Gustav Klimt and His Oil Paintings

Gustav Klimt's home city was the fascinating turn-of-the-century Vienna of the belle dpoque. With its two million inhabitants, the city was the fourth largest in Europe, and it witnessed a cultural flowering unparalleled elsewhere. Artists and intellectuals developed enormous creativity, torn as they were between reality and illusion, between the traditional and the modem. With inhabitants such as Sigmund Freud, Otto Wagner, Gustav Mahler and Arnold Sch6nberg, the city was a "laboratory of the apocalypse", a late bloom, a last creative tumult before its decline. The dominant haute bourgeoisie, known for its pretentiousness, its splendid banquets, its inordinate love of pleasure, had a catalytic effect on the city's culture. It was out of this "laboratory" that Klimt's art grew, and his visions were at once filled to the brim with life and only too conscious of death; the traditional and the modem were dovetailed with one another, linking a passing world with an emerging one.

 It is fascinating to look at the sensuality of his drawing, the kaleidoscopic composition of his works, the wealth of ornamentation, and to attempt to unlock the secrets of his pictures. Above all, the viewer is held captive by Klimt's central theme, the beauty of women. "All art is erotic", declared Adolf Loos in "Ornament and Crime". Long before Expressionism and Surrealism were credited with displaying sexuality openly in art, Klimt made it his creed, and it became the leitmotif of his work. The languid and yet exalted atmosphere of Vienna clearly incited the artist to put eroticism center-stage, with woman in the lead. Klimt boldly painted Eve, the prototype of woman, in every conceivable positions. It is not the apple that is seductive, but her body; she is displayed as she really is in her entirety, with no detail concealed Nuda Veritas (see p. 19). Klimt contributes to the creation of a type, the recurrent castratingfemmefatale, familiar also from the work of Aubrey Beardsley and Femand Khnopff among others. She is on display in Klimt's official portraits of Viennese women as well as in his portrayals of Judith or Salome (see p. 29), in Danae (see p. 64) as in unnamed girls (The Virgin, see p. 71) and allegorical personifications. Eroticism was in the air at this time: Freud saw no upright object without interpreting it as erectile, no orifice without potential penetration. Even Adolf Loos, with his right-angled art and his hostility towards ornamentation, associated horizontal lines with woman and vertical lines with man. Klimt's world is full of pollen and pistil, germ-cell and ovum, in views of nature but also incorporated into bodies and garments. At times his works were received with enthusiasm, he was celebrated and became the favourite portrait painter of Viennese society ladies. Yet it also happened that the undisguised eroticism of his works aroused bitter antagonism in this decadent city going through a time of hypocritical Victorian repression. There were periodic scandals, as in the case of his paintings for the University, which finally had to be removed. Although Emperor Franz Josef awarded Klimt the Golden Order of Merit, he declined three times to approve his appointment as professor at the Academy. Klimt rebelled: "Enough of censorship... I want to get away... I refuse every form of support from the state, I'll do without all of it.TM Wishing to be independent of large-scale state commissions, he concentrated accordingly on society portraits and landscape paintings.He knew just how to give these portraits an air of respectability, while actually painting what interested him to the exclusion of almost everything else the bewitching eroticism of women, ever-present Eros. Those who commissioned the portraits were well pleased. To keep up appearances, Klimt could not paint the women nude, so he clothed them in fanciful gowns concealing their nakedness yet drawing attention to it all the more. Floral motifs and ornamentation satisfied the need for fig leaves felt by a society enthusing over Art Nouveau. Klimt's structuring of pictures in the manner of the Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna commanded respect, and attention was deflected from the actual content by the abundance of detail: flowing hair, stylised flowers, geometrical d~cor, extravagant hats, enormous fur muffs. Yet these same attributes intensify the erotic radiance of the woman in the centre of the picture. Before clothing the women in his pictures, Klimt clearly painted them naked. A canvas left unfinished at his death The Bride (see p. 91) reveals this secret. The Orient, with its bestiary of birds and animals, plants and exotic people, contributes to the d~cor. The last works, often pyramid-shaped compositions, are flooded with curves and spirals, mystical whirlpools and bright assorted shapes. A newly created world appears around the central figures, enticing the viewer towards the depths