Sunday, February 19, 2017

Gustav Klimt by Jessica Whang

Early Art
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter, born on July 14th, 1862. His father, Ernst Klimt, was a gold engraver living in poverty due to economic hardships. However, since Gustav showed talent in painting, he was sent to the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts in 1876. Unlike some of his artistic peers, Klimt did not shy away from traditional methods of teaching art. His brother Ernst also enrolled in his school in 1877, and together with a friend they created a group named the Company of Artists. This group received many commissions to paint murals, and Klimt even painted a piece for a luxury book called Allegories and Emblems. This piece depicts a young woman standing among wild animals. She is barely clothed, a stylistic element that was present in many of Klimt’s later works.

Die Fabel, 1883

Nuda Veritas
In 1888, Klimt was awarded the Golden Order of Merit from Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria. In addition, he became an honorary member of the University of Munich and the University of Vienna. However tragedy struck in 1892 when Klimt's father and brother Ernst both died. As a result, Klimt had to become financially responsible for his father and brother’s families. These events had a profound effect on his works and style. This new style included a symbolic figure named Nuda Veritas (nude truth). Depicted in the painting below as a red-haired woman, Klimt painted her as a way to oppose people’s aversion to his heavy emphasis on female nudity. 

Nuda Veritas, 1899
Another example of Klimt’s ongoing fascination with the female form is in his piece The Beethoven Frieze. This piece was supposed to be dedicated to the musician, however, Klimt used this commission to show his interpretation of the different symphonies in a piece of music, depicting them as the adventure of a young hero. A section of this piece is shown below, depicting several female forms in an almost nude state.

The Beethoven Frieze, 1902
Vienna Secession
Klimt was a prominent member of the Vienna Secession movement, staying with the group until 1908. This group was focused on providing exhibitions for unconventional artists and bringing in foreign art styles to Vienna. They did not have a particular art style associated with their group, instead inviting artists of any style to join. In 1894, Klimt was commissioned to paint a series of pieces for the Great Hall of the University of Vienna. However, these pieces, Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence, were highly criticized for being too pornographic for the public, and were thus not displayed in the hall. This was a precursor to Klimt’s full immersion in female nudity, however, it still manages to convey his fascination with the female body.

 PhilosophyMedicine, and Jurisprudence, 1907 
Sketch for Philosophy
Sketch for Medicine

Gold Period
The Gold Period was Klimt’s most renowned period. The artworks created during this time are the most recognizable pieces that Klimt has created. Taking inspiration from Byzantium works in Italy, Klimt created eye-catching works by using gold leaf and intricate patterns. His two most expensive and well-known works, The Kiss and Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, were both created in this style. The Kiss depicts two lovers in a deep embrace, almost melting into one being. It conveys deep romantic and erotic feelings, seen in the way the man wraps himself around the woman, and in the delicate, tender way the woman is depicted. The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I has much less deeper meaning to it, although it represents the final and greatest work of this period. The controversy behind this work is perhaps as well known as the work itself. The story is that the niece of the woman in the picture worked tirelessly to return Klimt’s stolen works to her family, after the Nazis stole it during WW2.

The Kiss, 1907-08    
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907    

Late Life

Klimt died in Vienna on February 6th, 1918 due to a stroke and pneumonia. This was due to a worldwide outbreak of influenza that year. However, his works continued to sell, some breaking records for being the most expensive pieces ever sold in the art world. While his style was controversial, one cannot deny the natural beauty and skill that Klimt imbued his pieces with.

"Gallery." Klimt Museum, LAKS, 

"Gustav Klimt Biography." Gustav Klimt,

Wolf, Justin. "Important Art by Gustav Klimt." The Art Story 

No comments:

Post a Comment