Photo of Albertina Museum, Vienna

The Blue Rider: A visit to the Albertina museum in Vienna.

Photo of Albertina Museum, Vienna

Recently, we were in Vienna for the weekend, (hopefully to get a break from the cold in Sweden, but alas not to be – though it was sunny) and the Albertina museum, on the Inner Stadt, was one place I wanted to visit.

The German Renaissance artist, Durer (1471-1528), is just one of those artists that, if you like drawing, he’s an inspiration and the Albertina has many of his most famous prints and drawings like the one below.

Watercolour of young hare by Durer (1502)


However, I found out when we got there, that the permanent collection had gone for a tour. Annoying.

But I wasn’t annoyed for long, as one of my favourite art movements of all time, The Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter), was being exhibited there instead.

So off we went to stand in the dim, extremely opulent surrounds of the Albertina with a lot of extremely well dressed Viennese to see Kandinsky, Franz Marc, and el. And a couple of more scruffy tourists. (Do the Viennese always go to exhibitions dressed like they’re going to a ball? I don’t know. There were also quite a few women wandering about town in 3/4 fur coats and big fur hats too. Real ones. It’s not that cold there people. And they all smoke like chimneys too. I suppose some people’s idea of heaven.)

The Blue Rider

The Blue Rider school (1911-1914 and based in Munich, Germany) is one of 2 schools (the other being Die Brucke formed in Dresden, Germany) who together formed the basis of the German expressionist painting philosophy and style at the beginning of the 20th century. The main artists in Blue Rider were Kandinsky, August Macke, Franz Marc, Paul Klee, Marianne Von Werefkin, Gabriele Munter, Jawlensky all of whom are in the exhibition.

It’s a fascinating and beautiful exhibition that gave me a sense of joy and sadness at the same time. Joy as so many of the works are so delicate, bold and inventive but not for their own sakes but to express an ideal. An ideal spiritual world on earth. An ideal that was brutally cut short literally by the First World War which killed both August Macke and Franz Marc. The American abstract expressionists continued some of their ideas, ie. the idea of liberation, but I find their art works completely inward looking compared to the Blue Rider school. The Blue Rider was just one small moment in time.

It was Kandinsky’s watercolours and paintings that really captured my heart in the exhibition. They were dazzling little jewels of colour. And they really do have a spiritual quality in them as they hit you in the heart with their purity. I’d never liked Kandinsky’s paintings much. I thought they were pretty ugly to be honest. To me the ideas that he put in his book  ‘Concerning the Spiritual in Art’ (1910) about the artist’s duty to touch the soul, didn’t really translate into his paintings. Or so I thought as I’d never seen any in real life. But they really do.

Oil Painting of Munich landscape with the church of St Ursula by KandinskyKandinsky ‘Munich Landscape with St Ursula’s Church’ Oil 1908

Franz Marc was my other favourite Blue Rider painter in the exhibition whose slightly cubistic little drawings and watercolours of horses and other animals in the exhibition brought out their cosmic quality. The Nazi’s condemned Marc as a degenerate artist in 1936/37 and demanded that his works be taken from exhibit in German museums.

Painting of horse in a landscape by Franz MarcFranz Marc ‘Horse in a Landscape’  1910

But the paintings live on bringing their joy with them.


The Blue Rider. From the Lenbachhaus and Albertina

Feb. 4 – May 29, 2011
Daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Wed. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.


Albertinaplatz 1
1010 Vienna

Have a look at this fantastic contemporary watercolour artist.

‘One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.’

Leonardo da Vinci



  1. I’ve always loved that rabbit. Did you know that people thought that Durer had a magic paintbrush for painting hair? He was sooo handsome too!

    1. Hi Anji Glad you liked the rabbit. Hadn’t heard of this magic paintbrush story but his work must’ve looked like magic to the people in the 1500’s. And it’s still extraordinary today. Yeh he was handsome and he knew it.

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