Founded in 1692, the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts was one of the first art schools in the German-speaking area. Its earliest collection of paintings dates back to the 18 th century and mainly comprises "admission works" by Academy members and "prize works" by students awarded for their contributions to the annual exhibitions. These pictures served as teaching models in art lessons.

This portrait, stretched in a large, sumptuous gilt frame, shows Count Lamberg-Spritzenstein. The count is portrayed in a seated position from the waist up. His hands rest crossed on a walking stick in front of his chest. His head is turned towards the viewers. The count is depicted with very fair skin and wears a baroque, white-powdered wig with the hair combed strictly back and coiffed in curls on the sides. He wears a brown jacket with a large collar and two rows of round golden buttons. The same buttons are also on the sleeves. Around his neck, the count wears a white frilled collar tucked into his jacket. Under his right arm he holds a black historical tricorn hat. He appears to be sitting in front of an olive green wall. The picture is painted in a realistic style with clear lines. The count looks young, about 30 to 35 years old. His facial expression is serious.
Christian Kollonitsch (1730-after 1779), Portrait of Anton Count Lamberg-Sprinzenstein , 1770, © The Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

The Paintings Gallery actually came into being when, in 1822, Count Lamberg-Sprinzenstein, a Habsburg diplomat with noted success in Turin and Naples, bequeathed his internationally renowned collection of approximately 800 paintings to the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Lamberg's generous donation was, however, subject to the condition that these paintings be displayed publicly so as to be made accessible to everyone. Thus, the Paintings Gallery at the Academy - at that time still located in the former St. Anna convent near Kärntnerstraße - became Vienna's first art museum at a public institution.

The painting shows a group of 20 elegantly dressed artists positioned in a circle around a male nude model. They are in the process of depicting him in a realistic manner. Some are painting on large canvases or drawing on sheets of paper, while others are sculpting the nude model. In the room there are several wooden standing tables and crates with oval openings, allowing them to be carried. These objects serve as shelves, seats or holders for canvases. The male nude model is on a pedestal in the middle of the room. He is sitting with his legs spread on wooden crates, over which a white fabric is draped, holding his head. His face is not visible. He has short brown hair, which distinguishes him from the other men, who wear white powdered baroque wigs with curly rolls.
Martin Ferdinand Quadal (1736-1808), The Life Class of the Vienna Academy in the St Anne Building , 1787, © The Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

Lamberg gave his collection to the imperial Academy, which placed the paintings under sovereign protection. After the fall of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy and the foundation of the First Austrian Republic in 1918, all the collections of the Academy became the property of the Austrian state, to which they have belonged since 1945, the time of the Second Republic. This was not changed by the fact that, when the Universities Act 2002 came into force, the Paintings Gallery was organizationally integrated into an art university under private law.

In the centre of the photo is the front façade of the building of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. The four-storey building has many high semi-circular windows, between which are semi-circular niches with sculptures. The ochre façade is richly decorated and has a white plinth. The roof is flat and the front façade is divided into a central wide section and two tower-like side sections. In front of the building is the Schillerplatz with the park and the Schiller monument. As the trees are completely bare, it can be assumed that the photo was taken in winter.
The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, exterior view, © The Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

Since 1877, the Paintings Gallery has been displayed in the grand palace designed by Theophil Hansen for the Academy of Fine Arts on Schillerplatz . It can still be found in the elegant, historically furnished exhibition rooms on the first floor, amid the artists' studios and lecture rooms. Its stocks were significantly enlarged, especially in the 19 th century, through state purchases and further generous donations by aristocrats and citizens alike, also in the 20 th century. In 1988, the Academy's Collection of Plaster Casts was added (see there).

The photo shows one of the rooms of the Picture Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna at the Schillerplatz. The room is long and tapered towards the back. There are reflectors on the ceiling which illuminate the individual paintings on the walls. On the right side is a long red wall with many pictures hanging next to and above each other. In the left half of the picture there are five grey partition walls parallel to each other, positioned at right angles to the wall on the left side. Paintings with golden frames are hanging on these walls as well. Between the parallel partitions and the right wall is a corridor leading to the door at the back.
The Paintings Gallery, view into the Main Gallery, © The Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Photo: Gisela Erlacher

After its makeover (2007-2010), the Paintings Gallery, with all its display rooms, is now presented as a totally modern museum - more beautiful, completely renovated, and more modern with its new elevator and shop.