The Viennese Albertina

From a private collection to the museum

 Painting of a hare

Dürers „Feldhase“ isn’t large: the page measures 25 x 22.5 centimeter. The “Feldhase” doesn’t impress with its size, but rather with its precise representation, its fine gradients of colour, and its inimitable perspective. The watercolour is probably Albrecht Dürer’s most famous nature study, and the most prominent work among the 65,000 drawings in the collection of the Wiener Albertina.

“After every glance it is surprising that the rabbit is still waiting.” E.M. Trux in “Überlegungen zum Feldhasen” (“Thoughts on the young rabbit”) (2003), on Albrecht Dürer’s incredibly vivid drawing from 1502.

Formation phase of the Albertina Museum

The graphic art collection, which today is one of the world’s largest and most important, was set up by Duke Albert von Sachsen-Teschen (1738-1822), who kept the already-valuable collection in his palace. Over several phases of renovation, the private collection eventually became the Museum Albertina. In 1822 it became one of the first art collections to be opened to the public – or at least part of the public. In order to be allowed to enter the premises and admire the works, visitors had to “own their own shoes”. Since the beginning of the 20th century anyone has been allowed to set foot in the Albertina. Due to the fact that it was seldom open, however, hardly anyone took advantage of this “privilege”.

 Titanium roof at the Albertina Museum

 Exterior view Albertina Museum

Interior of the Albertina Museum

The turn of millennium also ushered in a new era for the Albertina: the neoclassicist state rooms were finally renovated after years of neglect, and now give an insight into the opulent private lives of its Habsburg residents. In dramatic contrast are the newly glass-roofed courtyard and the imposing titanium “flying roof” designed by Hans Hollein. It hovers majestically above the entrance area and is a new landmark in the inner city. The Albertina has also taken a new orientation in terms of content: an impressive collection of modernist painting has joined the graphic works. Now Monet’s “Waterlilies” and Renoir’s “Portrait of a Young Girl” compete with the undisputed star of the original collection, the “Feldhase”, for visitors’ attention.

Text: Nina Lucia Groß, Fotos: Christine Wurnig, Bild Hase: Albertina Wien