of the unconscious and the labyrinths of the mind. If today the Viennese painter Hundertwasser is in need of a theme, he immerses himselfon his own admission in the detail of a Klimt dress. He enlarges the detail to the size of his canvas, and with the help of what he calls "transautomatic" repetition he creates a dark world of obsession. In so doing he continues in Klimt's tradition, showing the way, as Klimt did, to an unknown world. More colour reproductions are sold in museums of the works of Klimt than of any other artist. Not only is his fantasy world seen as the expression of a society; decadency's importance is also attached to his graphic style, which helped to blaze the trail for Modernism. Klimt's origins had considerable importance for the development of his art. He was born on 14th July 1862 in Baumgarten near Vienna, the second of the seven children of a hard-working yet poor engraver. His younger brother, Ernst, also became an engraver, and the two brothers often worked together until Ernst's death in 1892. When he was scarcely fourteen years old, Gustav Klimt became a student at the School of Applied Art in Vienna. For seven years he, his brother Ernst, and Franz Matsch studied a range of techniques, from mosaics to painting and fresco work, under Professor Ferdinand Laufberger. The three worked so well together that Laufberger was able to procure design commissions for them. In 1880 they undertook their first official commissions, the four allegories for the Palais Sturany in Vienna and the ceiling paintings in the Karlsbad spa. Klimt's style at this time developed a certain baroque virtuosity, based above all on the adaptation of classical antiquity as practised by Hans Makart, the luminary among painters in Vienna at that time. Under his auspices Laufberger's three pupils transposed several woodcuts created by DiJrer in celebration of the triumphal procession of Maximilian I into large-scale decorations in honour of Emperor Franz Josef's silver wedding. Klimt's first contact with the world of Dtirer provided him with rich iconographic resources which he was to draw on and develop further at a later date. In the first pictures, such as Fable (see p. 7), he was still working within a convention. The animals lie at the feet of the delightful, sensuous heroine, serving only to show this first voluptuous Eve to her best advantage. In 1886 the construction of the Burgtheater was completed. The three young men were commissioned to paint scenes from the history of the theatre on the tympanum and the stairway ceilings. Klimt's work developed along different lines from that of his two friends. He was no longer satisfied with classical motifs alone, but sought to supplement them with realistic portraits, painted with photographic precision. In this way, he introduced something distinctive of his own time into the paintings, as in The Theatre in Taormina (see p. 6). It should not be forgotten that Klimt was an engraver's son, thoroughly schooled in a wide range of techniques. He spent many hours studying the antique vases in the Imperial Museum, or copying such pictures as Titian's Isabella d'Este. In this way he acquired outstanding technical skills, and his work never seemed like that of a beginner. The public were quick to appreciate his accomplished allegories, his optical illusions, his persistently baroque style features which continued to mark his work. Hans Makart (1840-1884), the prestigious master of the historicist school of painting in Vienna, fascinated the young artist. At the time of Makart's untimely death he was only 44 years old the decoration of the stairways in the Kunsthistorisches Museum was incomplete. The three young men were given the dubious honour of completing his work. The trio could contemplate at length the gigantic works in progress in his abandoned studio. They were charged with the completion of eight spandrel and three intercolumnar paintings, which were intended to represent the history of art from ancient Egypt to cinquecento Florence. For Klimt this became a moment of intense searching: faced with the challenge of adapting classical antiquity without falling over the brink into academicism, he began at the same time to develop symbolist ornamentation together with decorative and floral themes, pre-figuring the manifesto which he was to proclaim at the "Internationale Ausstellung der Musik und des Theaters" (International Exhibition of Music and Theatre) in 1892. The young artist was fascinated not so much by the rococo resonances in Makart's work as by his truly baroque exuberance in decoration and figural depiction. This influence was long-lasting, becoming especially apparent when Klimt tackled what Freud termed the complex of the "horror vacui", filling the entire background of his pictures with an abundance of shapes. In the gouache Auditorium in the Old Burgtheater, Vienna (see p. 9), the "horror vacui" can already be felt every millimetre of the canvas