|Location of Origin: Europe|
|Dimensions: 18h x 18w in|
|Primary Classification: Antique Picture Frames and Fine Art for Sale : European Art|
|Secondary Classification: Modern and Contemporary Art|
|Austrian painter Gustav Klimt (1862 - 1918) was successful as a conventional artist but from 1894 he fell increasingly under the spell of modern art movements including Impressionism, Pointilism, and Symbolism. Klimt began to depict unidealized figures based directly on live models (often prostitutes) and to delve into the mysteries of primitivism and the occult. Although others had pioneered these fields (from Edouard Manet with 'Olympia,' 1863, to Ferdinand Khnopff with 'Le Sang de Meduse,' 1898), Klimt synthesized their themes and styles, and combined them with his highly developed artistic ability, sense of fantasy, and personal interests, in a manner that was strictly unique and that took modern art in new directions.|
Born in Baumgarten, Gustav Klimt was awarded a scholarship to the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts, where he studied architectural painting. From 1879 to approximately 1890, working with his brother Ernst and their friend Franz Matsch, he continued to receive important commissions for architectural paintings in the late Baroque style. Klimt's compositions during this period were dynamic, utilized a variety of viewpoints, relied on traditional sources for their iconography. His figures were idealized and traditionally draped.
The death of his brother and father in 1892 deprived Klimt of his closest supporters and most frequent collaborator (brother Ernst) and also forced him to take on the daunting financial responsibilities of the two surviving families. During this period of emotional and financial stress, he began to explore the aesthetics and sexual politics of the avant garde. He met Emilie Flöge, who was to become his life-long companion despite his frequent liaisons and with other women, many of whom became the mothers of his offspring. In 1897 he became one of the founding members and president of the Vienna Secession and remained with the group until 1908. The group's goal was the promulgation of unconventional art and by extension the unconventional lifestyle beloved of the group and its free-thinking clientele.
In 1894, Klimt, who was then known as an academic painter, had been commissioned to create three paintings to decorate the ceiling of the Great Hall in the University of Vienna. Not completed until after 1900, his works, Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence, were in his new unconventional style. The allegorical figures took the form of unidealized nudes, who as a result of their frank representation could be better described as naked. The iconography was unfamiliar and the compositions included tangles of sexually explicit bodies and mysterious figures emerging from clouds of smoke. The authorities considered them outrageous, even pornographic. When University of Vienna faculty petitioned to reject the murals, the scandal polarized Vienna's cultural and political factions.
By the end of the 1890s, Klimt was seeking a way to exhibit modern art - both fine and decorative - in an innovative setting that would appeal to Vienna's growing circle of progressive collectors. By first breaking with the monopolistic Künstlerhaus and then with official patronage, Klimt intended to build a broad-minded private clientele that would embrace his continuing stylistic development. Although his association with the Secession (and from 1903 with the Wiener Werkstätte) provided Klimt with some opportunities to produce decorative murals, after 1904 he concentrated on portraiture, continually receiving commissions from Vienna's forward-thinking upper middle class. It seems that art critic Berta Zuckekandl and those who attended her salon encouraged his break with tradition. Klimt's transformation from public to private artist seemed complete by 1905.
In the same year, Klimt and 23 other members of the Vienna Secession parted ways with the organization. The rupture resulted from a growing conflict between Klimt's group (including Carl Moll, Josef Hoffmann and others) and Josef Engelhart's group. According to Engelhart's group, the Klimt-Gruppe detracted from "pure" easel painting by including decorative art objects in exhibitions. The appointment of Carl Moll as managing director of Galerie Miethke in1905 provided alternative support for the Klimt-Gruppe, making their departure from the Secession easier. The Galerie Miethke became Klimt's exclusive Viennese art gallery.
During the summer of 1908, Klimt's circle held their first exhibition, the Kunstshau 1908. The occasion was the 60th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Francis Joseph I. The group was excluded from formal celebrations but permitted to build a showplace on a plot of open land in the center of the city. In short order, they erected and furnished wooden structures covering 6,500 square meters, accommodating 54 exhibition rooms, gardens, interior courtyards, a café, theater and a completely furnished country house.
Indoor and outdoor floor space, walls, and showcases were filled and covered with works by 176 artists, including Carl Moll, Franz Kupka, Max Oppenheimer and numerous students from the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts. One room contained 16 paintings completed by Klimt between 1903 and 1908.These included some of his most important works: portraits of Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein, Fritza Riedler, and Adele-Bloch-Bauer (I); Danae, Death and Life, and The Kiss. The Kiss was immediately purchased by the österriechische Staatsgalerie, part of the art establishment that had rejected his murals only eight years earlier. The exhibition is still regarded as trailblazing for the development of Modern Art in Vienna.
In conjunction with the Kunstshau 1908, Klimt and the Galerie Miethke planned the publication of Das Werk Gustav Klimts. The first installment was ready to be introduced at the Kunstshau, thereby launching the project that would help Klimt distribute his work to a select group of collectors. Much to the excitement of all concerned, Emporer Franz Joseph, whose 60th anniversary was the focus of the year-long celebration from which Klimt's group had been excluded, was the first to buy the initial installment. A further irony is that the first installment included depictions of the three University paintings that had been declared pornographic and led to Klimt's "exile" from the world of public art eight years earlier.
A complete set of Das Werk Gustav Klimts (the Work of Gustav Klimt) contained 50 prints on heavy wove paper with deckled edges. Issued unbound, the prints were divided into five groups of ten, each group including two multicolored images. Groups were published separately over a period of six years and sold only by subscription through the publisher, H.O. Miethke. The prints depict Klimt's most important paintings dating from between 1898 and 1913. Because Klimt personally supervised the project and insisted on the proper resolution of technical problems, the 50-print project, which was undertaken by early 1908 was not completed until 1914.
Das Werk Gustav Klimts demonstrates the remarkable ability of the collotype to render gradations of tone, color and texture. All sheets and most of the images are in a square format, with the remainder in the narrow rectangle format derived from Japanese paintings and woodblock pillar prints. Klimt designed a unique signet for each print, to be centered beneath the image and impressed in gold ink.
The final installment of Das Werk became available in 1914, the same year that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo. Within three months, most of Europe, Russia, UK and all of its colonies, and Japan were engaged in the Great War. The fighting came to an official end on November 11, 1918, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
Apparently, as the war was winding down Hugo Heller of Vienna was preparing to offer the complete set of Das Werk Gustav Klimts as a boxed portfolio of loose prints in an edition of 230. Because the prints in the Heller edition seem in every way exact matches to the prints in the Galerie Miethke edition, art historians speculate with a reasonable degree of certainty that Heller's 230 were the balance of unsold sets from the Miethke edition, preserved during the war.
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121 Mount Vernon, Boston, MA 02108 USA
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