Wild Apollo’s Arrows. Klopstock Cult & Ossian Fever

Bonaventura Emler: Scene from 
Ossian’s bard songs, 1849
© Graphic Collection of the Academy of Fine
Arts Vienna
Bonaventura Emler: Scene from Ossian’s bard songs, 1849 © Graphic Collection of the Academy of Fine
Arts Vienna

Decades before the French Revolution, the Enlightenment era saw a sudden irruption of the irrational. It manifested itself in gushing expressions of emotions, notions of a spiritualistic ‘gender swap’ and a fractured, heroic-introspective conception of art. The looming epochal change heralded a replacement of the visual with the spherical and the diffuse that was problematic for the fine arts genre, with a heightened focus on the acoustic.

For the cultural philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, ‘wild Apollo’s arrows’ were the enthralling sounds of an early folk movement and the Nordic drone-scapes of a nascent national mysticism, prefigured in the pseudo-Celtic poetry cycle Ossian. In the visions of the poet superstar Klopstock, wild Apollo appeared in a Celtic-Germanic guise that plunged the world into creative turmoil with its bardic song and cosmic ice dance. Nowhere was Klopstock – a passionate ice skater – more popular than in Austria; indeed, he became the role model for an emotions-based skater movement that saw motor skills as a means of dissolving all manner of constraints.
The exhibition curated by the graphic artist and visual historian Alexander Roob blends works of Austrian classicism, evidence of international early romanticism and the narcotic imagery of the Nazarenes, to the accompaniment of music by Joseph Haydn, Willibald Gluck and Franz Schubert.

Works from the Graphic Collection are a focal point alongside works from the Paintings Gallery and numerous loans. Within the framework of the teaching programme, the project involves students of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in co-operation with the mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna and is on show in the Exhibit Gallery and two rooms of the Paintings Gallery.

An Arts Collections exhibition in co-operation with the Exhibit Gallery.

Curator: Alexander Roob


Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna,
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