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Gustave Klimt | Drawings

Gustav Klimt (July 14, 1862 - February 6, 1918) was an Austrian ⎆ symbolist ⎆ painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement.
Klimt is noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other objets d'art. Klimt's primary subject was the female body, and his works are marked by a frank eroticism. In addition to his figurative works, which include allegories and portraits, he painted landscapes.
Among the artists of the Vienna Secession, Klimt was the most influenced by Japanese art and its methods.

Early in his artistic career, he was a successful painter of architectural decorations in a conventional manner. As he developed a more personal style, his work was the subject of controversy that culminated when the paintings he completed around 1900 for the ceiling of the Great Hall of the University of Vienna were criticized as pornographic.
He subsequently accepted no more public commissions, but achieved a new success with the paintings of his "golden phase", many of which include gold leaf. Klimt's work was an important influence on his younger contemporary Egon Schiele ⎆.

Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna, the second of seven children - three boys and four girls. All three sons displayed artistic talent early on. His father, Ernst Klimt, formerly from Bohemia, was a gold engraver. Ernst married Anna Klimt (née Finster), whose unrealized ambition was to be a musical performer. Klimt lived in poverty for most of his childhood, as work was scarce and the economy difficult for immigrants.

In 1876, Klimt was enrolled in the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule), where he studied until 1883, and received training as an architectural painter. He revered the foremost history painter of the time, Hans Makart. Unlike many young artists, Klimt accepted the principles of conservative Academic training.
In 1877 his brother Ernst, who, like his father, would become an engraver, also enrolled in the school. The two brothers and their friend Franz Matsch began working together; by 1880 they had received numerous commissions as a team they called the "Company of Artists".
Klimt began his professional career painting interior murals and ceilings in large public buildings on the Ringstraße including a successful series of "Allegories and Emblems".

In 1888, Klimt received the Golden order of Merit from Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria for his contributions to art. He also became an honorary member of the University of Munich and the University of Vienna.
In 1892 both Klimt's father and brother Ernst died, and he had to assume financial responsibility for his father's and brother's family.
The tragedies affected his artistic vision as well, and soon he would veer toward a new personal style.
In the early 1890s, Klimt met Emilie Flöge, who, notwithstanding the artist's relationships with other women, was to be his companion until the end of his life.

Vienna secession years
Klimt became one of the founding members and president of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession) in 1897 and of the group's periodical Ver Sacrum (Sacred Spring). He remained with the Secession until 1908.
The group's goals were to provide exhibitions for unconventional young artists, to bring the best foreign artists works to Vienna, and to publish its own magazine to showcase members' work.
The group declared no manifesto and did not set out to encourage any particular style -- Naturalists, Realists, and Symbolists all coexisted.
The government supported their efforts and gave them a lease on public land to erect an exhibition hall. The group's symbol was Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of just causes, wisdom, and the arts -- and Klimt painted his radical version in 1898.

Beginning in the late 1890s Klimt took annual summer holidays with the Flöge family on the shores of Attersee and painted many of his landscapes there. These works constitute the only genre aside from the figure that seriously interested Klimt, and are of a number and quality so as to merit a separate appreciation.
Formally, the landscapes are characterized by the same refinement of design and emphatic patterning as the figural pieces. Deep space in the Attersee works is so efficiently flattened to a single plane, it is believed that Klimt painted them while looking through a telescope.

In 1894, Klimt was commissioned to create three paintings to decorate the ceiling of the Great Hall in the University of Vienna. Not completed until the turn of the century, his three paintings, Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence were criticized for their radical themes and material, which was called "pornographic".
Klimt had transformed traditional allegory and symbolism into a new language which was more overtly sexual, and hence more disturbing.
The public outcry came from all quarters - political, aesthetic, and religious. As a result, they were not displayed on the ceiling of the Great Hall. This would be the last public commission accepted by the artist. All three paintings were destroyed by retreating SS forces in May 1945.
His Nuda Verita (1899) defined his bid to further shake up the establishment. The starkly naked red-headed woman holds the mirror of truth, while above it is a quote by Schiller in stylized lettering, 
"If you cannot please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few. To please many is bad".