is filled with some detail or figure. This subject would lead one to expect a view of the stage as seen from the door into the auditorium; instead, Klimt painted the auditorium as seen from the stage, thereby turning reality inside out, making members of the audience into trompe-l'ceil actors who have all the appearance of being on parade. They each look as if they had just stepped out of their own individual portraits, decked out all ready for a fancy-dress ball. It was not long before the three friends were receiving commissions for portraits, and in this way Klimt began to establish himself. The portraits were painted from photographs, a process which met with great approval. A certain photographic precision in the portrayal of faces was to remain characteristic of Klimt. The Portrait of Joseph Pembauer, the Pianist and Piano Teacher (see p. 10) is typical of these photographic portraits, with features bordering on the hyperreal. Yet Klimt also wanted to introduce his recently acquired familiarity with classical Antiquity into the picture, filling the wide frame with classical elements, such as the Delphic oracle, which seem to provide a commentary on the portrait. The frame becomes part of the picture, and has both decorative and symbolic significance. The excess of d~cor also serves to heighten by contrast the face or figure in the centre of the painting. From the beginning Klimt dared to cross the hypocritical boundaries of respectability set by Viennese society. The eleven allegorical paintings undertaken for the Kunsthistorisches Museum were supposed to include a figure representing classical Greece, but in the Girl from Tanagra (see p. 8) one cannot help recognising a Viennese cocotte, heavy lidded and made up like a "girl of easy virtue"Klimt's contemporary. In spite of the Greek amphora behind her, giving an emphatically classical setting, this is Klimt's firstfemmefatale, and respectable society took exception to her. Again, and in spite of the classical vocabulary and allusions to Antiquity, the personifications in Sculpture (see p. 12), Tragedy (see p. 13), Music I and Music H (see p. 14/15) are thoroughly Viennese, with their bouffant hair-styles and languid demi-monde air... In Plato's "Symposium" one encounters two types of Venus, the celestial and the vulgar. Renoir makes the same distinction: "Naked woman rises either from the sea or from bed; she is called Venus or Nini, there is no better name for her..." The academic, idealised nude is applauded by society, particularly when a historical message can be discerned, but an everyday naked woman ready for love causes a scandal. Before Klimt, Edouard Manet's Olympia had aroused hatred and criticism. She likewise was a Nini like the courtesan on the next street corner rather than a Venus in the style of Titian's idealised mistresses, disguised as mythical goddesses. Neither in Manet's Paris nor in Klimt's Vienna was it permissible for such idols to be drawn from life. "We want to declare war on sterile routine, on rigid Byzantinism, on all forms of bad taste... Our Secession is not a fight of modem artists against old ones, but a fight for the advancement of artists as against hawkers who call themselves artists and yet have a commercial interest in hindering the flowering of art.TM This declaration by Hermann Bahr, the spiritual father of the Secessionists, may serve as the motto for the foundation in 1897 of the Vienna Secession, with Klimt as its leading spirit and president. The artists of the younger generation were no longer willing to accept the tutelage imposed by Academicism; they demanded to exhibit their work in a fitting place, free from "market forces". They wanted to end the cultural isolation of Vienna, to invite artists from abroad to the city and to make the works of their own members known in other countries. The Secession's programme was clearly not only an "aesthetic" contest, but also a fight for the "fight to artistic creativity", for art itself; it was a matter of combatting the distinction between "great art" and "subordinate genres", between "art for the rich and art for the poor" in brief, between "Venus" and "Nini". In painting and in the applied arts, the Vienna Secession had a central r61e in developing and disseminating Art Nouveau as a counter-force to official Academicism and bourgeois conservatism. This rebellion of the young, in search of liberation from the constraints imposed on art by social, political and aesthetic conservatism, was accomplished with such impetus as to meet with almost immediate success and resulted in a utopian project: the transformation of society by art. The Secession published its own journal, "Ver Sacrum", to which Klimt contributed regularly for two years. After snccessful exhibitions in other countries, the desire for the Secession's own exhibition building could also be fulfilled. Klimt too submitted designs for this, with a Graeco-Egyptian orientation, but it was Joseph Maria