Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

There are many reasons to visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, but I went with a single purpose in mind: to see the extraordinary collection of paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. There are more of Bruegel's great paintings gathered here than anywhere else in the world and they can be viewed in the Bruegel room, Salle X of the Picture Gallery. These are paintings of breadth and grand sweep down the ages, they have charmed and haunted viewers for hundreds of years. Today, you can be with them, you can sit on comfortable couches nearby and look at them for as long as you like, you can study them in comfort.

Bruegel Room, Salle X

I visited in November, on an overcast Sunday, just before noon. The museum was not very busy. In fact, for brief moments I was alone in Room X, not even a museum guard in casual surveillance. Just me and Hunters in the Snow and Peasant Dance and Tower of Babel. Just me and Bruegel's 445 year old vision.  Oddly, two additional Bruegel Works, the playful Children's Games and the wild Fight Between Carnival and Lent, were in a special room and shared gallery space with a temporary exhibition of work by Ed Ruscha, a somewhat incongruous pairing. But no matter.