Splendid Glamour - Women in the paintings and life of Gustav Klimt

Women in the paintings and life of Gustav Klimt

31 Dec, 2015

Gustav Klimt (1862 ~ 1918) was one of the most prominent Austrian artists of the  n-de-siècle. His artwork is subtle and glamorous in an indescribable manner and contains rich allegorical symbols and a dazzling decorative style  lled with hidden messages of sensuality, desire, and hope.

Gustav Klimt was one of the most prominent artists of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the turn of the century. A Symbolist painter, a proponent of Jugendstil, and a member of the Vienna Secession, Klimt is noted for creating grand paintings incorporating expensive materials such as gold, silver and semi-precious stones, and adding lively colors and exquisite details. Erotic imagery is found throughout Klimt’s oeuvre, which included female portraits, nudes, allegorical paintings, sketches, and decorative paintings.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, 1912, Gustav Klimt, Private Collection

The Mona Lisa of Austria

Some people claim that the works of Klimt are sensual and seductive fantasies. The relationships between Klimt and his models were casual. When in his studio, Klimt’s models often walked around nude, even when not modeling. Klimt was immersed in an erotic vision of his artistic muses but never made any commitment to them. In his artworks, women's faces are frequently deemphasized and the viewer’s gaze drawn to the elaborate clothing and mystical backgrounds.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (also known as the Mona Lisa of Austria) was painted in 1907. At the time, Vienna had surpassed Paris in art, music, philosophy, and literature, and Adele and her husband were among the most important art patrons in Austria. The couple hosted a renowned Viennese salon in their luxurious house every week that regularly attracted the most prominent musicians, painters, and writers of the day.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is a combination of reality and imagination. Adele’s necklace, face, chest, shoulders, and hands are real, but the dress, jewelry and background all spring from Klimt’s imagination. In addition, Adele’s thick snake-like hair, heavy-lidded eyes, and sexy scarlet lips are symbols of sexuality.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, painted in 1912, is a very different piece. In this portrait, the horses and warriors interlocking behind a more conventionally attired Adele are obviously the results of the deep in uence of Oriental arts. A year later, Adele and Klimt ended their relationship of 12 years.

The Secrets Hidden Behind the Splendid Golden Color

The Kiss was completed between 1908 and 1909; Klimt painted this work in gilded style with glimmering golden tones. The canvas depicts a couple embracing, lost in their own world and immune to the passage of time; the rest of the painting dissolves into shimmering gold as if to bestow blessings upon their a ection.

The geometrical patterns in The Kiss operate as visual metaphors for sex. Upon the completion of the work, it was immediately widely accepted and acclaimed by the public, and the Austrian government soon acquired the piece.

A Quiet Woman Before an Animated Background

Portrait of Friederike Maria Beer was painted in 1916. The leather fur coat worn by Maria was a luxury fashion item a century ago, and the horses and warriors in the background were borrowed from an Oriental vase in Klimt’s possession.

Maria was also a patron of Klimt’s. At the time, her  ancé wanted to give her a pearl necklace as a gift, but she refused and asked for a Klimt portrait instead. In this portrait, Maria wears a colorful hand-painted silk dress that she would later refer to as “my Klimt dress.”

In Portrait of Friederike Maria Beer, Maria’s stillness exists in strong contrast to the chaotic background.  e painting is unique in its perfect blending of Western and Eastern aesthetics and motifs, and the harmonious mixture of both traditional and modern colors.

Piano with Porcelain Treasure

The Sea in Golden Light