Olbrich's plans for the temple to art that were ultimately realised. His concept was of a blertdlng of geometrical shapes, from cube to sphere. The pediment bears the famous maxim coined by Ludwig Hevesi, the art critic: "To every age its art, to art its liberty". The group's first exhibition was eagerly awaited; the doors were opened in March 1898. Klimt contributed "Theseus and the Minotaur", a poster rich in symbolic meaning. The fig-leaf was deliberately missing, and Klimt had to appease the prudery of the censors by importing a tree. Yet the almost complete nakedness of Theseus symbolises the fight for something new; he is on the side of light, while the Minotaur, pierced through by Theseus's sword and fleeing timidly into the shadows, represents broken power. Athene, sprung from Zeus's forehead, watches over the scene as the incarnation of the spirit springing from the brain, symbolising divine wisdom. There can be no art without patronage, and the patrons of the Secession are to be found first and foremost among the Jewish families of the Viennese bourgeoisie. Karl Wittgenstein, the steel magnate, Fritz W~irndorfer, the textile magnate, the Knips family, and the Lederers promoted especially avantgarde art. They were among those commissioning paintings from Klimt, and he specialised in portraits of their wives. The Portrait ofSonja Knips (see p. 17) is the first in this new gallery of wives. The Knips family were connected with the metal industry and with banking. Josef Hoffmann designed their house and Klimt provided paintings for it, with the 1898 portrait of Sonja in the centre of the salon, and of the house. The portrait unites various styles. It is well known that Klimt admired Makart's hyperbole, and Sonja's pose shows the influence of the master's Charlotte Walter as Messalina, for instance in the asymmetrical positioning of the figure and in the emphasising of the silhouette. Klimt's treatment of the dress, on the other hand, is uncharacteristically reminiscent of Whistler's light brush. The proudly distant expression that he gives to this society woman is typical of Klimt; it is encountered again and again, from this time on, in his femmes fatales. One of the great themes of thefin de sibcle was the domination of woman over man.

The battle of the sexes preoccupied the salons; artists and intellectuals participated in the discussions. Klimt's 1898 Pallas Athene (see p. 16) is the first archetypal "superwoman" in his gallery: with her armour and weapons she is sure of victory and she subjugates man, or perhaps the whole of mankind. Some elements appear in this picture which would be decisive in Klimt's subsequent work: for instance, the use of gold and the transformation of anatomy into ornamentation, of ornamentation into anatomy. Klimt remains active on the surface, unlike the younger generation of Expressionists who seek immediate penetration of the psyche. Klimt's visual language takes its symbols, both male and female, from Freud's dream world. The voluptuous ornaments refioct the eroticism which represents one side of Klimt's visions of the world as he knew it. This eroticism repeatedly provoked polemics, as in the case of the three designs for the Great Hall of the University. These works were widely felt to be scandalous. In 1899 Klimt presented the definitive version of Philosophy (see p. 22), the first of the three pictures. An earlier version had been shown for the first time at the World Exhibition in Paris. Although it was well received by many critics in Paris, and even won a prize at the exhibition, the learned authorities at home made it the object of such scandal that the whole of Viennese culture was dragged through the mud. Yet it seems that Klimt had only the best intentions. He saw Philosophy as the synthesis of his world view, of his search for a style of his own. In the catalogue he explains: "On the left a group of figures: the beginning of life, fruition, decay. On the right, the globe as mystery. Emerging below, a figure of light: knowledge.''3 The venerable Viennese professors protested at what they saw as an attack on orthodoxy. They had proposed a painting which would express the triumph of light over darkness. Instead the artist had presented them with a portrayal of the "victory of darkness over all". Influenced by the works of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, trying in his own way to solve the metaphysical riddle of human existence, to give expression to modern man's confusion, Klimt inverted the proposition. He did not hesitate to break the taboo on such themes as disease, physical decay, and poverty in all its ugliness; up to this time it had been customary to sublimate reality, to present its more favourable aspects. Life and the erotic expression of life are always concentrated on the struggle between Eros and Thanatos, and this is all-pervading in Klimt. The allegory of Medicine, the second of the Faculty pictures for the University, again