Gustav Klimt is a well-known Austrian artist of Jewish origin, the founder of modernism in Austrian painting.
The name of Gustav Klimt, who stood at the origins of the new trend of modernity, is known all over the world. The “Kiss”, “Judith”, the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and other picturesque works created by him are the trademark of Austria. The beautiful heroines of his canvases are beckoned with mysterious smiles, seduce with open sexuality and surprise with hidden allegories. All the work of the great Master is embroidered with gold ornaments and is clothed in chic handmade frames.
Klimt created his works in a difficult time. At the turn of the century, Vienna was still the capital of a huge Austro-Hungarian Empire. The fourth largest city in Europe was a witness of an unprecedented flowering of culture, stood on the brink of tradition and modernity. Here, such well-known personalities as Sigmund Freud, Otto Wagner, Arnold Schoenberg, Gustav Mahler and others created them, turning the capital into a “laboratory of revelations.”
However, gradually immigrants from the poorer corners of the empire began to flock here. Rich crowns preferred not to notice the signals of future disasters, more and more plunging into a whirlwind of endless entertainment and carnal pleasures. All this could not but leave a mark on the work of the “master of the golden brush.”
While still a student, Klimt earned well, drawing portraits from photographs.
Having become famous, he did not lack money, thanks to the generous help of patrons. His work has always been in demand. After several scandalous government orders, Gustav began to write only what he considered necessary, and as he wished, ignoring the opinion of the public and critics.
The personal life of the artist has always been intense, the main characters of his paintings were women. Despite numerous acquaintances, he was never married, but for many years, alongside him was a faithful companion – Emilia Fløge. There were various rumors about this pair. However, it is now difficult to say what connected these two people in fact: the facts concerning the artist’s private life are few.
One can only assume that in life Klimt was a rather modest and closed person: avoiding the noise around his own person, he tried not to devote anyone to his affairs (even close friends did not always understand what was happening to him). He often suffered from depression, but, despite this, he always worked a lot and fruitfully, drawing inspiration from the beauty of the female body and the tranquility of the landscapes of Lake Attersee, where he often rested with Emilia.
The face of the musician is conveyed with extraordinary photographic precision. Behind him, the inscription Anno Domini and the date of creation of the work, written in Roman numerals, is MDCCCLXXXX. This technique the master borrowed from the artists of the Middle Ages.
The painting is placed in a wide copper frame made by Gustav’s older brother. The stylized antique drawing is applied to it by the method of stamping, in which the image of the lyre is also found – with the help of the artist it hints at the profession of the depicted person.
The period from 1891 to 1898 is a transitional period in the life of Klimt. In 1892, his father and younger brother Ernest died. Over time, the painter comes to the symbolic-erotic interpretation of images and the selection of allegorical subjects, changes the color palette.
Their motto was the words of Ludwig Hevesy, placed above the entrance to the Secession House: “Time is his art, his art is freedom”.
Klimt boldly experimented, sought his style, not being afraid of criticism and oblique views of contemporaries. In his works of this period, one can see features of both symbolism and impressionism.
In 1898, the first exhibition of the secession took place, where Klimt presented the public “Athena Pallada” – a painting that was nicknamed “demon secession” and later became a symbol of the new association. To create this work, the artist used gold for the first time.
Athena is an ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, justice and art. At Klimt, she is confident in herself and in her victory, a superwoman in armor and with weapons in her hands. On the breastplate of Athena – the head of the Gorgon, which shows the language to all critics of the secession, behind her – the image of the battle of Hercules with the Lernaean hydra.
As for the technique of performance and motives, this work reflects the future preferences of the master as a portrait painter.
The freeze consists of three parts.
“Art, choir of angels of paradise”. The figures in this part of the fresco signify joy and God’s sparks.
Klimt created a frieze in such a way that the work is the property of the state. In the 1950s, the son of Augustus Erich, who emigrated to Switzerland, received part of the collection back, including the Beethoven Frieze, but he could not take it out of Austria. Frequent transportation and improper storage did their job: the work had to be urgently restored. The Austrian government after long negotiations bought a masterpiece.
