From Vienna to Brisbane and a life of art

Fisher, Karen (2006). From Vienna to Brisbane and a life of art Honours Thesis, School of Communication and Arts, The University of Queensland.

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Author Fisher, Karen
Thesis Title From Vienna to Brisbane and a life of art
School, Centre or Institute School of Communication and Arts
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2006
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Rex Butler
Total pages 69
Language eng
Subjects 190102 Art History
Formatted abstract
The year 1939 saw the arrival in Brisbane of Dr Gertrude Langer and her husband Karl from Vienna, after fleeing the Nazi annexation and occupation of Austria. Langer was an academic who had gained her PhD in Fine Arts from the University of Vienna and had not only a great knowledge of contemporary practices in European art, but had been required as part of her studies to acquire a knowledge of Asian art. Her writing, teaching and work both within and outside traditional institutional frameworks from the time of her arrival until her death in 1984 have had far reaching effects on and implications for what now exists as the arts scene in Queensland.

Dr Langer was a prominent figure in the cultural life of Brisbane from the time of her arrival in Brisbane in 1939 up until her passing in 1984. She wrote regular art reviews for The Courier Mail from 1956 up until her death and was very active in promoting the work of local artists such as Jon Molvig, organised and held lectures for students and the public, was instrumental in establishing the Queensland branch of the Arts Council and was heavily involved in the Art Gallery Society. She served two terms as President, and was integral in organising and advising on purchases of art works by the Society. These roles demonstrate her desire to play an integral part in founding a solid and thriving art scene in Brisbane, as well as widening the scope of art education in Queensland.

This thesis will examine Langer's determination to increase awareness and appreciation of art in Queensland through her many activities in terms of a cultural exchange between Dr Langer and her new home, not only Brisbane but also in the wider context of Australian art. Betty Churcher wrote in an article on Langer in 1993 that Langer was driven by her gratitude to Brisbane for giving her asylum, "She remained grateful for the rest of her life, loyal in spite of a slight disdain, and determined to repay in some measure what she felt she owed. " I would argue that this was not her only motivation and suggest that it was her European and educational background that may have been a stronger force. Langer was a prolific writer, but a lack of 'criticality' in her writing and teaching, which was in the genre of art appreciation and promotion, indicates that her interest lay outside academic and intellectual life. Her interest was the 'public' and she aimed to increase their appreciation of and for the works that were readily available- contemporary local (regional and national) art, which she promoted heavily in her reviews for The Courier Mail.

As a result of her upbringing in Europe I suggest she was drawn to the work of the European expressionist art and artists (e. g. here in Brisbane, Jon Molvig) that rose to prominence in the first decades of last century. I will argue that the Expressionists' aim of making art that resisted elitism and academicism as well as elevating human awareness was influential on and reflected in Langer's work. This may also account for the lack of criticality (i.e. critical theory) in her reviews and lectures, in favour of informing and educating the public.

Langer's achievements are remarkable and all the more so considering that she was a refugee to this country. What truly inspired her? Brisbane's art scene was in its infancy and lacked a European sophistication that Langer was familiar with. However, she was still able to identify opportunities as well as what was lacking. By examining her career in the terms outlined above, this thesis will argue that out the Dr Langer's exile from Austria a sense of freedom arose that inspired Langer to pursue and acquire a 'place' in the developing art scene in Brisbane.
Keyword Queensland Art Gallery -- History
Langer, Gertrude, 1908-1984
Art, Australian -- Queensland

Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses (non-RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Tue, 27 Jan 2015, 16:18:27 EST by Ahmed Taha Siddiqui on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service