In 1902, Klimt finished the Beethoven Frieze for the 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition, which was intended to be a celebration of the composer and featured a monumental, polychromed sculpture by Max Klinger. Meant for the exhibition only, the frieze was painted directly on the walls with light materials. After the exhibition the painting was preserved, although it did not go on display until 1986.
  • Golden phase and critical success
Klimt's 'Golden Phase' was marked by positive critical reaction and success. Many of his paintings from this period utilized gold leaf; the prominent use of gold can first be traced back to Pallas Athene (1898) and Judith I (1901), although the works most popularly associated with this period are the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) and The Kiss (1907-1908). Klimt traveled little but trips to Venice and Ravenna, both famous for their beautiful mosaics, most likely inspired his gold technique and his Byzantine imagery.
In 1904, he collaborated with other artists on the lavish Palais Stoclet, the home of a wealthy Belgian industrialist, which was one of the grandest monuments of the Art Nouveau age. Klimt's contributions to the dining room, including both Fulfillment and Expectation, were some of his finest decorative work, and as he publicly stated, "probably the ultimate stage of my development of ornament". Between 1907 and 1909, Klimt painted five canvases of society women wrapped in fur. His apparent love of costume is expressed in the many photographs of Flöge modeling clothing she designed.

As he worked and relaxed in his home, Klimt normally wore sandals and a long robe with no undergarments. His simple life was somewhat cloistered, devoted to his art and family and little else except the Secessionist Movement, and he avoided café society and other artists socially.
Klimt's fame usually brought patrons to his door, and he could afford to be highly selective. His painting method was very deliberate and painstaking at times and he required lengthy sittings by his subjects.
Though very active sexually, he kept his affairs discreet and he avoided personal scandal. Like Rodin, Klimt also utilized mythology and allegory to thinly disguise his highly erotic nature, and his drawings often reveal purely sexual interest in women as objects.
His models were routinely available to him to pose in any erotic manner that pleased him. Many of the models were prostitutes as well.

Klimt wrote little about his vision or his methods. He wrote mostly postcards to Flöge and kept no diary. In a rare writing called 
"Commentary on a non-existent self-portrait", he states "I have never painted a self-portrait. I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am in other people, above all women...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".

  • Later life and posthumous success
In 1911 his painting Death and Life received first prize in the world exhibitions in Rome. In 1915 his mother Anna died. Klimt died three years later in Vienna on February 6, 1918, having suffered a stroke and pneumonia. He was interred at the Hietzing Cemetery in Vienna. Numerous paintings were left unfinished.
Klimt's paintings have brought some of the highest prices recorded for individual works of art.
In November 2003, Klimt's Landhaus am Attersee sold for $29,128,000, but that was soon eclipsed by prices paid for other Klimts. 
In 2006 the artist's Apple Tree I (ca. 1912) sold for $33 million and Birch Forest (1903) sold for $40.3 million.
Both works had been recently restituted to the heirs of Adele Bloch-Bauer.

Purchased for the Neue Galerie in New York by Ronald Lauder for a reported US $135 million, the 1907 portrait Adele Bloch-Bauer I deposed Picasso's 1905 Boy With a Pipe (sold May 5, 2004 for $104 million) as the highest reported price ever paid for a piece of art sold at a public auction, on or around June 19, 2006.
This is one of the five paintings referred to below in the Legacy section and an NPR report. On August 7, 2006, Christie's auction house announced it was handling the sale of the remaining works by Klimt that were recovered by the Bloch-Bauer heirs after a long legal battle.
They auctioned Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II in November 2006 for $88 million, the third-highest priced piece of art at auction at the time.
Collectively the five restituted paintings, including aforementioned landscapes, netted over $327 million.

  • Style and recurring themes
Klimt's work is distinguished by the elegant gold or coloured decoration, often of a phallic shape that conceals the more erotic positions of the drawings upon which many of his paintings are based.
This can be seen in Judith I (1901), and in The Kiss (1907-1908), and especially in Danaë (1907). One of the most common themes Klimt utilized was that of the dominant woman, the femme fatale.
Art historians note an eclectic range of influences contributing to Klimt's distinct style, including Egyptian, Minoan, Classical Greek, and Byzantine inspirations.
Klimt was also inspired by the engravings of Albrecht Dürer, late medieval European painting, and Japanese Rimpa school.
His mature works are characterized by a rejection of earlier naturalistic styles, and make use of symbols or symbolic elements to convey psychological ideas and emphasize the "freedom" of art from traditional culture. | © Wikipedia

Gustav Klimt (Baumgarten, 14 luglio 1862 - Vienna, 6 febbraio 1918) è stato un pittore Austriaco ⎆, uno dei più significativi artisti della secessione viennese.
  • Giovinezza e formazione artistica
Gustav Klimt nacque il 14 luglio 1862 a Baumgarten, allora sobborgo di Vienna, secondo di sette fratelli (quattro femmine e tre maschi): il padre Ernst Klimt (1834-1892), nativo della Boemia, era un orafo, mentre la madre, Anna Finster (1836-1915), era una donna colta e versata nella musica lirica.
Tutti i figli maschi della famiglia Klimt riveleranno in futuro una forte inclinazione per l'arte: i fratelli minori di Gustav, Ernst e Georg, diverranno anch'essi pittori.