Until 1985, the frieze was not exhibited anywhere. Since 1986, he is in the House of the Secession. Only after almost 20 years the work was restored and put on public display in the British gallery Tate (Liverpool).
By this time, friends completely disagreed on the work, so their duo fell apart. However, it was this year that turned out to be a turning point, significant in Klimt’s creative biography. For the design of the university, he created three monumental panels: “Philosophy”, “Medicine” and “Jurisprudence”, which caused the scandal that erupted around the artist and his work.
Klimt chose his path, different from the usual academicism. Instead of portraying the triumph of science in a traditional manner, the master showed the respectable Viennese public the “real” face of each discipline:
“Philosophy” is a naked girl who leads people to nowhere (written in dark blue); “Medicine” turns away from the crowd of sick and dying souls, it is more like a priestess who is ready to sacrifice a person, and not cure him (performed in red, in which the image of death is intertwined with a blue train); “Jurisprudence” in the face of three furies ruthlessly falls upon the human victim (for this panel the master chose a thick black color).
Later Klimt so formulated the meaning of “Jurisprudence”: “The figure group on the left is the awakening of life, the fruitful being, the disappearance.
The composition of all three works is asymmetric: the human bodies on them are contrasted with the voids of the background.
The panel caused a surge of negative criticism: a respected professor considered them pornographic. It was in these works that eroticism, characteristic of the artist’s creativity, was first clearly manifested.
Work “Goldfish” (the original version of the title – “My critics”) was written in response to a sharp negative evaluation of faculty paintings. The candid perspective of the red-headed beast in the foreground speaks for itself. Such boldness and freedom of judgment required complete financial independence. And Klimt found a great way to enlist the support of influential people of Vienna. He began to paint portraits of their wives!
Now Klimt did not care about public opinion or fashion. He could afford to write what he liked, and as he wanted. Becoming the leader of the “Vienna Secession”, the artist began to experiment boldly.
The early portraits of the sister of Clara and the niece of Helen Klimt.
Helena Klimt is a six-year-old niece of the artist who, after the death of Ernest’s brother, became her guardian. Growing up, Helena began to work in the fashion house of the Fløge sisters and eventually (after the death of her mother) became his co-owner.
Cut “under the page, bangs to the eyebrows, a narrow strip of face. A light dress and a background contrast with dark brown hair. Like other early works of Klimt, this portrait is belt-shaped.
Some portraits of this period left in secret the names of models that posed for the artist. These include, for example, a stranger, depicted in the picture “Lady in a hat from boa and feathers.”
For an artist it is often important not so much for whom he depicted on the canvases, as for the very opportunity to admire the wonderful female images. All of them are written in a peculiar Klimt style, based on a mixture of impressionism, ornamental art and symbolism. Later images are completely different.
in the garden, which is not the case with other portraits, where the figures are written in the interior.
In 1899, at the request of Augustus Lederer, Klimt wrote a portrait of his wife Serena. The format of the canvas is stretched vertically, and the standing figure occupies almost all the free space. The back background does not give an idea of where the model is: it’s like out of time and space.
“Vienna Secession” could carry out its activities only with good sponsorship.
In the works created by the artist in the period from 1898 to 1903, there are features of both symbolism and impressionism.
This is the first work that Klimt wrote in a new manner: a typical classical, rather than psychological female portrait (he is not meant to show the depth of the inner world of the model, its experiences).
The artist gave Sonya a dreamy expression. But at the same time, she has some arrogance, indifference and alienation. Compositional picture can be divided diagonally into two parts: Klimt contrasts the dark and light, the background and the front, emptiness and fullness. On the one hand, Frau Knips is realistic and lively, on the other – inaccessible and distant. With her left hand, she holds onto the armrest, as if she wants to get up.
On the pastel background, an expressive face stands out in the frame of dark hair and black thick brows. Realism in the image of the face and hands is combined with the airiness of the clothes: the dress flows along the legs of the heroine – it seems that it is “born” from sea foam. The effect is enhanced by the fact that in the foreground of the picture there is almost no free space: Serena does not seem to be on the ground.