provoked a scandal. Bodies torn away by destiny are carried onwards by the stream of life, in which all the stages of life, from birth to death, are brought together, be it in ecstasy or in pain. This vision is bound to belittle medicine; it emphasises the impotence of medicine as a healing force compared with the untamable powers of destiny. Is not Hygieia (see p. 25), the goddess of health, turning her back on mankind with hieratic indifference, more enigmatic or bewitching femme fatale than symbol of scientific enlightenment? Are not the enchanting young female bodies intermingled with skeletons a direct illustration of Nietzsche's parable of "eternal return", in which death is seen as the cardinal point of life? In Philosophy and in Medicine Klimt is expressing a view which he shares with Schopenhauer, of "the world as will, as blind force in an eternal circle of bringing forth, loving and dying.TM The third work for the University, Jurisprudence (see p. 23), was received with equal hostility; viewers were shocked by the ugliness and nakedness they thought they saw. Only one of the academics, Franz von Wickhoff, Professor of the History of Art at the University of Vienna, defended Klimt in a legendary lecture entitled "What is ugly?" This did not prevent the scandal provoked by Klimt from being the subject of a question in Parliament. The artist was accused of "pornography" and of "perverted excess". In the picture Jurisprudence, Klimt seems to be treating sexuality in a manner suggested by Freud's research into the unconscious. Klimt ventures oh shame! to present sexuality as a liberating force, in contrast to scientific knowledge with its constricting determinism, He had been expected to contribute to the glorification of science, but instead he seems to have taken as his motto the quotation from Virgil's "Aeneid" with which Freud prefaced his "Interpretation of Dreams": "If I cannot move the gods, I will invoke hell." Klimt did not allow himself to be intimidated by the raucous opposition, but continued on his way. His only answer to the vehement criticism was to paint a picture, first of all called To my critics, later exhibited as Goldfish (see p. 34). The public outcry reached a tumultuous level: the lovely, frolicsome nymph in the foreground was sticking her bottom out at all who beheld her! The aquatic figures entice the viewer into a world of sexual evocations and associations comparable to Freud's world of symbols. This world had already been glimpsed in Moving Water (see p. 21) and Nymphs (Silverfish) (see p. 27), and would be found again some years later in Water Serpents I (see p. 46) and Water Serpents II (see p. 47). Art Nouveau loves the realm of water, where dark and light algae grow on Venus molluscs, or delicate tropical coral flesh shimmers between bivalve lamellae. The semiotics lead us back to their incontrovertible origin' woman. In these watery dreams, algae become hair growing from head and pubis. Klimt's "fish-women" put their humid sensuality unashamedly on display. They follow the tide with the curvilinear movements so characteristic of Art Nouveau. In languid provocation, they yield to the embraces of the watery element, just as Danae (see p. 64) lies open to Zeus in the form of a shower of gold. Klimt's portraits of society wives gave him financial independence, so that he was not obliged to fall into line with ministerial demands or watch his painstakingly thought out and brilliantly executed works dragged through the mud. He suggested that they should be returned to him in exchange for the payments that had already been made. He explained to Bertha Zuckerkandl, the Viennese journalist: "The main reasons for my deciding to ask for the paintings to be returned.., do ncSt lie in any annoyance that the various attacks.., might have aroused in me. All that had very little effect on me at the time, and would not have taken away the joy I felt in this work. I am in general very insensitive to attacks. But I am all the more sensitive if I come to feel that somone who has commissioned my work is not satisfied with it. And that is the case with the ceiling paintings.''5 The ministry finally agreed, and the industrialist August Lederer made part of the repayment in exchange for the picture of Philosophy. In 1907, Koloman Moser purchased Medicine and Jurisprudence. In an attempt to save them from the dangers of World War II, they were moved to Schlog Immendorf in the south of Austria; the castle and its contents were destroyed in a fire started by retreating SS troops on 5 May' 1945. Today, some idea of the works which caused such public outrage can be gained from black-and-white photographs and from a good colour reproduction of Hygieia, the central figure of Medicine. There is also the "colourful" commentary by Ludwig Hevesi: "Let the gaze move to the two lateral pieces, Philosophy and Medicine: a mystic symphony in green, a rousing overture in red, a purely decorative