A brilliant overview of Austria’s Biedermeier and expressionism in arts and crafts
Updated: Mar 23
Want to have a good look at Austrian art in the last century, followed by a proper lunch and a serious visit to a gift shop before leaving? The Leopold Museum is your choice.
Rudolf Leopold was born in Vienna on 1 March 1925. After finishing his studies in medicine, Leopold moved to art history and started collecting art, focusing on Egon Schiele (who had almost been forgotten in his native Austria) which resulted in the world's largest and most eminent collection of Schiele’s art. Little by little Leopold enlarged his interests to cover Austrian art from the second half of the 19th and the early 20th century with masterpieces from Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Koloman Moser, Richard Gerstl, Alfred Kubin, Herbert Boeckl and Albin Egger-Lienz - all very good reasons to check this museum!
The permanent collection also shows artisan craftwork from the Wiener Werkstätte, including furniture, ceramics, glasses, jewellery, as well as book and poster designs following the Gesamtkunstwerk, or the principle of “universal work of art”.
The over 5000 exhibits constituing the lifework of Rudolf and Elisabeth Leopold now belong to a non-profit foundation allowing you and me to see the art in a fascinating museum that was built by the Austrian Government with the Austrian National Bank as part of the MuseumsQuartier in central Vienna.
The core collection covers Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Vienna 1900, Biedermeier and Expressionism. In spring 2022, the temporary exhibitions owed nothing to the permanent collection with Ludwig Wittgenstein Photographs and the Schedlmayer Collection on show.
Thanks to its modern architecture, the museum is an ideal destination for an avid but already somewhat tired tourist. The ticket office is large and functional. The entry lounge has nice chairs where you can rest for a moment before attacking the art. An elevator swings you to the fourth floor, from where you can tour the museum slowly down towards the street level and the changing exhibitions on the two basement floors. In a tour of a good one hour you'll get a brilliant idea of the early 1900's in Austrian art.
Mid way your tour, there is a museum shop where you can find art books for the coffee table at home and gifts even for the more demanding god child. Next to the shop, just a step (or la hop in the lift) up, there is a modern café that you can enter from the museum side by inserting your ticket to a reader while your less cultured friends can come in directly from the inner yard of the MuseusQuartier to wait for you to finish your tour. Check the menu at cafeleopold.wien - definitely worth a bit more than the umpteenth Mélange! Leopoldcafé might actually be an idea for a dinner, as well.
There are toilets on several floors and not only are they clean and spacious but they can all be easily accessed in a wheelchair or with a pram. At the entrance, there is a guarded cloakroom and boxes for bags.
It might be pretty hard to find a more functional and interesting museum in central Vienna, believe me!
Leopold Museum, MuseumsQuartier, Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Wien