Behind the scenes: Rubens in Vienna

At the moment Vienna seems to be in a contest of art shows, since in the last few months some remarkable exhibitions have been opening. You may have already read my latest review of a Raphael retrospective at Albertina Museum

Now it’s the turn of another great museum: The magnificent “Kunsthistorisches Museum” is having a retrospective show of the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens. In the last few months I had the chance to get a very exclusive behind the scenes of the exhibition. During last summer I was doing my internship at the Communication and Marketing department of the museum and I have also been taking over the official museum’s Instagram account

During these months every single department of the museum was busily organizing the big Rubens exhibition, opening on 17 October 2017.

While any usual visitor is not able to see how much work and preparation lies behind a big exhibition, I have been experiencing the organization very closely.

Altogether the exhibition process took around two years, which results an intensive working time. Not only the curator herself was placing high expectations in the show – Indeed the show is being very successful, so far – not only did locals, but also international art enthusiasts come to Vienna in order to visit this important show.

Some of them were contacting me through Instagram (during my Takeover), asking for details and information about the show. Everyone seemed to be impatient for this Old Masters exposition. My contribution to this particular exhibition was quite small. Nevertheless it was an interesting experience, that I’m proud to share with you: My works included preparing press kits for international journalists who have been visiting the exhibition. Another daily mission was collecting newspaper and magazine articles with a particular reference to the Rubens exhibition, for the museum’s weekly press review.

I also helped preparing invitation cards and promote the exhibition on Social Media (Instagram and Facebook). Besides that I could cast a glance at other departments in the museum:

  • The educational team was busily preparing guided tours and a special programme for children, families and students visiting the Rubens exhibitions.
  • The graphics team was in a rush to create a layout for the exhibition catalogue, brochures, wall texts, invitations and much more.
  • The fundraising department was planning special events for sponsors of the exhibition.
  • And last, but not least, the restoration facility was assiduously restoring some of the most significant Rubens masterpieces. Looking at the paintings from such a close distance, seeing them “purely”, meaning without any frame or glass in front, was an enriching experience for an art history student like me.

The exhibition is originally called „Rubens – The Power of Transformation“. After visiting the exhibition for several times, also together with Gerlinde Gruber, the curator of this show, I have been able to reflect on the Baroque artworks.

As far as you might know, Rubens is a controversial artist and people, including art history students and even professors, keep releasing various opinions about his work and his life. 

This exhibition is based on comparisons and paragons in between Rubens and other artists living before or at the same time like him. Throughout his life Rubens made sketches of the works of predecessors and reinterpreted them according to his own conceptions. He modified and adapted existing models to create some- thing completely new. This dynamic pro- cess, which is at the core of Rubens’ artistic achievement, is the focus of the present exhibition.

Rubens searched avidly for new ideas. He studied his contemporaries, the great artists of the Renaissance, and the art of the ancient world. His models extended from small prints to flamboyant oil paintings and monumental sculptures in marble.

The show is arranged according to topics, starting with his portraits and drawings of naked bodies, religious artworks, like holy images and altarpieces, continuing with the paintings of battles and ending with his famous thunderstorm landscape.

Rubens’ references to a variety of sources left traces that can be found in every painting displayed in these galleries. This exhibition invites you to explore the origins of the works, and in so doing to relive their creation in a unique way.

You can get more information about Rubens at KHM by clicking here.

You are invited to share your own point of view with the official hashtag #rubens2017

Running time: 17 October 2017 – 21 January 2018 / Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10am-6pm; Thursday 10am-9pm

Address: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Maria-Theresien Platz, 1010 Vienna (Austria) Underground line U2 station “Museumsquartier” or U3 “Volkstheater”


All photos by Judith Bradlwarter / KHM. ©

No use without permittion!

Painting descriptions:

  1. Peter Paul Rubens, Venus Frigida, 1614, Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp
  2. Painting in the middle: Peter Paul Rubens, Lamentation of Christ, c. 1614/15, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna
  3. Peter Paul Rubens, Lamentation of Christ, c. 1614/15, KHM Vienna
  4. Restoration of: Peter Paul Rubens, Landscape with Philemon and Baucis, c. 1620/1625, KHM Vienna (Support for the treatment of Rubens’s Stormy Landscape was provided by the Getty Foundation as part of its Panel Paintings Initiative.)
  5. Details of: Peter Paul Rubens, Landscape with Philemon and Baucis, c. 1620/1625, KHM Vienna
  6. Restoration material in the museum’s facilty, KHM Vienna
  7. Exhibition poster: Peter Paul Rubens, Self Portrait, c. 1638/40, KHM Vienna
  8. Press material at the Communication and Marketing office, KHM Vienna

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.