Frequentò per otto anni la scuola primaria nel settimo distretto comunale di Vienna e successivamente nel 1876, malgrado le pressanti ristrettezze economiche, il quattordicenne Gustav venne ammesso a frequentare la scuola d'arte e mestieri dell'Austria (Kunstgewerbeschule), dove studiò arte applicata fino al 1883, cominciando a informare personali orientamenti di gusto e imparando a padroneggiare diverse tecniche artistiche, dal mosaico alla ceramica, nel rispetto dei canoni accademici e della storia dell'arte del passato; fondamentale fu qui l'influenza esercitata da Ferdinand Laufberger e Hans Makart, sui quali condusse i primi studi.
I frutti di tanto arricchimento non poterono tardare: già tre anni dopo, al giovane Gustav venne commissionata la decorazione del cortile del Kunsthistorisches Museum, su progetto dello stesso Laufberger.
Da questo momento in poi, gli incarichi iniziarono a moltiplicarsi: nel 1880 dipinse le quattro allegorie del Palazzo Sturany a Vienna e il soffitto della Kurhaus di Karlsbad, mentre tra il 1886-1888 si dedicò, con il fratello e l'amico, alla decorazione del Burgtheater, in una serie di pannelli raffiguranti teatri dell'antichità o del mondo contemporaneo.
I tre iniziarono a guadagnare ben presto notorietà negli ambienti artistici, e le commissioni dei primi ritratti garantiranno loro discreto successo e tranquillità economica.

A testimonianza del suo riconoscimento artistico, nel 1888 Klimt ricevette una benemerenza ufficiale dall'imperatore Francesco Giuseppe, e le università di Monaco e Vienna lo nominarono membro onorario.
Nel 1892, a pochi mesi dalla morte del padre, anche il fratello Ernst morì improvvisamente: a questi lutti, che lasciarono un segno profondo anche nella sua produzione artistica, seguirono ben sei anni d'inattività.
Nello stesso periodo avvenne l'incontro con Emilie Flöge che, pur essendo a conoscenza delle relazioni che il pittore intratteneva con altre donne (negli anni novanta del XIX secolo Klimt sarà il padre riconosciuto di almeno quattordici figli), gli sarà compagna fino alla morte.
Nel quadro intitolato Amore del 1895 si presentano già alcune caratteristiche di forma e contenuti che accompagneranno Klimt per tutta la sua carriera.

  • L'astro del secessionismo viennese
Sempre più , entrò in contrasto con i rigidi canoni accademici, nel 1897 Klimt fondò insieme ad altri diciannove artisti la Wiener Sezession (secessione viennese), attuando anche il progetto di un periodico-manifesto del gruppo, Ver Sacrum (Primavera sacra), del quale verranno pubblicati 96 numeri, fino al 1903.
Gli artisti della Secessione aspiravano, oltre a portare l'arte al di fuori dei confini della tradizione accademica, in un florilegio di arti plastiche, design e architettura, anche a una rinascita delle arti e dei mestieri: non vi era uno stile prediletto, sicché sotto l'egida di questo gruppo si riunirono i simbolisti, i naturalisti e i modernisti.
Il simbolo del Secessionismo era la Pallade Atena, dea greca della saggezza e delle buone cause, che Klimt raffigurerà nel 1898 in uno dei suoi capolavori.

Nel 1894 l'università di Vienna commissionò all'artista la decorazione del soffitto dell'aula magna sul tema illuminista del trionfo della Luce sulle Tenebre, da sviluppare su tre facoltà: Filosofia, Medicina e Giurisprudenza.
I lavori furono rimandati per anni e, quando i pannelli vennero presentati, vennero rifiutati e aspramente criticati dai committenti, che avevano immaginato una sobria rappresentazione del progresso della cultura, ma che si ritrovarono un turbinio di corpi sensuali.
Noncurante delle critiche, in quel giro d'anni Klimt realizzò anche il Fregio di Beethoven, concepito per la quattordicesima mostra secessionista viennese, allestita dall'aprile al giugno 1902 nei locali del Palazzo della Secessione: questo trionfo di immagini visionarie, enigmatiche, dionisiache che sottintende le angosce e le aspirazioni dell'uomo moderno è una delle migliori testimonianze del genio provocatore di Klimt, che da lì a poco verrà travolto dall'uragano artistico da egli stesso causato.

