"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
August 26, 2013
Along Our Questing Paths, 2
by Lawrence Jeppson

My daughter Anne and I left James Christensen’s group of art students in Venice. They were going back to London and then home.

Anne and I were headed for another month of Eurail art adventures. These included a brush with a bordello, an arctic midnight sun that could not be seen, millions of human bones, and getting locked in a ghostly walled cemetery after it closed for the night.

Jim’s group went west. We took a train north to Vienna. Linda, one of Anne’s friends, went with us for our Vienna stay but would later go her own way back to London. Because of things I was writing, I wanted to see two Vienna museums.

Vienna was exciting, but it produced the most distasteful adventure of our two months in Europe.

Not knowing where to stay, I phoned ahead to friends from Potomac, Maryland, who had moved to Austria. The husband was a member of the International Atomic Energy Commission. The wife suggested a pension where BYU studies abroad students had stayed.

We had been in Vienna for only two nights when the manager of the pension huffily said we had to leave. Our rooms had been booked previously for someone else. After we complained, the manager said she had found us another hotel and assured us that the two young women and I would like it. She graciously called us a cab. I did not see what must have been a malicious glint in her eye.

We gave the cabbie the name of the hotel and address. I won’t repeat the name here.

“No,” he said, “you do not want to go there.”

When I said reservations had been made for us, he continued to protest. Finally he said, “Okay, I will drive you there.”

The hotel was a dark relic. Parts of the block reminded me of the bombed-out spaces I saw in France and Belgium during my mission just after World War II. Worse, loitering about outside were a pack of prostitutes looking for daytime johns. The nature of the hotel was obvious. The taxi driver knew, and he did not want to drop two young American women into that den.

I was furious! I wondered, did the woman at the pension hate LDS students so much that she was extracting some kind of hideous revenge?

We appreciated the driver. He took us to the railway station, where a tourist service referred us to nearby accommodations that were quiet, clean, inexpensive, and completely appropriate.

Vienna’s Albertina museum houses one of the world’s greatest collections of prints and drawings: 65,000 drawings and one million old-master prints, plus photographs and architectural drawings. Only a selection of these can be on display at any time. We were bowled over by the quality of what we did see — and only later learned that the originals were so fragile, we were looking at facsimiles.

We kept going back to the Kunsthistorisches (Art History Museum), one of the overwhelming museums, up there with the Louvre, Metropolitan, and Hermitage. It displays the largest collection of Bruegels in the world, but that is only the tip of its riches. Like many European museums, it is the product of royal collectors, and boy, did the Hapsburgs collect!

The museum’s big rooms are filled with Raphaels, Rembrandts, Durers, Titians, and Tintorettos, not to mention the less frequented collections of Egyptian and Mid-eastern treasures. And so much more!

One of the joys of museum ferreting is the chance of stumbling onto something unexpected. Outside the edges of the big rooms are series of small exhibition spaces. You could wander for days in these places, finding smaller paintings or works by artist you’ve never heard of before.

It was in these less-lit rooms that I first saw the paintings of Paul Brill (1550-1583), a Flemish artist from Antwerp who painted in Rome after earning papal favor.

Paul Brill, Self Portrait, 1595-1600.

I’ll bet that no one reading this Moments in Art has ever heard of either Paul Brill or his brother Mattheus, who also worked in Rome but was not quite so good as his brother. I doubt that their names ever surface in usual art history classes. More’s the pity.

Paul did big things, like the frescoes in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican, a monumental depiction of the Martyrdom of St. Clement. He painted lots of small paintings, sometimes on copper, and collaborated with Jan Bruegel. Sometimes he signed his work with a pair of specticals because the Flemish word for them is bril.

There is a certain fancy to his landscapes. I liked the first one or two that I saw in the off-chambers so much that I went scurrying about in other rooms looking for more, a search I would continue a week later of the museums of Munich.

Paul Brill, Fantastic Mountain Landscape, 1598.

I had found an unknown painter to admire — like once I had been introduced to the Italian Vittorio Carpaccio. A new joy had been added to my life. Except I hardly ever get a chance to see Brill’s paintings.

Every time you go to a museum, an exhibition, a crafts show you should be looking for something new and unexpected, something that will widen your horizons.

What about that Arctic blackout and being trapped at night in a ghoulish cemetery? Maybe next week.

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About Lawrence Jeppson

Lawrence Jeppson is an art consultant, organizer and curator of art exhibitions, writer, editor and publisher, lecturer, art historian, and appraiser. He is America's leading authority on modern, handwoven French tapestries. He is expert on the works of William Henry Clapp, Nat Leeb, Tsing-fang Chen, and several French artists.

He is founding president of the non-profit Mathieu Matégot Foundation for Contemporary Tapestry, whose purview encompasses all 20th-century tapestry, an interest that traces back to 1948. For many years he represented the Association des Peintres-Cartonniers de Tapisserie and Arelis in America.

Through the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the American Federation of Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, and his own Art Circuit Services he has been a contributor to or organizer of more than 200 art exhibitions in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Taiwan. He owns AcroEditions, which publishes and/or distributes multiple-original art. He was co-founder and artistic director of Collectors' Investment Fund.

He is the director of the Spring Arts Foundation; Utah Cultural Arts Foundation, and the Fine Arts Legacy Foundation

Lawrence is an early-in-the-month home teacher, whose beat is by elevator. In addition, he has spent the past six years hosting and promoting reunions of the missionaries who served in the French Mission (France, Belgium, and Switzerland) during the decade after WWII.

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