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Inventory of the Drawings, Watercolours and Oil Sketches of German and Austrian Romanticists and Late Romanticists in the Graphic Arts Cabinet of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

Project leader:
Robert Wagner (Library and Graphic Collection)

Project team:
Cornelia Reiter

Funded by:
FWF | Stand-alone project (P12246)

FWF | Stand-alone project
led by Robert Wagner, University Library and Graphic Collection
Duration: 1.9.1997 – 31.8.2000

The Graphic Arts Cabinet of the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts - the second largest graphic art collection in Austria - holds an extraordinary inventory of drawings, watercolours and oil sketches of German and Austrian Romanticists and Late Romanticists. The various complex intellectual-historical tendencies in Romanticism found their most immediate reflection in drawing as it is indeed one of the most sensitive forms of artistic expression.

In many years of research, the collection comprising almost 1,000 sheets- including central works such as the famous "Roman Portrait Book" by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld - were explored. Text comments on the individual sheets frequently provide new interpretations and shed light on the iconographic complexity of primarily religious and historical scenes.

Apart from major representatives of Romantic drawing who are clearly identified as artistic personalities, such as Ferdinand and Friedrich Olivier, Julius and Ludwig Ferdinand Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Ludwig Richter, August Heinrich, Moritz von Schwind, Edward Jakob von Steinle, Joseph Führich, Leopold Kupelwieser etc, - all represented by frequently unpublished main works -the excellent quality of drawings by less known artists such as Eduard Schaller or Leopold Schulz, a close friend of Schwind's, brings these and their œuvres to the fore.

A complex in its own right is the systematic inventorization and analysis of three sketchbooks by the Austrian Romanticist Johann Evangelist Scheffer von Leonhardshoff, who holds a key position in the Austrian art of the first two decades of the 19 th century as he stands for the gradual transition from genuinely Romantic themes to the more realistic style of the Biedermeier age: in addition to his "Major Italian Sketchbook," which contains 89 drawings executed primarily as pictures, including portraits of his Roman artist friends, landscapes, views of Rome, technically excellent studies based on works by Raphael, as well as studies of nudes and draperies, the transcripts of his sketchbooks of Naples (1815) and Vienna (1820), often reminiscent of diaries, are included. These texts have not been published so far; they bring us deep insights into Scheffer's thoughts and are indispensable for an understanding of his work.

An introductory essay characterizes the history and special nature of the collection at the Vienna Graphic Arts Cabinet, shedding light on the problems and diversity of Romantic drawings. The identification of provenances often opens up the way to encounters with personalities in the limelight of cultural life in 19 th century Vienna.