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Gustav Klimt (1862-1918).

  • Profession: Painter. Secession (member).
  • Residences: Vienna.
  • Relation to Mahler: Love affair with Alma Schindler.
  • Correspondence with Mahler: 
  • Born: 14-07-1862 Baumgarten, Austria.
  • Died: 06-02-1918 Vienna, Austria. Aged 55.
  • Buried: 09-02-1918 Hietzing cemetery, Vienna, Austria. Grave 5-194.

Gustav Klimt 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.

Judith and the Head of Holofernes by Gustav Klimt, Galerie Belvedere, Vienna (1901).

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.

Beethoven frieze

In 1901, Klimt painted the Beethoven Frieze for the 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition in celebration of the composer, and featured a monumental polychrome 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 again until 1986. The Beethoven Frieze is on permanent display in the Vienna Secession Building in a specially built, climate controlled basement room.

The frieze illustrates human desire for happiness in a suffering and tempestuous world in which one contends not only with external evil forces but also with internal weaknesses. The viewer follows this journey of discovery in a stunning visual and linear fashion. It begins gently with the floating female Genii searching the Earth but soon follows the dark, sinister-looking storm-wind giant, Typhoeus, his three Gorgon daughters and images representing sickness, madness, death, lust and wantonness above and to the right.

Thence appears the knight in shining armour who offers hope due to his own ambition and sympathy for the pleading, suffering humans. The journey ends in the discovery of joy by means of the arts and contentment is represented in the close embrace of a kiss. Thus, the frieze expounds psychological human yearning, ultimately satisfied through individual and communal searching and the beauty of the arts coupled with love and companionship.

The face on the Beethoven portrait resembled the composer and Vienna Court Opera director Gustav Mahler, with whom Klimt had a respectful relationship. (28-04-2011. "Looted Klimt – the Mahler connections". Arts journal. Retrieved 06-06-2012). The frieze is large, standing at 7 feet high with a width of 112 feet. The entire work weighs four tons.

The Knight of the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt, said to be a portrait of Gustav Mahler.

 

The Knight of the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt (detail), said to be a portrait of Gustav Mahler.