List of paintings by Gustav Klimt and their descriptions with titles
Gustav Klimt (1862 - 1918) was considered one of the most controversial, but also the most popular and gifted artists of the turn of the XIX - XX centuries. In his work, the main theme was almost always female figures, which often symbolized human feelings and states, such as hope, love, death, and others. Pictures of Gustav Klimt continue to fascinate our contemporaries with the ambiguous content and erotic charisma of the female images created by him. Today the works of this founder of Austrian modernism are among the most expensive paintings in the world. Reflecting the main stages of the artist’s life, the article will introduce the features and history of Gustav Klimt’s paintings and show how his classical manner was gradually transformed into a completely individual style, which became one of the main sources of subsequent contemporary trends.
Family, early education
He was born in Baumgarten, a Viennese suburb, into the family of the engraver Ernst Klimt. His mother, a failed pianist, gave birth to seven children, of whom Gustav was the second. His two younger brothers, Ernst and George, also became artists. A large family has always needed money. And when, in 1876, Gustav entered the Kunstgewerbeschule, a Viennese school of applied arts and crafts, it was assumed that he would learn only the profession of his father. But the young man received a scholarship, which allowed him to choose the specialty "architectural painting" and continue his studies until 1883. His brother Ernst entered the same school a year later Gustav, but he studied only the specialty of an engraver.
Klimt received a quality conservative education, and his early works correspond to the ideals of academism. Among the paintings of 1879 - 1880 his creative studies in the style of historicism are preserved. According to the technique and plot motifs, these works demonstrate fine detail and similarity with the work of his fellow practitioner and colleague Franz Match.
1880 - 1990, the beginning of the activity
By 1880, Franz Match, Gustav and his brother Ernst registered the Künstler-Compagnie artist community with a working studio on the Josefstedter-Straße in Lehmann.The company began to receive orders for the design of public buildings. Among other things, the group designed curtains and ceiling paintings for theaters in Reichenberg, Hermesville, Carlsbad and Fiume in 1885. In the new building of the Vienna "Burgtheater" in 1886-1888. Friends created ceiling murals and intercolumn paintings, mosaic panels. In 1891 - 1892, frescoes of the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna and Peles Castle in Romania were frescoed. After the younger brother of the artist George Klimt came of age in 1888, Gustav went on a creative journey to Krakow, Trieste, Venice and Munich for a year.
In 1888, Klimt was awarded the "Golden Order of Merit" by the Emperor of Austria. So were the frescoes painted by the artist for the Vienna "Burgtheater". After that, Klimt became an honorary member of the University of Munich and Vienna.
The author's style of 1880 - 1990
The monumental works of Klimt of 1886-1891 for the "Burgtheater" and the Vienna Museum of Art and History reflect the ancient direction and academic style of the artist at this stage. In the works there is an analogy with the works of the British artist Lawrence Alma-Tadem."Allegories and emblems" - one of the successful fresco series of Gustav Klimt, developed in that period. All the frescoes, as well as paintings of that period, are carefully detailed and drawn.
From the paintings of Gustav Klimt, the oil canvas “Sappho” (1888–1890; 39 cm × 31.6 cm) can be cited as a typical example of plots and techniques of the artist’s early creative stage. The image of the ancient Greek poetess against the backdrop of nature and ancient architecture reflects the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites and Moreau's dreamy literary symbolism. A similar composition in Klimt, built according to the conservative-classical canons, is present in his monumental painting for the "Burgtheater".
Works 1880 - 1990
During this period, Klimt was more engaged in his immediate specialty, architectural painting. However, if the company Künstler-Compagnie was registered on Josefstadte 8, then Klimt in the same street took a garden pavilion in front of the theater for his own studio, where he wrote many works. Among the most famous works of this period are:
- Ceiling paintings for the University of Vienna.
- Mosaic Palais Stoclet in Brussels.
- Fable (1883).
- Idylls (1884).
- The frescoes in the "Burgtheater" of Vienna (1886 - 1888).
- "Allegory of Sculpture" (1889).
- Portrait of Joseph Pembauer, pianist and teacher (1890).
- "Ancient Greece II" ("Girl from Tanagry") (1890 - 1891).
1891 - 1900, Vienna Secession
In 1891, Klimt became a member of the cooperative of Viennese artists at the Künstlerhaus, an exhibition building in the center of Vienna. In 1892, his father died in July, and half a year later, in December, brother Ernst died, after which Gustav assumed the maintenance of his mother and financial assistance to his brother's family.
On May 24, 1897, Klimt retired from Künstlerhaus and became one of the founders of the Vienna Secession group, whose chairman was from 1897 to 1899. The group consisted of Viennese youth, representing different areas of art. The union did not declare its manifesto. His goal, in contrast to the conservatism of Künstlerhaus, was to create exhibitions for young progressive artists of new styles.
