The Brothers Josephu

The Brothers Josephu
Young Josef at work...circa 1917

Monday, June 20, 2011

Trip - Day 3

Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The GPS unit I brought has turned out to be very helpful, not only for navigating but for recording precise locations once we have located a statue. My plan is to log the GPS coordinates of each piece to inlcude in the final biorgrahpy so readers (and family) may visit the works of the brothers Josephu. George uses a GPS program on his iPhone, and the two entertained us as we drove in his SmartCar. The units occasionally disagreed on the next turn - it was like having two back-seat drivers in a car without a back seat.

Today we ventured into Vienna'ss First District - the area in and around the RingStrasse. We began by visiting Stadtpark (Vienna's equivalent to NY's Central Park, but much nicer). We head directly to a fountain with a statue by Florian. Then we stroll through the park enjoying the gardens and artwork, including a bust of composer Franz Lehar. We come up to the famous gold statue of Johann Strauss, but the one here today is his 'stand-in.' The original one is off for restoration (as is the arc that normally surrounds the statue). A replacement has been stationed so tourists may stand next to it to have their photo taken. The importance of this statue its sculptor, Edmund von Hellmer, who was a teacher for both Josef and Florian. Hellmer's works may be seen all over Vienna.

We then went down to the Graben, an area of streets closed off to traffic and now for pedestrian use only. We stop for a light lunch - small, tasty sandwiches at the 100 year old Trześniewski's....then we walked past Stephensdom - St. Stephen's Cathedral, the center of Vienna. It's undergoing external restoration.

We headed over to a school called the Academy Gymnasium. Inside the ornate lobby there is a marble relief by Josef. The Academy is the oldest secondary school in Vienna, founded in 1553 with many famous graduates, including Franz Shubert. Nearby stands a popular statue of Beethoven.  We stopped for coffee at a cafe over 100 years old, Café Prückel.

From here we pass many museums and beautiful buildings, and walk down a narrow street and find a plaque of Johann Strauss (the father) by Florian. From there we headed to the Ringstrasse and grab a Strassbahn (street car)...and in two short stops we're at the Künsterlhaus. This was the site of the Association of Austrian Artists where both Josef and Florian were members. Josef left after a few short years, but Florian remained and was later made an honorary member. We took some photos inside then inquired if a historian or archivist was present. We met Nadine Willer who was extremely excited to greet us. Just the day before they had stumbled across this blog and had hoped we would visit. She welcomed us into the archives where she had readied a very large volume, to the pages on Florian. The photos of those pages will prove to be helpful. One thing is clear, the knowledge George and I have about Josef and Florian is more than any other source, and the publishing of our research is highly anticipated.

George needed to attend to some personal business, so I remained in the First District to meet up with him later. I walked down to the Academy of Fine Arts where Josef and Florian studied. I met with the university archivist, Ferdinand Gutschi. Herr Gutschi's English is a limited as is my German, but we managed. I presented good quality color copies of six certificates awarded to Josef, some signed by Professor Edmund von Hellmer and others by Professor Hans Bitterlich. Bitterlich was for many years the director of the Academy and a highly respected sculptor. Those certificates will go into the archives, and then I was permitted to photograph the interiors.

Then, once again, I crossed through the center of town, photographing like a happy tourist, and found my way over to Am Hof 5 - the site of the Feuerwehr Museum, a museum dedicated to the history of Austria's fire brigades. The building was undergoing repairs after a large crane crashed nearby months ago. George had warned me the museum would be closed, but I was determined. One again, it seemed that Josef and Florian were watching over me, for not long after I arrived a fireman came out, and could speak English! Thomas Niefergall, and....he was the only person on duty that day with the key! He invited me inside for a private visit to the museum where there are eight statues by Josef. I knew of four, including a 12-foot bronze of St. Florian. This was a very nice suprise! I look forward to Thomas' visit to New York in the fall.

I then found my way to the opposite side of the district, near the Donau Canal, to meet up with George. We first enjoyed wonderful ice cream, more like Italian Gelato than the harder American version I'm accustomed to. Delicious. Then, off to Jazzland. My guitarist friend, Howard Alden (who occasionally plays at Jazzland), recommended we visit. The owner, Axel Melhardt, was not in attendance but had set aside seating for us, and we were well taken care of by Martin, the waiter/bartender/host, who also showed me two of Howard's photos among the sea of images which adorn the walls. Brigitte later joined us and we enjoyed the performance of the Worried Man Skiffle Group. They are a Viennese singers/musicians working together for over 50 years.

Another personal note on Vienna, my visit afforded me the chance to eat many of the foods my mother made for us over the years. some I learned to cook, some my children also eat, and some I have been forgotten. At Jazzland I had one of the forgotten...Schinkenfleckrl. It was a wonderful ending to a very full and productive day.

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