  • Il periodo aureo
Nel 1903 Klimt si recò due volte a Ravenna, dove conobbe lo sfarzo dei mosaici bizantini: l'oro musivo, eco dei lavori del padre e del fratello in oreficeria, gli suggerì un nuovo modo di trasfigurare la realtà e modulare le parti piatte e plastiche con passaggi tonali, dall'opaco al brillante.
Fu dal connubio tra la ricchezza dei mosaici ravennati e i neonati Wiener Werkstatte (Laboratori Viennesi) ai quali l'artista si avvicinò tornato in patria che nacquero alcuni dei capolavori klimtiani più celebri: Giuditta I (1901), il Ritratto di Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) e Il bacio (1907-1908) sono tutte opere dove Klimt si presenta convertito all'oro di Bisanzio.

È il dominio dell'oro che contraddistingue le tele del cosiddetto «periodo aureo» o «dorato» di Klimt, che è ormai prossimo ai quarant'anni.
Altre peculiarità delle opere del periodo aureo sono la spiccata bidimensionalità del loro stile, che si arricchisce dando maggiore risalto al linearismo e alle campiture, l'impiego di pregnanti simbolismi e la prevalenza di figure femminili, che il pennello di Klimt ricolma di un armonioso erotismo.
Al periodo aureo appartengono numerose opere dell'artista viennese: di queste, oltre quelle già citate, degne di nota sono Le Tre Età della Donna (1905), la Danae (1907-1908) e L'Albero della Vita (1905-1909), a sua volta facente parte del più ampio progetto decorativo di palazzo Stoclet.
Il periodo aureo si chiuse nel 1909 con l'esecuzione di Giuditta II, seconda raffigurazione dell'eroina ebrea che liberò la propria città dalla dominazione assira: l'opera, caratterizzata da cromie più scure e forti, darà infatti avvio al cosiddetto «periodo maturo» dell'artista.

  • Il periodo maturo e la morte
Dopo la stesura di Giuditta II, nel 1909, Klimt ebbe un periodo di crisi esistenziale e artistica. Il mito della Belle Époque era ormai giunto al tramonto, così come i fasti dell'Impero austro-ungarico, che collasserà definitivamente con lo scoppio della prima guerra mondiale.
Analogamente, Klimt iniziò a mettere in discussione la legittimità della propria arte, soprattutto quando venne a contatto con la produzione di artisti come Van Gogh, Matisse ⎆, Toulouse-Lautrec ⎆: dal punto di vista stilistico, il «periodo maturo» (o «terza fase klimtiana», detto anche periodo fiorito) è caratterizzato dalla fusione di queste influenze e dall'abbandono del fulgore dell'oro e delle eleganti linee art nouveau.
Determinante per questa contaminazione fu anche l'incontro con la pittura espressionista, che in ambito viennese trovò due grandi interpreti: Egon Schiele ⎆ ed Oskar Kokoschka ⎆, già suoi allievi. Notevole fu anche il decisivo influsso esercitato dall'Impressionismo, che emerge nei diversi paesaggi che Klimt dipinse in questo periodo, che ricordano molto da vicino la maniera di Claude Monet ⎆.

Scopo di Klimt in questo periodo, infatti, era quello di ricercare una modalità espressiva meno sofisticata e più spontanea: egli rispose a quest'esigenza adottando una tavolozza più colorata, con cromatismi più accesi, e minimizzando (come già accennato) l'uso dell'oro e delle linee.
Nonostante i profondi mutamenti di questi anni, l'artista viennese fu espositore alla Biennale di Venezia nel 1910, vincendo pure nel 1911 il primo premio dell'Esposizione Internazionale di Arte di Roma con Le Tre Età della Donna.
L'attività di Klimt si interruppe l'11 gennaio 1918 quando, di ritorno da un viaggio in Romania, fu colto da un insulto apoplettico che lo condusse alla morte il 6 febbraio dello stesso anno. | © Wikipedia