Until 12 Jan 2014
Exhibited in the dark, lower-ground show rooms of the Sainsbury Wing, this is a bewitching, complex and must-see show. It examines Viennese portraiture throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867 – 1918), a period which started with the strong rise of the middle classes but ended with a wave of anti-semitism and the first world war. There are gorgeous, dreamy portraits by Gustav Klimt which make way for the more psychological portraits of Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. There are works on canvas but also haunting death masks of Klimt, Beethoven, Schiele and Mahler, as well as a family photograph album belonging to Edmund de Waal, author of the wonderful book, The Hare with Amber Eyes, showing portraits of the once-wealthy Jewish banking dynasty. There are many pictures in this show that you could spend hours staring at, such as the striking, thin-lipped Portrait of Isabella Reisser by Anton Romako or the pensive Portrait of a Lady in Black by Klimt. One word of advice though, do take a pair of headphones to listen to the background notes narrated by novelist Esther Freud as the show is not consecutive and wall notes are sparse.