The government supported the efforts of the group and provided rent on public lands for the construction of the Secession exhibition hall. In 1897 - 1898, it was built by one of the group members, architect Josef Olbrich. In 1898, the Secession organized its first exhibition.Klimt designed metal doors for the building, and for the periodical edition of the group “Holy Spring” (Ver Sacrum) from 1898 to 1903 he supplied many illustrations and templates. The group became the basis on which the version of the German Art Nouveau style, which was called the Vienna Secession in Austria, developed. The symbol of the group was Athena Pallas - the Greek goddess of justice, wisdom, and art. A radical version of her image can be seen in the paintings of Gustav Klimt, written in 1898. The artist remained a member of Secession until 1908.
Creativity 1891 - 1900's
From this period, a series of female portraits appears: “Young Woman in an Armchair”, “Woman's Portrait”, “Girl by the Fireplace”, “Girl in an Armchair”, “Portrait of Sonny Knips” and others. Some of them are drawn with photographic thoroughness, others are more reminiscent of the impressionist style. At the same time, the artist developed his own distinctive style.
Gold background present in several paintings by the artist. Gustav Klimt begins to use it for the first time since the mid-1890s. The master was fascinated by Japanese visual art, and his works resemble the work of Ogata Korin, a painter of the 17th century.Since then, the use of a thin coating of precious metal has become characteristic of the works of Klimt, especially in his “Golden Period”.
The beginning of the work of the “Vienna Secession” represents the time of modernity and is probably the turning point in the work of Klimt. The works of those years were clearly influenced by such renowned artists as Franz von Stuck and Jan Torop. For example, the image in the paintings of Gustav Klimt female hair resembles the painting of Torop. Judith I, written by Klimt in 1901, seems to be inspired by Franz von Stuck's Sin. The position of the two bodies in Klimt's Water Snakes corresponds approximately to what Edward Burne-Jones had in 1887 in the painting Depths of the Sea.
At the end of the 19th century, the image of a woman symbolizing "naked truth" (Nuda Veritas), which eventually became characteristic of Klimt's art, appears. The first image of Nuda Veritas Klimt was an illustration of the March issue of Ver sacrum magazine. And the artist’s own Isis of 1891 from the Egyptian Images (Zwickelbild Egypt) probably served as a prototype for it.
Works 1891 - 1900's
Klimt always worked extremely hard, constantly disappearing in the workshop, and his work is considered one of the most productive.Here are some of the most famous paintings by the numbers of Gustav Klimt written over the decade:
- 1895 - 1896: "Portrait of a Lady", "Music I", "Love", "Sculpture".
- 1897 - 1898: “Tragedy”, “Music II”, “Athena Pallas”, “Flowing Water”, “Portrait of Sonny Knips”, “Blood of Fish”.
- 1899: Schubert at the Piano; “After the Rain”, “Nymphs. Silver Fish ”,“ Mermaids ”,“ Nuda Veritas ”,“ Portrait of Serena Lederer ”.
- 1899 - 1907: "Philosophy".
Scandalous order of 1990
In 1894, the Austrian Ministry of Education ordered Klimt to execute three large-scale canvases for decorating the ceiling in the hall of the painting department of the University of Vienna. Until 1990, not all the paintings were ready. The first work - “Philosophy” - university professors were subjected to merciless criticism. At the same time, "Philosophy", exhibited by Klimt at the Paris exhibition in 1990, won the gold medal. The artist depicted nude feminine nature in allegorical form, but all his works of this kind possess an incredible power of eroticism. After the scandal, the Austrian public was even less prepared for the compromise perception of the paintings of Gustav Klimt painted in 1991 with the names Medicine and Jurisprudence.Recognized as pornographic images, these works were brutally rejected by university, political, religious, and cultural circles.
The artist exhibited all three canvases in the Secession, and Klimt and Franz Match had serious differences regarding their content. The “Theology” of the Match was accepted by the Teaching Commission and is still at the University of Vienna. Journalist Karl Kraus in The Torch magazine, defending Klimt's “Philosophy” university, disdainfully noted that Paris, which imports art in the “goût Juif” style (Jewish taste), would certainly approve of canvases for a temple of science, such as a university. After the scandal, Klimt no longer accepted government orders, devoting himself to portrait and landscape painting.
Austrian industrialist August Lederer, a collector and philanthropist, bought all the canvases for 30,000 kroons. However, the work burned down in 1945 during the retreat of the German troops in Lower Austria. From the project there are several separate sketches and poor quality black and white images. Photo by Gustav Klimt "Medicine" reflects only part of the monumental work.It depicts Hygea, which was located in the lower central part of the canvas. The image was preserved due to the fact that 300 copies of art albums published in 1914 under the personal control of Klimt were included in the collection of works. For publication were photographed the best works of the artist for the period 1893-1913. In the thirty first copies of the most important lithographs came out in color. Among these images is preserved and a fragment of "Medicine", which gives an idea of the colorful brightness of the entire work.
