Arguably my most favourite figure of the Art Nouveau movement, Gustav Klimt was one of seven children of a poor carver and egraver in Baumgarten, near Vienna. He attended the Kunstgewerbeschule, developing his technique for detailed mosaics and frescos. He began his career by selling portraits drawn from photographs with his younger brother. He later began to undertake work in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and received the Golden Order of Merit for his work from Emperor Franz Josef in 1888–one of several awards he received throughout his lifetime.
The issue of censorship became deeply entrenched around his work, seen as ‘pornographic’ in a time when the topic of sexuality was in heated debate in the art world’s capital. Known for his artistic portrayal of eroticism and nude depictions of the femme fatale, Klimt became outcast by the conservatives and officially revolted in 1897, when he was elected president of the co-founded Secession movement. Scandal continued to grow around his work, with the society’s elite questioning the propriety of his work. He lead a very private life with his wife, fashion designer Emilie Flöge, and spent much time in his studio in Albertina, Vienna and vacationing in Attersee. Seldom making any public statements, he was once quoted saying, ‘Anyone who wants to find out about me–as an artist, which is all that’s of interest–should look attentively at my pictures.’
A great contributer to Art Nouveau and emergent Cubism, a revolutionary for artistic freedom, his work is easily recognized by his intricate designs of Byzantine and Ancient Egyptian patterns in gold and silver leaf, symbolizing religious and mythical legends centered around the female body. His work greatly influenced artists such as Egon Schiele, and despite all the Expressionist criticism of the day, he will forever be remembered for the eloquent and astonishing beauty and timeless truth found in the pieces that are so dearly treasured today.
Bildnis Adele Bloch Bauer I will be shown alongside a collection of five paintings from the Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer Collection, due to open mid-July 2006.
Sarah Badr © MMVI