play of colours in both. In Jurisprudence, black and gold, not actual colours, prevail; instead of colour, the line gains significance, and form becomes a characteristic that one must regard as monumental.''6 Klimt's work was created in the turbulence between Eros and Thanatos, challenging the sacrosanct principles of a decadent society. In Philosophy he depicted the triumph of darkness over light, in contrast with conventional notions. In Medicine he exposed its inability to cure disease. Finally, in Jurisprudence, he portrayed a condemned man in the power of three Furies: Truth, Justice and Law. They appear as the Eumenides surrounded by serpents; the punishment they impose is an octopod's deadly embrace. Klimt was determined to bring down the pillars of the temple and to wound the prudish by his portrayal of sexual archetypes. Nothing survives from this deliberately conducted campaign except the tangible evidence of photographs and one partial reproduction of the vanished masterpieces and the bitter recognition of the impotence of the artist pilloried by censorship. Klimt was never to become professor at the Academy; but before those who mocked him he held up the mirror of "naked truth"Nuda Veritas (see p. 19). "To art its liberty", wrote Hevesi on the pediment of the Secession House. Klimt wanted to be completely free, wanted to think and paint without being dependent on official commissions, and in this he received the support of several loyal patrons. Before the Vienna University scandal he had met Nikolaus Dumba, the son of a Greek businessman from Macedonia with contacts in the Orient, who had made a fortune in banking and the textile industry. The interior decoration of his office had been done by Hans Makart. After Makart's death, Klimt became Dumba's most favoured artist. It was to him that the furnishing, accessories and decoration of the music salon in the Nikolaus Dumba Palais were entrusted. This included two supraportal pictures, the first of which shows Schubert at the Piano (see p. 18), while the second, Music II, is of a Greek priestess with Apolline cithara. The first harks back nostalgically to the lost paradise of a well-placed, carefree society that enjoyed the diversions of music in the home. The second is quite different in style and points the way to a world of symbols expressed by the Dionysian power of music. "In these two pictures", wrote Carl E. Schorske, "bourgeois serenity and Dionysian unrest confronted one another in a single room. The Schubert picture shows music-making in the home, with music as the artistic high point of a secure and well-ordered way of life. The scene glows in a warm candlelight that softens the outlines of the figures, so that they melt into convivial harmony... Klimt makes use of Impressionist techniques in order to replace historical reconstruction by nostalgic evocation. He presents us with a lovely dream, glowing but incorporeal the dream of innocent, pleasure-giving art in the service of an untroubled society.TM This was the Klimt whom Vienna loved, an unthreatening Klimt who enchanted even the most conservative public, rewarding their applause by giving them even more than they had expected the composer Schubert, hallowed object of their sentimental veneration. Klimt reserved his most flattering style for his patrons in Viennese society. This was evident in his Portrait of Sonja Knips (see p. 17), and is evident also in the gentleness of the subsequent "wives" portraits, of Gertha Felsiivdnyi (see p. 30) or Serena Lederer (see p. 31), and in Emilie Fliige (see p. 32). Yet the women in these portraits always have the same serene air of reverie: they look at the world, and at man, with a sense of melancholy but also of detachment. Klimt's "horror vacui" is intensely concentrated in their monumental presence. His eclecticism allows him to draw now on Velasquez, now on Fernand Khnopff. From the one he takes the manner of painting the bouffant hair-style and the contours of the chin; from the other, certain characteristics of the femmefatale. There is invariably something crushing in the apparent passivity of his subjects. Whenever Klimt was not working for a patron, he seemed to throw off all restraint and paint as he truly willed. A quite different type of woman entered the picture, dangerous and instinctual, as in Pallas Athene and Nuda Veritas. Appearing first in the design for "Ver Sacrum", she therefore became known as the "daemon of the Secession". The second version, an oilpainting 2.6 metres high (see p. 19), marked the breakthrough of Klimt's new "naturalistic" style. The public was shocked and confused by the provocative red-headed nude with red-haired pubis, no Venus but a larger-than-life Nini, a creature of flesh and blood severing the links with the traditional idealisation of female nudity in art. The pubic hair alone was a declaration of war on the classical ideal. The Schiller quotation served as commentary, reinforcing the provocation