Olga Wisinger-Florian

Olga Wisinger-Florian
The Beach at Etretat (Normandy), 1893/94
Oil on cardboard; 16 x 26 cm
EUR 18,000-36,000

What a wonderful painting! It is small, at just 16 x 26 cm, and it is painted on cardboard, and yet it is captivating because of the denseness and lightness of its atmospheric painting.

This wonderful study is signed by Olga Wisinger-Florian, one of the most highly acclaimed female artists of the 19th century. She was gifted in many disciplines, ambitious and one of her most important characteristics is that she was part of society. The rich and powerful of Vienna didn’t hesitate to buy her works, her work was accepted by the Vienna Künstlerhaus without censorship. She attained a level of success that was denied to many of her contemporaries (including the men).

Wisinger-Florian also knew how to captivate, with her paintings, her choice of subjects, and also in person. Initially, she was a student of Emil Jakob Schindler, and primarily chose her subjects from nature and landscape. In the mid 1880s, she moved away from painting moods, towards more freely expressive work that captured reality as the sum of its colours, giving the absolute the excitement of the momentary and fleeting.

Around 1893/1894 Wisinger-Florian travelled to France, the centre of landscape painting. For her, Paris wasn’t the main reason to come to France, it was Normandy with its Alabaster Coast, an 80-mile-long stretch of beaches and white cliffs. Here, in the sophisticated coastal resorts of Etretat and Trouville, was where Impressionism had begun. Forty years before, its “father” Eugène Boudin was one of the first to paint outdoors, studying the effects of bright sunlight and the atmosphere caused by the constant motion of the wind. This new painting caught on, and artist friends such as Corot, Troyon and Courbet became followers, regularly painting in Normandy in the 1850s. Claude Monet was also one of Boudin’s friends, and was encouraged by him to paint in the open air. Monet discovered Etretat in the winter of 1868/69 and came back every year between 1883 and 1886. The exceptional lighting conditions, with the rapid changes between sunny and cloudy, along with the unusual rock formations were a great inspiration to him, providing him with “impressions” for around 50 paintings.

Now it was the turn of the painter from Vienna to have this wonderful experience. She went to a beach a little to the east of Etretat and chose a position with a view of the scenery and the Porte d’Amont. The sky is a little cloudy and the rock formations of the coast are in shadow. The elegantly dressed people on the beach, with their parasols and hats, offer a wonderful mix of blues, greens, greys and beige tones. The clouds are scudding, the people are in motion, the brush moving swiftly over the cardboard, paint is applied thickly and spontaneously. Details are less important, form is lost in dabs of colour – what matters is capturing the imprecise essence of the present moment. A moment that will become timeless.

This painting will be offered for sale on the 26th April 2017 as part of the “Old Master Paintings” auction at im Kinsky

Text: Marianne Hussl-Hörmann, im Kinsky