Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Artistic Inspirations

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Artistic Inspirations

Article excerpt

Perhaps it wasn't so far-fetched to move A Little Night Music to Vienna for the film version. A snippet of the plot might have been in Austria all along.

The collection of the Leopold Museum, a cornerstone of Vienna's popular Museum Quarter, includes a canvas titled "Schauspiel" ("Spectacle") by Wilhelm Thöny. It depicts a woman, apparently an actress onstage, caught between two men. The more flamboyant one, quite possibly a dragoon, wears a military uniform; the size of his vanity is clear, the size of his brain unspecified, but the feathers over his head do rather suggest a peacock. The other is a bourgeois-looking gentleman who might very well be a lawyer. The woman's costume is reminiscent of late 18th-century France, and the overall scene could be ... well, a French comedy. Sound familiar?

"Spectacle," which measures roughly 40 by 45 inches, was painted in 1929. Thöny was born in 1888 in Graz, Austria's second-largest city. He studied in Munich and had connections to various groups related to the early 20th-century Jugendstil ("Secession"), the Viennese component of the international Art Nouveau movement. After serving as a battlefield artist during World War I, he returned to Graz and became the founding president of the Graz Secession. …

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