From the bible to mythology to Viennese society, Musement shares six essential works painted by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt.
Vienna is probably just as famous for Klimt as it is for its coffee houses. A symbolist painter and a bastion of the Vienna Secession movement, Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918) is one of the most celebrated Austrian artists. Known for pushing boundaries, Klimt received a full scholarship to Vienna’s prestigious University of Applied Arts where he was classically trained. As his career progressed, he began to deviate from his conservative foundation and developed his own style, one that made use of gold and geometry.
While his sensational paintings are whimsical and imaginative masterpieces, Klimt’s work also attested to his love for women. He had countless lovers and fathered 14 children in his lifetime, and his females are sensual, erotic, and even mysterious. Here’s a look at six essential Klimt paintings.
1. The Kiss, 1907-08
This tender painting captures a couple in the middle of a flower field, the woman facing the viewers, her eyes closed to maximize the sensation of her lover’s lips on the cheek. Her head is cradled in his hands and she has one arm over his shoulder. It’s so beautiful and intimate that you almost feel like a voyeur. There’s gold, silver and platinum, and plenty of geometric shapes like swirls and rectangles. Where: Belvedere Palace in Vienna
2. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1903-07
This painting warrants an article in and of itself. In fact, it’s the focus of an entire film, em>The Woman in Gold (2015). Pilfered by the Nazis and then claimed by Austria as its own, the painting was the subject of a nearly decade-long lawsuit between Maria Altmann, the niece of this portrait’s subject, and the Republic of Austria. Altmann eventually won her case and sold the work, which is now on display at the Neue Galerie in New York. (Note: MoMA is home to Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II.)
3. Danaë, 1907
Who better to depict the mythological figure who Zeus impregnated via gold rain than an artist renowned for his Golden Period? Klimt depicted Danaë sleeping nude, in somewhat of a fetal position while Zeus descends upon her in the form of gold coins—definitely one of the artist’s most erotic. She looks so peaceful sleeping that again, the painting makes you feel a bit voyeuristic. Where: Galerie Wurthle in Vienna
4. Judith and the Head of Holofernes, 1901
From mythology to the bible. Several artists such as Caravaggio and Artemisia Gentileschi have portrayed this scene, and Klimt chose to depict it in his signature style: with lots of gold and an emphasis on the woman—so much so that just a small section of Holofernes’ head makes it into the photo. If you recognize her face, it’s because said Adele Bloch-Bauer modeled for Judith. Where: The Belvedere in Vienna
5. Three Ages of Woman, 1905
This poignant painting depicts three different females in three different phases of life, thus representing the circle of life: a woman holding her baby daughter while an elderly woman stands beside them. The work features an element of tenderness as well. Where: Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome
6. Beethoven Frieze, 1901-02
Klimt painted what was supposed to be temporary work in honor of its namesake composer for the 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition. Lucky for all Klimt admirers, it’s part of the venue’s permanent exhibition after having been dismantled for several years. Klimt based the work on Based on Richard’s Wagner’s interpretation of Beethoven’s 9th SymphonyWhere: The Secession Building in Vienna