and pre-empting the ensuing public rejection: "Though you cannot please all men with your deeds and with your art, yet seek to please a few. To please the multitude is not good." The first version, published in "Ver Sacrum", was headed by an equally ~litist quotation, from L. Scheffer: "True art is created by a few, to be appreciated by a few." Judith I and, eight years later, Judith H are further realisations of Klimt's archetypal femme fatale. His Judith is no biblical heroine, but rather a typical Viennese of his own epoch, as demonstrated by her fashionable if costly dog-collar necklace. According to Bertha Zuckerkandl, Klimt was creating a type of woman comparable to Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich, long before these women came to fame (and before the term "vamp" achieved common currency). Proud and dismissive, yet at the same time mysterious and bewitching, thefemmefatale casts her spell over the male observer. The pictures cannot be viewed independently of the gilded frames that give them an iconic quality. The frame of the first version was made, incidentally, by Klimt's brother Georg, a goldsmith. The ornamentation of the painting is carried over into the frame in a manner very popular at the time which had been developed by the Pre-Raphaelites. The pictures also show the influence of the Byzantine art which Klimt had seen on a journey to Ravenna. The deliberate contrast between the plasticity of the finely modelled and coloured face and the two-dimensional surface of the ornamentation is a distinctive feature of these pictures; it creates an effect almost of photomontage, and contributes greatly to their charm. The figures on the van Eyck brothers' Ghent altar are often cited as formal precursors. Without doubt, Klimt found in Judith a compelling symbol for justice wrought by woman on man, whose atonement is in death. In order to save her city, Judith seduced Holofernes, the enemy general, and then cut off his head. The Old Testament heroine is the perfect example of courage and decisiveness serving an ideal, the castrating woman... In this biblical figure, Eros and death are united in the familiar conjunction which thefin de sibcle found so intriguing, another example of the castrating woman, with shameless power to confirm the most perverse fantasies, being Richard Strauss's "Mycenaean ruler", bloodthirsty Clytemnestra. Klimt's Judith was bound to antagonise a section of Viennese society which was otherwise willing to accept his infringements of taboos, namely the Jewish bourgeoisie. This time he was breaking a religious taboo, and the viewers could not believe their eyes. Commentators opined that Klimt must have been mistaken in his claim that this ecstatic, indeed orgasmic, woman with her half-closed eyes and lightly parted lips was the devout Jewish widow and courageous heroine, who with never a trace of pleasure had executed the terrible mission assigned her by heaven and beheaded the dastardly Holofernes, leader of the Assyrian army. Surely, people said, Klimt must have been thinking of Salome, the typical femme fatale of thefin de sibcle, who had already fascinated so many contemporary artists and intellectuals, from Gustave Moreau to Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, Franz yon Stuck and Max Klinger. Well-meaning souls repeatedly listed the "Judith" pictures under the title "Salome" in catalogues and journals. Whether or not Klimt did actually assign to his Judith the characteristics of Salome remains uncertain; whatever his intentions, the result was the most eloquent representative of Eros and of the fantasies of a modem femme fatale. Yet Klimt was not only familiar with thefemmefatale. While his compositions for the Great Hall of the University were still causing a stir, he, cultivating his garden like a latter-day Candide, turned his attention to landscape painting, taking as his starting-point the Impressionist and PostImpressionist landscapes. There could be good grounds for seeing Monet as the model for some of Klimt's early landscape paintings, such as The Marsh (1900) or Tall Poplars H (1903). As a landscape painter, however, Klimt offers a bold synthesis of Impressionism and Symbolism. The brush strokes of the dissolving forms are reminiscent of the Impressionists, but the schematisation of surfaces, often displaying the influence of the Orient, is typical of Art Nouveau. Unlike the Impressionists, Klimt shows little interest in weather, in the play of light and shadow. As in his portraits, he constructs enamelled mosaics, combining naturalism with schematism. This is evident when one compares such pictures as A~ter the Rain (see p. 26), Nymphs (see p.27) or the Portrait ofEmilie Fli~ge (see p. 32) with Beech Forest (see p. 33): in his landscape paintings, as in his portraits and allegories, figures and shapes appear as it were in relief against a setting of planar ornamentation. The forest scenes, such as Beech Forest (see p. 