batliner have been long noted for loaning their works; hardly any exhibition of Picasso, Monet, Modigliani or Giacometti is put on without loans from the Batliner Collection.
The Batliners have been forging a plan for several years of maintaining this great private collection as an integral whole and transferring it in its totality as a legacy to a museum. Believing that every substantial art collection is just as unique and worthy of preservation as a single major work of art, Herbert and Rita Batliner have resolved to endow the collection to the general public during their lifetime. As much as the collectors rejoiced in and felt the intellectual challenge of the hundreds of paintings, pastels, gouaches and sculptures through the decades, they now desire the tangible and intellectual enrichment of making their collection accessible to a wide public.
The Batliner Collection in the Albertina
To safeguard the indivisibility of this great private collection and its fundamental perpetuity, Herbert and Rita Batliner have incorporated their works of art into a foundation: the Herbert and Rita Batliner Art Foundation. This is the provider of the permanent loan now being transferred to the Albertina, similar to the Austrian Ludwig Foundation, which also brought works acquired over 25 years as the Foundations inalienable property into the collection of the Albertina (and also of the MUMOK).
That the couple have now resolved as donors to establish their art foundation permanently and in its integral totality in the Austrian capital Vienna deserves our most heartfelt thanks. This is not only another upgrading of the Albertina, but also an inestimable gain for the entire art and culture world in Austria. (Wilhelm Molterer, Vice-Chancellor and Finance Minister of the Republic of Austria)
The Albertinas curatorial autonomy
The Albertina has the sole right to decide upon presentation, loaning, publication and scholarly processing. The museum is independent of the foundation in its decisions on the type and method of exhibition of the Batliner Collection. However, it is in the mutual interest of both parties that the intention and wish of the collectors be respected in exhibiting their art works as optimally as possible, so as to fulfil the purpose of the foundation in making the private collection accessible to the public. Art can be owned, but by its nature it is a public resource, states Herbert Batliner.
The permanent exhibition of this great European art collection will be dedicated to the collectors Herbert and Rita Batliner as their legacy. Thus the Batliner Collection is aligned with those museum foundations that have notably enhanced and extended existing museum collections, such as the Berggruen Collection as part of the Berlin Nationalgalerie, the Walter Annenberg Collection as part of the Metropolitan Museum/New York, and the Thannhauser Collection in the Guggenheim Museum. These have recently been joined by the Brandhorst Collection in Munich and the Hahn and Ludwig collections in Vienna.