Hans Makart (1840-1884)

The representative painter of the Ringstrasse epoch

Atelier Gemälde

Decorative artist, painter, interior decorator, designer and clever marketing strategist: Hans Makart was a genius, lush worlds and heady feelings his motifs. The emperor himself brought him to the imperial capital where he epitomized more than anyone else the atmosphere of Vienna during the “Ringstrassen-Zeit”(1850-1890) – also known as the “Makart Era”.

“To be a Makart model was in those days just as lucrative as it was much later to be a Bond girl.” The journalist Dirk Schümer on the star of the Ringstrassenzeit Hans Makart (1840-1884)

Starting point and centre of the “Makart Style” was his studio in the Vienna district of Margareten where his legendary “atelier parties” – effectively marketing events – took place. In 1872 even Empress Elisabeth herself came to let herself be inspired. The police had to be regularly called to control the crowds who would come to marvel at his latest paintings.

Everyone wanted a piece from the Viennese artist

The girls of Vienna high society lined up for the honour of appearing bare-breasted in one of his pictures. And those who could afford it clothed themselves and furnished their apartments á la Makart: plush and opulent, with heavy tapestries and lavish fabrics a must!

 Painting by Hans Makart

 Lunette paintings by Makart Kunsthistorisches Museum

Hans Makart Statue

One did need money though – most of the desired building decorations exceeded even the hefty budgets of the wealthy bourgeoisie. Fortunately there was the imperial treasury though, and so Makart was able in 1881 to begin the Lunetten Bilder (ceiling fresco) above the stairs of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. In order to finance the legendary procession with over 12,000 participants along the Ring Boulevard to mark the silver wedding anniversary of the royal couple, however, the emperor turned to wealthy individuals and the City of Vienna for funds, because Makart didn’t come cheap in his role as script-writer, director and costumer of the huge spectacle. And he had his fun as well: he rode in the procession – disguised as Rubens – on a Lipizzaner horse.

Text: Verena Brandtner, Fotos: Christine Wurnig