Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Klimt - an Artistic Legend

Hello everyone,
it has been a wonderful week of creativity, inspiration and most of all, wondering speculation.
I have had the pleasure of visiting the Klimt exhibit in Milan which featured 28 of his spectacular painting spanning from his early training years to his signature style.  The exhibit was very through and it provided a free audio tour that walked the spectator through the most significant works of Klimt himself and some of the work of his contemporary Viennese Secessionist artists.  I'm not going to divulge on everything, but I'll examine a few paintings from this exhibition.

What I always admired most from Klimt was his ability to adapt and experiment.  Not only his signature style is recognizable world-wide, but he proved to be an extraordinary Natural Realism artist and an impeccable abstract landscape artist.

Below are the paintings that I found the most exciting from the exhibition:

"The Lady in Black" has almost a photographic quality to it and that's because Klimt was not afraid to utilize pictures (relatively new back then) to execute exquisite portraits such as this one.  Note in the background how the tapestry has still a more abstract painterly quality to it...a recurrent technique in almost every work of his.

In his earlier years  Klimt focused on understanding the figure in its entirety and followed a pre-secessionist classical approach that allowed him to develop his impeccable attention to the human figure, even in his later work.  Don't you love when you find out an abstract artist can actually paint realistically too?  This proves his genius.

Not much later his well known style starts to emerge as he chooses expression over extreme realism. In "Will o'the Wisps" Klimt exercises freedom manipulating and stretching figures and creates tension by almost filling the entire canvas with abstract shapes that resemble hair and waves.  The women in his paintings here become ethereal and almost unnerving as they stare at the viewer sensually, almost inviting him into their world.

As we can see the abstraction continues in "Flowing waters" but this time with a nod toward a more developed figure, notice however that the abstraction of the waters once again takes over the canvas and the figures are being carried by the waves, rather than take action in them as if the forces of Nature prevail.  This could also be a metaphor for the forces of sensuality and passion, as they are rapid and wild as these waters.  The theme of the sensual woman as the essence of humanity carries over in just about any figurative work of his from now on.

The theme of woman/nature is evident in his landscape work as well.  Notice how this sunflower is portrayed almost as a human figure and precisely a woman.  The leaves and flowers almost form a dress beneath a "face" that is represented by the sunflower.  When the viewer stands in front of this particular work it is as if the flower is looking down at him.  It is quite amazing.  So different from Van Gogh's sunflowers where the flowers represent what they are and the cycle of life.  You can also notice in this work how the artistic climate at the time deeply affected Klimt:  he is most definitely incorporating a mixture of Expressionism and Pointillism that was very popular in France, Germany and other parts of Europe.  This really was one of the most fertile and diverse periods in the History of Painting.

This was probably my favorite piece of the exhibition.  The exquisite sinuous lines once again highlight the sensual nature of this very vertical piece.  "Judith II" is holding the head of John the Baptist, which is almost completely swallowed by her skirt.  Klimt's work becomes very flat in nature with the exception of the figures' skin that still holds not only tridimensionality but also luminosity. The movement once again has a flow to much like the one of a fish or mermaid.  At this point of his career Klimt was studying traditional Japanese painting and it influenced him greatly.  There is a sense of nervousness once again in Salome' (Judith), almost hysteric, that is hard to describe: the clenching of the hands, the blank stare into the void, the inhuman torsion of her body, almost as if her murderous act was about to have negative consequences rather than reward.  It's also important to notice that at the time a new woman started emerging, a woman that charmed artists and men with her sexual innuendos: la femme fatale.  Mischievous and dangerous, the femme fatale could bring men to their knees and in the worse case scenario as portrayed here, death. 

"Adam and Eve" is on of the few incomplete works, but nevertheless an amazing painting.  Klimt died around the time he was painting it.  I love this one and the luminosity of her skin.  She is very different from the usual woman he painted.  She is not thin and feeble, she is voluptuous and has a classical and Rubenesque figure.  She represents fertility and motherhoood, she is gentle and pure, almost virginal.  Notice how the man becomes a backdrop behind her.  His eyes are closed as if Klimt wanted to say that he is not aware and alive as she is.  This is a spectacular piece in person and it concluded the show.

I hope you enjoyed my little rant and that it helped you understand the artist better, if you need any additional explanations or questions please feel free to comment below, or any kind of comments are appreciated.

I will possibly post again tonight, as I have new work to show, if not tonight, definitely as some point this week.

Merci Beaucoup!

See you soon.


  1. Thank you for this tour of Klimt's work and wonderful explanations of his different techniques. As a 'non-artist', it really helped me understand his influences and I have a much better appreciation for his paintings now. :) Robyn

  2. Thanks Robyn, I'm glad you liked it. I love Klimt, I could go on and on about his work, but I have to make it brief for the blog :)

  3. I'm not sure how I've never seen the Adam and Eve piece! It's simply exquisite, as you said. I would've loved to have seen his work in person! It seems like the exhibit was such an inspiring experience for you.:)

  4. Angela, his work is truly amazing in person. I think when we thing of the word "masters" we don't really get it until we are in front of their work. I've seen a Monet in person that looked as if the waters were moving in my direction. That's when I stared a the painting for 15 minutes and thought out loud "that's why they call him a master..."...

  5. I loved your blogs this week. Such exquisite explanations. Helps me to view these amazing works of art through your eyes. Pieces you made are amazing. Love them. Have a great week

    1. Thanks Jill, sorry I get to reply so late...I'm glad you found this info entertaining :) and thanks for reading!