Bernard Pras - Einstein, 2000  - 145 x 125 cm - © Bernard Pras, 2007 Courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Vienna, Austria - In the course of putting together the exhibition on Arcimboldo (1526-1593), the show’s curator, Sylvia Ferino, came across Bernard Pras and his unique oeuvre. After an extensive and wide-ranging training, the artist Bernard Pras slowly began to focus on portraiture while experimenting with many different techniques. We were particularly interested in his photographed “composite portraits” of famous, frequently long-dead personalities such as King Louis XIV of France, Salvador Dali, Albert Einstein, Lolo, or Dutronc, for which he selected composite elements that helped explain the sitter’s character or the reason for his or her fame.

Bernard Pras Geisha, 2002 154 x 120 cm © Bernard Pras, 2007However, Benard Pras adds an extra dimension of complexity: he distributes the individual elements that constitute his portraits in rooms - frequently locations chosen with great care - that participate in the creation of the composite artworks. But in the end it requires a camera lens to bring them together in a photograph, and to turn them into recognizable portraits. He makes use of anamorphosis, which is then retracted by the camera’s lens. This is not the place to reflect on the pool of associated components he draws on. However, the resulting images are so powerful that one feels as though someone has fully understood Arcimboldo’s method of composite art and has catapulted it into the present.  An Arcimboldo of the 21st century?

 In these large-scale compositions, seemingly filling the space of his studio in a chaotic and haphazard way, Pras is able – with the aid of his skill in rendering perspective and his unrivalled photographic eye - to breathe life into his imaginary portraits that document a sense of irony and humour.  On exhibition through 29 June, 2008.

 For over thirty years his work has been exhibited, commissioned, published and made popular all over the world via audio-visual media. Just as with Arcimboldo’s amorphic heads, Pras dazzles the spectator with his inventive skill and the originality of his kaleidoscopic visions.

In conjunction with the Arcimboldo exhibition an installation will be on show in the Entrance Foyer of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, and a selection of photographs on the First Floor. After two months, the exhibits will be changed. The Museums collections range from Ancient Egyptian and Greek and Roman Antiquities to the Collections of Medieval Art to the splendid Renaissance and Baroque Collections. In all, the museum is divided into eight different collections, some of which are housed in the Hofburg and in Schönbrunn Palace.

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Pause For Thought

Chagall on Artists' Dignity

"The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world. In this long vigil he often has to vary his methods of stimulation; but in this long vigil he is also himself striving against a continual tendency to sleep."