Hermine Gallia, nee Hamburger (1870-1936). In 1893, she married her uncle, Moritz Gaul, a government adviser, who was one of the most generous patrons of the time.
It is noteworthy that the woman is depicted in a dress that Gustav Klimt himself developed. Unfortunately, it is impossible to see the true colors used by the master, since the pigments (one of the paint components) of this painting have undergone significant changes over time.
This is one of the characteristic features of the portraits of this period: Klimt cuts the bottom edge of the figure: the dress of the model goes beyond the frame, the legs are not visible, which gives the impression of hovering the heroine. This effect is enhanced by contrast: in the portrait of Serena this white dress and dark hair, in the portrait of Maria Henneberg – a light dress, dark hair and a bouquet of violets.
In 1905, Klimt painted a portrait of Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein – one of the most interesting female images. This modern and educated girl belonged to the Viennese elite. The portrait was ordered by the father as a gift for the wedding day. The bride of the famous American physician Thomas Stonborough in a white dress on a light background looks dreamily into the distance. It is known that she was not very satisfied with the work of the artist.
The artist knew how to please his husbands: he painted their wives with a serene and dreamy expression on his face, giving them an air of indifference, arrogance, detachment from the world.
Vienna loved exactly this Klimt. At the end of the century, the minds of the intelligentsia were occupied with the theme of the struggle of the sexes, the domination of women over men. The salons continued discussions on this issue, various opinions were expressed. The rich and fastidious audience was satisfied with the artist’s works, patrons from high society did not refuse to sponsor the secession.
Relations between Ernest and Helena developed swiftly and were crowned with a wedding. But Gustav and Emilia did not get married, although they remained close throughout their entire life.
A nice 13-year-old girl to Klimt was led by her father – cabinetmaker Herman Floige (eventually became rich and became the first in the whole empire to be a manufacturer of smoking pipes). Seeing the daughter’s ability to draw, he decided to give it to the artist for training. Emilia did not engage in painting professionally, but the lessons were not in vain. All the sisters Floga wonderfully sewed. Senior Polina opened a school for seamstresses. Emilia studied there for a while.
Approximately at one time the master wrote two portraits of a young beauty. Much later, familiar features will appear in other works of the master, but for now …
There were no other men except Klimt in Emilia’s life. When the girl realized that hoping for a family life with a loved one is meaningless, she asked for advice to a well-known professional psychoanalyst, Zygmund Freud.
Having listened to the advice, Emilia, together with Helena, opened the Fashion House, which fell to the taste of the bourgeois public. The young woman became independent, financially secure and was able to “recover” from pathological love for the maestro. However, the relationship did not come to naught, they just became different: more calm, friendly. The artist called Emilia best friend, appreciated her advice and enjoyed spending time with her. Sometimes they appeared together at social events.
Klimt chose a narrow vertical format and portrayed Emilia in full growth. Decisiveness and confidence conveys the pose of the heroine: the left hand rests on the thigh, the head is proudly raised, the open look is directed at the viewer.
The artist “dressed” the girl in an unusual for that time, a dress invented by himself: the wood and the field seemed to have weaved the carpet and wrapped the slender figure with its ornamental train.
The public took this portrait as a challenge. At that time there were dresses with many ruffles and frills in fashion, and here it is! Even the mother of the artist expressed dissatisfaction about the too deep decollete, which, in her opinion, goes beyond the bounds of decency.
Klimt and Fløge were together for 27 years. Despite the many women, only Emilia was close to the most difficult moments of the master’s life (the death of her father, her brother, her mother). She was with him until the end.
In the portrait of 1907, 26-year-old Adele is depicted sitting in a chair. The figure occupies the entire right side of the canvas and seems trimmed from above.
The entire bottom third of the canvas is hem model dresses. Adele, like Emilia, looks at the viewer. Hands are linked in front of the chest. Cold tones and a realistic image of the face and hands contrast with the warm gold elements of the composition, stand out against the background of ornaments. Black hair and disproportionately large red lips are even more attracting the look to the lady’s face, portrayed in such an unusual manner.
