Was Painter Carl Spitzweg the Erwin Wurm of the Biedermeier era?

A Leopold Museum exhibition juxtaposes the past and present with two artists famous for their satirical takes on everyday social norms.

Somewhat obscure in his time, Carl Spitzweg is celebrated today as one of the great visual humorists of his era, documenting the human foibles around him with an unerring eye.

Carl Spitzweg-Erwin Wurm
Der Buecherwurm © Museum Georg Schäfer, Schweinfurt

As art turned its gaze away from religious, mythical and historical motifs towards domestic, middle-class scenes, the self-taught former pharmacist Spitzweg became a sort of Norman Rockwell of early 19th century Germany, particularly well known for his ironic depictions of everyday Biedermeier life and a disregard for pompous authority. However, his fondness for the small town idyll always shines through the mockery, even for the buffoons he loved to expose: His bourgeois family sweating away under the midday sun in the countryside in Der Sonntagsspaziergang (The Sunday Outing) may be completely out of their element, but not unlikable. And his most famous work Der Arme Poet (The Poor Poet), is still touching today, depicting a starving artist in his rooftop garret, plugging holes in the roof with an umbrella and fuelling his oven with his own manuscripts.

130 years after his death in 1885, Spitzweg finally gets his first comprehensive retrospective in Austria with a special focus on his satirical works, fortified with works by contemporary Austrian sculptor and photographer Erwin Wurm, a scathing social critic in his own right. Known for often involving random visitors at his exhibits, Wurm has them pose with everyday objects to create “one minute sculptures.” Also of note are his “fat sculptures,” where middle-class status symbols like cars and single-family homes are furnished with features of obesity. Sharing a similar vibe despite the wide temporal gap, this show features about 100 works between the two artists and is proof positive that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Carl Spitzweg – Erwin Wurm. Hilarious! Hilarious?

Through June 19, Leopold Museum

Open daily 10:00–18:00, Thursdays to 21:00


Nicolas Kristen
Born and raised in Vienna, Nicolas studied journalism and is now trying to become a good writer and journalist.

Help us help you

“Strong media and independent journalism are built on the shoulders of subscribers. Your support means the world to us.

Benjamin Wolf
COO & Managing Editor

The coronavirus outbreak affects and challenges your life in big and small ways. Metropole is here for you and we are proud to be your news source during this crisis.

But just as the coronavirus has increased the need for independent journalism, it has also undercut a major revenue source of media companies, ours included – advertising.

We need your support to keep it up – donate or subscribe and #helpushelpyou!

Support Metropole!


RECENT Articles

Enforcement of Mask Rules by U-Bahn Security Triggers Accusations of Racism

A routine intervention by Wiener Linien staff escalated into alleged use of excessive force; feelings run high while body-cam evidence may prove critical.

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Austria’s Neighbors

Here’s how European countries are managing the second wave of COVID-19 – including statistics, measures and an analysis of the current situation.

Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | Second Lockdown Sweeps Across Europe

The coronavirus has arrived in Austria. Here’s all you need to know about current measures, including where to get help, information and tips – updated regularly.

Metropole’s 10 Films to Watch At the Viennale 2020

Austria’s premier film festival enters the pandemic age with extra screens and a great selection of world cinema.

Hold the Line

With cases skyrocketing again in Europe, it is time to remember the advice a public health expert gave us in April: The virus is unforgiving to unwise choices.

Facing the Closed-Door Topic of Migrants and Sexual Assault

While most crime is down, alarming increases in violence against women, often by recent migrants, increases the pressure on efforts to support successful integration.


Join over 5,000 Metropolitans, who already get monthly news updates and event invitations.