The creative phase, which brought fame to the artist, wealth and the greatest number of private orders, lasted until the beginning of 1910. Using gold leaf for the background since the mid-1890s, Klimt became interested in the amazing possibilities of this material. No reproductions of Gustav Klimt's paintings will convey the full splendor of the golden hair of his “Water Snakes”, sparkling jewelry and transparent folds of clothes I and II “Judith”, precious rain “Danae”.
The thinnest gold leaf, unlike soil, a varnish and paint, is steady against attrition. Such a substrate creates a special effect, shining through a light layer of paint.Having covered the golden background with a transparent or slightly colored lacquer, you can get the impression of diverse textures in various ways. The paint applied on gold can be scratched, wiped, already dried or damp, partially removed with a solvent, thus obtaining interesting effects. Putting precious metal on the paint layer, you can achieve completely different visual results. The artist has long taken a great interest in the decorative properties of gold (sometimes silver leaf) and has created many exciting works. It is impossible to list all the works created by this number by Gustav Klimt created during this period. The painting "Kiss", "Adel Bloch-Bauer", "Golden Fish", both canvases "Judith", "Danae", "Water Snakes" are considered the most impressive.
This picture of 1907-1908 is not only the most famous, but also significant for the work of Klimt to the same extent as the Gioconda for da Vinci. The whole composition, color and technical solution create the impression that this canvas is an icon of fiery and tender love.
The picture "Kiss" Gustav Klimt depicted on a perfect square canvas 180 by 180 cm.The man and the woman are woven in embraces at the edge of a cliff covered with variegated flowers. Their bodies are almost completely covered with clothes and enclosed in a semblance of a golden halo, which even more reminds of icons. The face of the male figure is hidden, but there is a temptation to see "The Kiss" as an autobiographical work in which the artist depicted himself. Who could be in this case a prototype of a female figure? Art historians have been solving this riddle for many years. Leaving understatement and some ambiguity in the depicted personalities, the artist thereby increases the attractiveness of the work. In the film The Kiss, Gustav Klimt embodies not just a subjective or situational meaning, but a universal, timeless vision of romantic love.
The work was presented by the artist at the Vienna exhibition of the Kuntschau in 1908. He was immediately acquired by the Ministry of Culture and Education of Austria. The canvas is kept in the Belvedere gallery in the artist’s homeland.
The “golden period” of Klimt is marked by the largest number of exhibitions by the artist throughout Europe, which indicates its importance on the art scene of that time.
- In 1905, Klimt exhibited fifteen works in the newly opened Berlin Secession at the annual Deutscher Künstlerbund exhibition and won the Villa Romana award.
- In 1906, the artist went to Belgium and England, and by the end of the year he was appointed an honorary member of the Royal Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.
- In 1908, he exhibited in Florence, then in Prague and Dresden.
- In 1909 he went to Munich, Paris, Madrid and Toledo.
- In 1910, at the IX Venice Biennale, his works were accepted with unprecedented enthusiasm.
- 1911 - exhibition in Rome (first prize for the painting "Death and Life")
- 1912 - again Dresden.
- 1913 - Budapest, Munich and Mannheim
- In 1914, Klimt exhibited with the Austrian Association of Artists in Rome and visited Brussels.
- In 1916, together with Schiele and Kokoschka participates in the Federal Exhibition of Berlin.
- In 1912, Klimt became president of the Federation of Austrian Artists.
The last creative stage
From 1900 to 1916, Klimt stayed mainly in the villa of a summer resort on the Attersee lake in Upper Austria. Most of his many landscapes are written here. Some of them, to cover a larger angle, were written from a very long distance.And Klimt in these cases used his telescope, looking at the nuances of color and shadow among the selected details of the landscape. His landscapes are very voluminous, perfectly create the impression of space and air environment. At the beginning of 1910, gold and ornamental motifs in his works completely disappear. Color becomes the artist’s main tool for conveying ideas and feelings.
Klimt always, at every creative stage, was a sought-after artist and never knew a lack of wealthy customers. Many of his works were purchased for museums, but most were purchased for private collections.
In 2006, five paintings belonging to the heirs of Bernhard Altman were exhibited at Christie's in New York and sold at a staggering cost:
- The first portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, known as the “Golden Adele”, or the painting “A Woman in Gold”, by Gustav Klimt was painted in 1907. Cloth purchased for $ 135 million by Ronald Lauder for the New York New Gallery. At that time it was the highest price for the painting, now the work is on the eighth item in the list of the most expensive painting.
- The second portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, written in 1912, was bought by a bidder for $ 87.936 million. At that time, it was the fifth largest price for a painting in the world.
- Bauerngarten (Blumengarten) 1903, went to auction for 33 056 million dollars.
- Apfelbaum I (1912) sold for $ 40.336 million.
- The landscape “Houses in Unterah am Attersee”, written around 1916, was bought for $ 31.376 million.
Klimt is one of the most important artists of the Art Nouveau period in Austria, and also occupies a leading position on an international scale. Nevertheless, his works were partially ignored by German-speaking art critics of the first half of the 20th century or accepted as pure decorative painting.