Adely has a tight dress and a shawl. Everything is littered with favorite Klimt motifs: a spiral, an “all-seeing eye” inscribed in a triangle, squares, rectangles. It is difficult to guess where in this kaleidoscope of patterns an armchair. There are no shadows, the depth of space, the image is planar, ornamental.
Austria lost its business card in 2006. The heir (the daughter of brother Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer) Maria Altman sold the Golden Adele to Ronald Lauder for a record $ 135 million. However, this was preceded by a protracted seven-year trial to return her family values (including the portrait of Bloch-Bauer), lost during the war.
The Austrian government was trying to save the national treasure: negotiations were held with banks about a loan for the purchase of paintings from Altman, the population collected donations. However, all efforts were in vain: the amount of 300 million dollars (it was in so much were evaluated five paintings of Klimt) was too great.
This caused a real “artistic” catastrophe in the homeland of Klimt. It is difficult to imagine Belvedere without the “Golden Adele”, because it is the reproduction of this painting that adorns the covers of all Austrian guidebooks. Herbert Frodi (gallery director) called the event “an immeasurable loss for the museum collection and for the cultural space of Austria as a whole.” Millions of Austrians lost their icons. Now the canvas is in the New Gallery in New York (owned by American businessman Ronald Lauder).
However, this portrait of Adele is not the only one.
Black-haired beauty in a huge hat is depicted centrally in the front, she is looking over the viewer somewhere into the distance. The background is divided into large planes, ornamentally organized in the spirit of Klimt on motives of oriental fabrics. Colors are gentle and juicy.
At this time, the artist began to move away from the usual abundance of gold. In this portrait, like in other works of that time, the figure is standing on its feet, there is no more that illusion of flight and soaring, which was created by a cut dress that goes beyond the frame. Feels influence Matisse.
The second portrait of Adele also left his native Austria: in 2006 he was sold for 88 million dollars in a private collection.
Gustav Klimt was an outstanding draftsman. Before starting to create a picture, he did many sketches and sketches.
Many of Klimt’s drawings are independent works of art that reveal the secrets of the artist’s creative manner and his vision of the world. In paintings, the unbridled sexuality of models is partially hidden by bright decorative clothes and background ornaments. But the drawings reveal a completely different Klimt.
A separate part of the heritage left by the master is frankly erotic works (some of them are considered among the best works of Klimt). In them he shows the woman in the most intimate moments: at the peak of the highest pleasure, at the moment of unrestrained passion or a serene sleep after lovemaking (for example, they include “Lying on your stomach”, “Lying naked”, and also a preliminary sketch for “Danae” “).
The artist admires them and admires them, shares his emotions with the audience. Women in his drawings are sexually emancipated and unusually supersensitive.
Some graphic works are incredibly realistic. Among them is “Nude II”: with amazing accuracy, using only black chalk and a white pencil, the master depicts a nude female nature.
Last years of life. Late works
The works created by Klimt in the period from 1910-1911 to 1917-1918, can be attributed to the late. They traced features that are different from the previous “golden” stage of creativity: the abundance of gilding disappears, and in the images there is expression, there is a combination of symbolism and expressionism.
From the cloths disappear mysterious and insidious seducers. They are replaced by affectionate and affectionate women (“Lady in a Black Hat”). The figures are stretched, their contours look more round. The artist uses a brighter color palette, swabs become freer, and a small geometric pattern replaces the floral motifs in the oriental style.
“Mother with children” – one of the few late works of the master, where there are features of expressionism. And the mother, the child, and the baby are all depicted with their eyes closed; it seems as if they are sleeping peacefully. However, in fact, Klimt’s image of sleep has always been close to death. This is hinted at and fairly dark tone of the picture. Although this choice of colors can also symbolize the plight of the family: poverty, wandering, deprivation.
Shortly before his death, the artist created a series of remarkable portraits (Baroness Elizabeth Bachofen Echt, Frederick Maria Beer), in which the influence of Japanese art is traced. It seems that women are written against the wall, hung with tapestries depicting human figures. Dresses also carry the imprint of oriental traditions.
