Poetry from the Beethoven Frieze, 1902
Yesterday was quite a day for birthdays and anniversaries. Among them was the 150th birthday of the popular Viennese painter Gustav Klimt.
Klimt worked at the same time that Freud was busy with his pioneering work showing that we are not the rational creatures that we think we are, that we share much more with our fellow animals than we assume, not only in out bodies, but in our minds and souls. At the same time, writers and playwrights like Arthur Schnitzler and Hugo Von Hoffmannstahl punched holes through the optimism of the late 19th century, and cast doubt on its positivist faith in rationalist materialism and a technological future. Vienna's populist antisemitic mayor Karl Lüger gave the world a foretaste of the dark irrational politics of tribal passion to come.
Gustav Klimt himself challenged the liberal optimism of Vienna's insecure bourgeoisie, and retreated in the face of the intense reaction his work provoked.
Here is a portfolio of Klimt's work.
A detail from one of Klimt's murals for the Burgtheather
Salome (Judith II), 1909
Water Snakes II, 1904 - 1907
Danae, 1907 - 1908
Medicine, from the University Murals (destroyed in World War II), 1901
Justice, from the University Murals (destroyed in World War II),
1903 - 1907
These were Klimt's most controversial works. Many faculty members at Vienna's University resigned over the decision to accept these paintings as part of a mural cycle for the ceiling of the University's grand staircase. Vienna's populist right wing press hammered the University over these paintings, and vilified Klimt as an elitist and called him a Jewish sympathizer, or a Jew (he was not). Frightened by the ferocious backlash over these paintings, Klimt never again painted anything quite so provocative.
Adele Bloch-Bauer, 1907
Marie Henneberg, 1901 - 1902
Beech Forest I, 1902
The Kiss, 1907 - 1908