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Austria - Expo Paris 1900

Austria at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1900
Architect(s) : Baumann

The fourth building in the Rue des Nations was, next to the United States, that of Austria, a delightful castle built according to the design of the chief architect, Mr. Baumann; the architectural ornamentation, sculptures, wrought iron ornaments, etc., had been executed by Austrian industrialists. The choice of style, barocco, and the approval of the plans were made by a unanimous vote of the board of the Deputy Commissioner General, Mr. Exner. The space, which was very favourable, had been conceded thanks to an approach by H.E. the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Imperial Household, Count Goluchowski. In other words, His Majesty Emperor Franz Joseph had given his full patronage to the enterprise.

On the ground floor of the Palace, which was situated on the platform, one entered through a monumental door into a large hall which led, on the left, into a gallery and two square rooms. In these last three rooms, the City of Vienna had organised its exhibition.

In the gallery was the equestrian statue of Emperor Rudolf of Habsburg, by the sculptor Scèle. The importance of Vienna's role in the history of music was symbolised by bronze statuettes of the old masters: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and bronze busts of the modern masters: Brahms, Bruckner, Jean Strauss, Hugo Wolf. This small gallery of honour was the work of the sculptors Kauffungen, Rathausky, Scherpe, Seyfert and Weigl. At the entrance was an equestrian statuette of Leopold I by Costenoble.

The two salons were executed by Messrs Portois and Fix of Vienna.

One of the salons, made of mahogany with ornaments in matt gilt bronze, contained a very valuable wall frieze for which some original sketches of the Makart Procession had been used.

A number of old paintings had been placed on the wall, the subject of which is related to Vienna's share in the progress made in the last century: an Evening in honour of Schubert in a Viennese town house, by Jules Schmid, the Salon of the Alderman Dumba, where famous Viennese artists are gathered, by Temple. A marble bust of Grillparzer by the sculptor Bitterlich, which represents the young poet at the time when he created his immortal work, was also on display.

The other room, which was white and green, contained paintings representing the city of Vienna itself: first of all a large bird's-eye view of Vienna in 1900, drawn by Pendl and painted by Darnaut; then two views: St. Stephen's Square at the time of Confirmation and City Hall Square in the evening at music time, painted by Geller; and finally, two doorways: the Ringstrasse Corso and the Prater Corso, painted by Lenz. The two watercolours by Rodolphe Alt, the Old Town Hall and the Makart Workshop, were set up on easels.

Mr. Mayreder, architect and professor, and Mr. Glossy were the authors of this part of the exhibition.

From the main hall, one reached the group exhibition of Austrian baths and water cities located in the axis of the building, behind the main hall. To the right was the Austrian Press Exhibition with a reading room.

A circular pavilion on the front façade and at the right-hand corner of the building formed a reception room, also made by Portois and Fix, which was an exhibition object. The wood was maple, the sconces and inlays were silver. The walls were made of white saline and decorated with appliqués. The whole looked very distinguished. The salon was used for the reception of members of the Imperial and Royal Court. The simplicity of the execution, corresponding to the materials used, was particularly noteworthy.

A horseshoe-shaped staircase, supported by powerful caryatids, led to the first floor. In three open galleries were exhibited paintings by Bohemian and Polish painters.

On this first floor was the exhibition of the "Society for the Encouragement of Dalmatian Interests", which aimed to draw the world's attention to this beautiful country, so little appreciated on its own merits, to its picturesque nature, to its people with their colourful costumes, and to its historical monuments.

This exhibition, in the organisation of which the president of the society, Count Jean Harrach, and the curator of the Imperial Museum in Vienna, Dr. Haberrandt, had particularly distinguished themselves, captivated the eye by the charm of the costumes, the rich embroidery in the national style, by the weapons, the products of domestic industry and by the indigenous jewellery, and thus presented a most clear picture of the country. This exhibition will undoubtedly result in an increase of visitors to this very interesting country.

The fauna of the country was represented by some curious specimens (schakal, pelican), the soil by rocks, etc.

