Though there are many artists who inspire me, Gustav Klimpt’s works so resonate with me for their ability to convey love and other motifs in such a refined, collage-like form. His works symbolize human life, and “draw from classical and Byzantine art with…passionate vitality” (Evans, 1). Born in Vienna in 1862, Klimpt was later admitted to the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts at the mere age of 14. After completing his formal studies he founded the Company Artists in 1883 (Evans, 1) with his brothers, intended as a partnership to increase his stature as an artist of the Nouveau style within the Viennese artistic community. He was a visionary and even redefined figures’ outlines in ornamental ways, in using gold leaf and pattern. In my opinion, his techniques radically express the explosive energetic forces between his subjects to articulate an even larger commentary on how solace and strength move an individual and compels them towards compassion and love. For instance, in his work The Kiss, Klimpt compositionally creates an abstract atmosphere, so that the observer is drawn to the subjects. Their body language confers unity and the gold medium accentuates the power of their passion. It is marvelous.
We also see the intimacy between man and woman apart from society's corrupt influence that enduces temptation as a theme in his works, including The Beethoven Frieze, completed in 1901(part of which is depicted below). This is one of my particular favorite pieces for its ability to incorporate multiple elements to tell a narrative of seeking joy in a corrupt world. It is compositionally interesting and uses weight of line, as outlined with gold, to define and carry the narrative.
To fall in love with Klimpt’s works is to fall in love with a rich Austrian history as well. His reputation for defying conventionalism allowed him to become a leading figure in the Austrian Artistic Sezession (Evans, 1) Movement of 1897, which defied the practices of the Academy. Interestingly enough, however, both Gustav Klimpt: Life and Work and Evan’s Quadrifolio on Klimpt illustrate that the popularity of his pieces throughout the early twentieth century, can be correlated with the sociopolitical turmoil of the world. Leading up to his death in 1918, his emphasis on abstraction and nature was considered ‘outdated’ (Husslein, 7). To me, however, there is such a rich history to be unveiled in his works leading up to the first world war. Many of his works search to explore the dichotomies that exist between love and hatred, life and death. For example in his piece Hoffnung I (Hope 1) created in 1903, Klimpt juxtaposes a pregnant angelic character in the foreground with skulls and a depiction of darkness and death in the background. This inspires interesting dialogue and leaves me questioning life's cyclical nature and the idea that health can never truly be divorced from sickness.
Finally, an important technique that is characteristic of Klimpt's work is an emphasis on the subject. Through his works illustrating portraits for Adele Bloch-Bauer (Below) in 1907 and in Dame Mit Blauem Hut of 1910, he is able to convey the power and grace of the feminine identity, aesthetically redefining gender inequity and aesthetically calling society to acknowledge these disparities.
Husslein-Arco, Agnes, Stefanie Penck, Alfred Weidinger, and Jane Michael. Gustav Klimt: life and work. Berlin: Jovis, 2014. Print.
Evans, Christopher Hum. Gustav Klimt: a Rizzoli quadrifolio. New York: Rizzoli, 2001. Print.