Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt was a Symbolist painter born on July 14, 1862 in a small town called Baumgarten near Vienna. As a child, he displayed artistic talent—at the age of 14, he was admitted to the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts, and in the following year, he and his brother found the “Company of Artists”, which was “intended to help them gain a foothold in the artistic circles of the Hapsburg capital” through public commissions (Pauli 2). Since the public commissions required more traditional and naturalistic models, Klimt began experimenting on his own, reworking elements from classical and Byzantine art with a more “passionate vitality” (Pauli 3). As his reputation grew, he became one of the most prominent members in the Sezession in 1897, a movement that challenged the bourgeois conservatism of the Academy. In 1903, Klimt’s “Golden Phase” emerged, a period of time where he, inspired by Byzantine mosaics, used gold leaf to create exquisite ornamentation in his work. He also became increasingly curious about female sexuality, and many of his later paintings and drawings are provocative and sensual. The later years of his life were marked by political and social turmoil of World War I, and this change was seen his paintings, which shifted toward expressionism. He passed away on February 6, 1918, before the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire.

Reclining Semi-Nude Facing Right (Pencil, red and blue pencil, 1914)

One of Klimt’s primary subjects was the female body, and this was most apparent in his drawings and sketches. He portrays women as the femme fatale, typically posed in erotic and sexual positions. Klimt portrayed women as sensual and provocative beings, “poised between eroticism and death [and] between vitality and the world of dreams” (Pauli 3).

Study for Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1900)

While Klimt’s nude studies focused primarily on “elemental situations of sitting and standing,” his study for Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I emphasizes on the sitter’s apparel (Bailey 151). The garment fills the paper, and the combination of the “flowing lines and angular geometric forms” gives an illusion of layering in the garment (Bailey 151). Not much emphasis is given to the face (which is cropped by the paper), as only certain elements are briefly sketched, such as the triangular mouth.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (oil, silver and gold on canvas, 1907)

The Portrait of Adele Block-Bauer I is one of Klimt’s greatest paintings in the “Golden period.” Taking 3 years to complete, the piece incorporates intricate ornamentation with gold overlay along with elements borrowed from Egyptian and Mycenaean art. Klimt flattened and blended the woman’s dress with the background through exquisite ornamentation; however, the woman’s face and arms are classically modeled, so that she appears three-dimensional against the flat picture plane in the background.

The Kiss (oil and gold leaf on canvas, 1908)

Produced during the “Golden period,” The Kiss is Klimt’s most famous painting, and it follows the theme of the embracing couple. It represents the power of love and art. Unlike his other pieces of work, erotic content in The Kiss is discreet and indirect; viewers can suspect that the man and woman are naked under the robes, but it is not explicitly stated. The painting deviates from Klimt’s typical portrayal of the woman as the femme fatale. The woman is kneeling, and Klimt uses “cyclical composition” in the dress’ ornamentation; this style is also seen in section of the Beethoven and Stoclet friezes. The use of gold leaf is influenced by illuminated manuscripts in the medieval period, and the spiral patterns in the robes are from the Bronze age

I chose Gustav Klimt because one of my favorite paintings is The Kiss; the use of the gold leaf combined with the intricate ornamentation in the abstract atmosphere make the world truly distinguished and unique. Thus, I wanted to learn more about the artist and the technique he uses in his work.

Bailey, Colin B. Gustav Klimt: Modernism in the Making. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., n.d.
Belli, Gabriella. Gustav Klimt: Masterpieces. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, n.d.
Damy, Julian. Gustav Klimt: His Life & Work. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2011.
"Gustav Klimt – Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer 1." N.p., 15 Jan. 2009. Web. 6 Oct. 2011.
Pauli, Tatjana. Gustav Klimt. New York: Rizzoli, n.d. Print.

1 comment:

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    Gustav Klimt Paintings