I remember the first time I encountered one of Klimt's works. It was in college during a Vienna 1900s course taught by my favorite German professor, Dr. Laura Stahman (an incredibly inspirational woman who I still have coffee with). In this class we covered everything pertinent to that era in Vienna: literature, culture, economics, society, and art. The first painting of Klimt's she showed us was this:
|Life and Death|
I remember being in awe right off the bat. The use of color and the juxtaposition of elements is breathtaking. The actions and feelings of society are clearly reflected throughout his work. His work is a true representation of the Fin de Siecle of Austria, especially Vienna. I became obsessed with Klimt and all of his work. He had such a wide array of work that it's impossible to become bored.
When I moved to Vienna in the fall of 2006, I was determined to see a Klimt painting in person. Luckily my apartment was a mere five minute walk from the Belvedere Museum and the paintings and paintings in progress that are housed there are magnificent. Perhaps the most famous of Klimt's paintings is The Kiss.
When I walked into the room where this painting is located, I was completely overwhelmed. For one, it's massive, measuring nearly 6 feet square, and it's almost entirely composed of gold and silver plating. The glow that radiates from this painting, in an otherwise darkened room, is something that caused me to turn around and walk out of the room before committing to viewing it. It's that crazy. I remember, when I was finally able to stay in that room, sitting down on the bench in front of it and staring for what seemed like hours. It's definitely something that I will never forget.
The majority of Klimt's work centers on the female form, which can especially be seen in his pencil drawings. There is such sensuality and eroticism that oozes from every surface of his work, a reflection of Viennese society at the turn of the century, that there was quite an outcry when he was commissioned to paint the ceilings at the University of Vienna. The paintings never made it into the university. Unfortunately these very paintings were completely destroyed in 1945 by the Nazis. Overall, the majority of Klimt's work is disturbing, dark, erotic, and highly allegorical. It's something that shouldn't be missed!
"There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night...Who ever wants to know something about me... ought to look carefully at my pictures."