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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was a symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. Klimt’s primary subject was the female body, and eroticism marks his works. Klimt was influenced by Japanese art and its methods and achieved success with the paintings of his “golden phase”, many of which include gold leaf. “The Kiss” is Klimt’s most famous painting.

Klimt died in 1918, having suffered a stroke and pneumonia due to the worldwide influenza epidemic of that year. Numerous paintings by him were left unfinished.

A Tour of Gustav Klimt’s Art

  • Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
    • “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” by Gustav Klimt is also called “The Lady in Gold” or “The Woman in Gold” is a portrait commissioned by Adele’s husband. This picture is the most significant representative work of Klimt’s golden phase. It was the first of two depictions of Adele by Klimt. Klimt drew over a hundred preparatory sketches for the portrait starting is 1903. During that year, Klimt visited the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna where he studied the early-Christian Byzantine gold mosaics of Justinian I and his wife, Empress Theodora. The mosaics made a deep impression on Klimt. Klimt later said that the: “mosaics of unbelievable splendour” were a “revelation”. Museum: Neue Galerie New York
  • The Kiss
    • “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt shows a couple embracing, their bodies entwined in elaborately decorated robes. The couple is kneeling at the edge of a flowery meadow. The work is composed of oil paint with applied layers of gold leaf, a feature that gives it a modern and unique appearance. The painting is considered a masterpiece of the early 20th-century and a symbol of Viennese Art Nouveau. The Kiss is a vibrant and sensuous image which was a reaction to the academic art of the 19th century. It was inspired by natural forms, particularly the curved lines of plants and flowers. Klimt’s use of gold leaf echoes medieval gold paintings and illuminated manuscripts, and Byzantine mosaics. Klimt travelled to Venice and Ravenna, which are both famous for their beautiful Byzantine mosaics and which inspired his gold technique and his imagery. Museum: Österreichische Galerie Belvedere
  • Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein
    • “Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein” by Gustav Klimt is a portrait of a woman from a prominent and wealthy Viennese family. She was the sister of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the pianist Paul Wittgenstein and her father was one of the richest men in the world. This 1905 portrait was painted to commemorate her upcoming wedding. The Wittgenstein family were among Klimt’s most important patrons. Klimt was known for his vertical paintings of women, however even though the paintings are long, the subjects in them have a particular illusionary distortion to them, as they are not precisely parallel. In this painting, the dress dominates the picture with its delicate, lacy material. She wears a long velvet moire dress with a matching stole, whose embroidered floral ornaments provide some contrast to the iridescent robe. Museum: Neue Pinakothek
  • Portrait of Hermine Gallia
    • “Portrait of Hermine Gallia” by Gustav Klimt is a portrait in which the sitter, Hermine Gallia (1870 – 1936) is wearing a dress designed by Klimt. Numerous preliminary drawings were made for the composition of this work, and several alterations are visible to the naked eye. Significant portions of the figure’s contour having been altered to show the Gallia leaning slightly forward towards the viewer. Her clasped hands and the slight upwards tilt of her head makes her look as if she is engaging with the viewer. Klimt as in many of his other portraits has used abstract, geometric designs in his art, in this case, on the dress and in the background. Diamonds composed of hexagons and triangles for the pattern on the floor carpet, while Hermine’s dress train shows a checkerboard effect. Museum: National Gallery, London
  • The House of Guardaboschi
    • “The House of Guardaboschi” by Gustav Klimt echos his early artistic career, as a successful painter of architectural decorations in a conventional manner. Beginning in the late 1890s, he took annual summer holidays on the shores of Attersee and painted many of his landscapes there. These landscapes constitute the only genre aside from figure painting that seriously interested Klimt. Formally, the landscapes are characterised by the same refinement of design and emphatic patterning as the figural pieces. Space in the Attersee works is flattened so efficiently to a single plane that it is believed that Klimt painted them by using a telescope. Museum:  Neue Galerie New York
  • The Maiden
    • “The Maiden” by Gustav Klimt depicts the dreamy sensuality of a young girl in a dream state. The central sleeping girl is fantasising future possibilities for her self in a dream represented by the patchwork quilt of women surrounding her. Klimt has created a cloud-like shaped constellation of women with colourful patterned scarves and gowns sprinkled with flower garlands. The Maiden’s long dress is covered with spirals symbolising fertility and the ever-changing and evolving universe. Klimt’s eclectic influences included Classical Greek, Byzantine mosaics and Medieval styles. Museum:   National Gallery in Prague

Gustav Klimt

A Tour of Artists and their Art

Reflections

  • What makes Gustav Klimt’s art so distinctive?
  • “All art is erotic.” – Gustav Klimt
  • Art is a line around your thoughts. ” – Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt Quotes

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“All art is erotic. ”

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“I’m a painter who paints day in day out, from morning till evening – figure pictures and landscapes, more rarely portraits. ”

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“After tea, it’s back to painting – a large poplar at dusk with a gathering storm.”

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“Although even when I am being idle I have plenty of food for thought both early and late – thoughts both about and not about art.”

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“Whoever wants to know something about me, as an artist which alone is significant, they should look attentively at my pictures and there seek to recognize what I am and what I want. ”

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“There is no self-portrait of me. ”

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“I can paint and draw. I believe this myself and a few other people say that they believe this too. But I’m not certain of whether it’s true.”

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“True relaxation, which would do me the world of good, does not exist for me.”

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“If the weather is good I go into the nearby wood – there I am painting a small beech forest (in the sun) with a few conifers mixed in. This takes until 8 ‘o clock.”

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“I can paint and draw. I believe this myself and a few other people say that they believe this too. But I’m not certain of whether it’s true ”

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“On my first days here I did not start work immediately but, as planned, I took it easy for a few days – flicked through books, studied Japanese art a little. ”

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“Art is a line around your thoughts. ”

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“Sometimes I miss out the morning’s painting session and instead study my Japanese books in the open.”

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“Today I want to start working again in earnest. I’m looking forward to it because doing nothing does become rather boring after a while. ”

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“True relaxation, which would do me the world of good, does not exist for me.”

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“There is nothing that special to see when looking at me.”

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“Even when I have to write a simple letter I’m scared stiff as if faced with looming seasickness. ”

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“I have the gift of neither the spoken nor the written word, especially if I have to say something about myself or my work. Whoever wants to know something about me -as an artist, the only notable thing- ought to look carefully at my pictures and try and see in them what I am and what I want to do.”

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Truth is like fire; to tell the truth means to glow and burn.”
– Gustav Klimt

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Photo Credit: 1) Moritz Nähr [Public domain]

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