Elizabeth Bachofen Eht is the daughter of the wealthy Jewish industrialist August Lederer. The fragility of the girl balances the triangular ornament on the wall, which protects her like a magical raincoat.
Frederic Maria Beer is a rich heiress and a subtle connoisseur of art. It is noteworthy that she was the only woman who was written by two of the largest Austrian artists of that era: Gustav Klimt and his student Egon Schiele, who, by the way, outstripped the teacher for two years.
At first glance, the images of Elizabeth Bachofen Eht and Frederick Maria Beer are quite similar both in technique and in a manner of execution. But on the portrait of a secular lady and generous patroness Frederika Maria Beer, they are already much larger, their swords and spears crossed right behind her. Because of this opposition of a dynamic battle to the cold-blooded calm of the model, a certain tension is felt in the picture. Some researchers of the master’s work tend to believe that one of the reasons for creating such a background was the time of writing the picture, which occurred at the height of the First World War.
The culmination of this period was the “Dancer” – a girl with yellow lilies in her hands. According to one version, this is a modified (rather, reworked) portrait of Rii Munch II, which the girl’s mother did not like. The peculiarity of this picture is an incredible number of colors: they occupy a significant part of the background, crowded in a magnificent bouquet on the table. In addition, their stylized images are present even on the heroine’s dressing gown: it seems that he is strewn with blossoming flowers. Despite this, the figure of the dancer does not dissolve in such an abundance of bright colors.
In 1916, Klimt finished work on the painting “Girlfriends.” Unfortunately, it was not preserved (lost during the fire in 1945). Absolutely without any embarrassment, the artist talks about lesbian love. The heroines are depicted with incredible warmth, which is emphasized by soft tones, delicate fabrics and fabulous birds on a calm monophonic background. The girl’s long neck in the foreground and her turban-wrapped head give the work a shade of classical grandeur.
The artist’s three late canvases depict a girl named Riya Munch, the daughter of a wealthy Jewish industrialist. In 1911, at the age of 24, she committed suicide because of unhappy love. Mother, Aranka Munch, ordered Klimt a portrait of the girl. Of the three options, she liked only the latter, which, alas, remained unfinished. She considered the other two unsuccessful. By the way, until now it is not known for certain how the second version of the canvas looked.
Interesting in the final version and the manner of writing: the artist depicts the girl half-turned, on her lips plays a mysterious serene smile. He envelops the heroine with decorative oriental style backgrounds. The face and the surrounding details are finished, which can not be said about the dress.
Aranka Munch was tragically killed in a concentration camp. The third version of the portrait was in her villa, where he was discovered by the Gestapo. In 1950, the painting was transferred to the museum of the city of Linz, and in 2009 returned to the possession of the Munkam, who soon sold it for about 253 million dollars.
One of the last paintings of Klimt – “The Bride” – remained unfinished. It is full of mysteries and mysteries and has much in common with the “Virgo”. Dressed in a blue bride, placed in the center of the canvas, surround her fantasies, perhaps fears and premonitions. Among the figures on the left side of the canvas is the face of the bridegroom, surrounded by women (probably with whom he had a connection earlier). The lack of explanation of the plot creates some tension and two-fold interpretation of what is happening – this is precisely the strength of this picture. It is noteworthy that her incompleteness gives every reason to believe that initially Klimt drew his heroines naked and only then “dressed” them.
In January 1918, Klimt suffered a stroke and fell into a coma from which he never left. The great Austrian died on February 6 at the age of 55 from pneumonia. Many paintings remained unfinished, as he simultaneously worked on several works.
The great Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed, and with it – a huge layer of culture, the symbol of which was the unusually talented and completely unsolved Gustav Klimt.
The innovation of the brilliant artist of Art Nouveau was recognized during his lifetime: in 1917, shortly before his death, he became an honorary member of the Vienna and Munich academies of fine arts. Klimt was considered the “Freud of painting”, the “master of the golden brush”, undoubtedly talented, original, bright and fascinating artist of his time, whose art did not fade with time, like gold on his canvases.