The marvellous natural beauties of Dalmatia were represented by paintings including the remarkable watercolours of Ludwig Hans Fischer, Rudolf Swoboda and by numerous photographs among which the views taken by H. I. and R. Mad. the Archduchess Josepha.

The impressive archaeological wealth of the country was shown in the photographs of Mr. Joseph Wlha from Vienna, placed on two revolving shelves. The configuration of the ground was recognisable in the relief map by
Freytag and Berndt from Vienna.

On the left-hand side were the office of the Commissioner General and the Austrian Post and Telegraph Exhibition, the latter extremely important because of the new improvements and inventions that were on display.
and inventions that were on display.

We would be quite unfair if we did not make special mention of the organisation of the Austrian Commissariat General, which was model. The Austrians are renowned for their great courtesy. They made incredible efforts to justify this reputation and they succeeded: their General Commissariat, in addition to its office in the Rue des Nations, occupied a private hotel in the Avenue d'Antin, which was admirably installed.

Austrian artists living in Paris had very thoughtfully helped to provide the commissariat with paintings and objects of art.

For the duration of the Exhibition, the Commissioner General organised a series of receptions in his offices at regular intervals, which brought together the Austrian visitors to the Exhibition.

The location of the Commissariat General was, moreover, extremely well chosen, since, although it was situated in one of the most elegant districts of Paris, it was in the immediate vicinity, one might even say exactly on the periphery, of the Exhibition. One always received the most cordial and obliging welcome there.

And what a practical sense the Austrians had of showcasing their exhibition! They published an official catalogue edited by the General Commissariat I.-R. which contained, in twelve small volumes corresponding to the French classification of the Exhibition, the official data relating to Austria's participation in the Exhibition.

Each volume was divided into three parts: the first was intended to show the extent to which Austria had contributed to the progress made in the nineteenth century in the group to which the volume referred; the second contained a statement of the economic situation and statistics for each industry; the third contained a list of the Austrian industrialists exhibiting in the contemporary section of the group, and a catalogue of the exhibits.

This catalogue was published under the direction of Mr. Ign. Wottitz, engineer, former chief inspector of railways; it included a large number of historical and scientific studies, written by specialists, on the important discoveries, inventions and improvements which Austria can claim in the various fields of human activity; finally it was decorated with portraits of the Austrians who have contributed most effectively to progress during the 19th century, as well as with numerous engravings, and it was edited as a whole with a particular luxury which distinguishes Viennese printing.

This work was a marvel of order and clarity, and made many Frenchmen - and other exhibitors - jealous. The Commissioner General's thoughtfulness towards his fellow countrymen had gone so far as to offer them, in German and French, a guidebook to the Exhibition and to Paris, which remains, even for Parisians, a perfect guide.

Austria, moreover, did not only have the Pavilion on the Quai d'Orsay. Its flag was flying over two other special buildings: a Viennese restaurant on the Esplanade des Invalides, and a Tyrolean chalet at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. This chalet was like a tiny exhibition of the Tyrol, which had placed its most expressive products there. It was built in the original style of the houses of the country gentlemen of the Eppau valley.

The rest of Austria's products and works were represented in all eighteen groups at the exhibition.

Austria was even represented in the Horticulture group, which included some of the most valuable examples of flora from the imperial gardens at Schoenbrunn... The Austrian emperor, in addition to his official benevolence, had taken a direct part in the organisation of the Austrian section. In the Decorative Arts and Furniture Group, visitors were treated to a special exhibition of Austrian decorative art from the last hundred years. This exhibition was the personal work of Franz Joseph, who had endowed it with 50,000 florins from his private collection.

This concern of the Austrian sovereign was reflected in the exceptional importance he had given to the special delegation chosen from among the members of the Imperial Commission for the 1900 Exhibition. The presidency of this delegation had been entrusted by the sovereign to one of the greatest lords of the Empire, Prince Carlos Auersperg, assisted by the greatest lords and the greatest artists, men of letters and industrialists.

©Paul Gers - 1900