33) or Beech Forest 1 (see p. 35), resemble a tapestry in which Klimt invokes a kind of eurhythmic spirit, creating recurrent patterns with grouped vertical and horizontal lines. Van Gogh assisted the breakthrough of modern painting with all the power of despair, whereas Klimt was more a silent harvester, the sensuous shimmer of his landscapes enhancing their floral ornamentation and symbolic signification. The diverse mosaics that swallow up the horizon and negate space offered relief from the "horror vacui" that tormented him. The fact that his landscapes show no sign of people helps us to understand that Klimt actually treats them as living beings, and since woman is the chief protagonist in his work, we may conclude that he treats his landscapes as women. Does not the gown worn by Emilie F1/Sge in the first 1902 portrait (see p. 32, right) look as if the material has been cut from one of these forests, to cling to her like a second skin? Klimt chose this gown so that her slender silhouette might appear to full advantage; small wonder then that it almost gave rise to another scandal in Vienna. Even his mother protested at the newfangled dress that was so very out of line with the frills and flounces currently in vogue. In Klimt's portraits, the dress is no less important than the model. In a subtle way it serves to unveil the woman's personality, heightening the effect of face, neck and hands. Ingres may be seen as a classical precedent; his portraits likewise give full expression to sensuousness. For both artists, clothes have the same essential function as bodily organs, or rather, they become organs. GaStan Picon's comment on Ingres could be applied equally well to Klimt: "Nothing is more sharply, more subtly Ingres than the harmony of neck and necklace, of velvet and flesh, of shawl and coiffure; or the line in which breast encounters low-cut gown, arm encounters elbow-length glove. If these portraits of women have an especial glow, it is because they emanate from the radiance of desire; they come to us in covert nakedness..." For Gustav Klimt, philosophy, medicine and jurisprudence did not seem to guarantee a happy or fulfilled life for any man, as was made clear in his Faculty paintings for the University. He and his fellow Utopians saw art, and art alone, as having the power to bring salvation, which explains the particular importance that the Secessionists attached to the total work of art. In this spirit they determined to make their fourteenth exhibition a special event and experience a total work of art. The exhibition was mounted in 1902, in honor of Max Klinger, whose Beethoven sculpture formed the centerpiece. The whole exhibition became a Beethoven celebration. The composer was something of a cult figure at the time, public enthusiasm having been fired by Franz Liszt's and Richard Wagner's reverential admiration of him. At the same time, in France, Bourdelle was making his great Beethoven mask and Romain Rolland writing his "Life of Beethoven". Klimt and his friends saw in Beethoven the incarnation of genius, and in his work the glorification of love and of the sacrifice that can bring redemption to mankind. Klinger's statue is of a heroic Beethoven. There is a sacral quality in it, reminiscent of Phidias' "Zeus". The heroically naked stance of the martyr and redeemer, with clenched fist and upward-turning gaze, gives a perfect indication of the Secessionists' intentions. Josef Hoffmann was responsible for the interior decoration of the Secession House for the exhibition. He used bare concrete in order to create as neutral a setting as possible. Furthermore, a total synaesthetic experience was planned, which included music: the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was performed, in a new orchestration for woodwind and brass conducted by the Vienna Opera's then musical director, Gustav Mahler. Finally, Klimt created his Beethoven Frieze for this exhibition. He intended that it should last only for the duration of the exhibition and therefore applied it directly to the walls, using light materials so that it could easily be taken down again. Fortunately it was preserved, although for decades it was not on show to the public; not until 1986 did it become possible to view it once more. The frieze has therefore remained the least known, and the most mythologised, of Klimt's works. He himself clearly saw it as a symbolic transposition of Beethoven's last symphony. The exhibition catalogue is informative in this respect: "The paintings which extend like a frieze along the upper half of three walls in this room are by Gustav Klimt. Materials: casein paint, stucco, gilt. Decorative principle: consideration of the layout of the room, ornamented plaster surfaces. The three painted walls form a sequence. First long wall, opposite the entrance: the yearning for happiness; the sufferings of weak mankind; their petition to the well-armed strong one, to take up the struggle for happiness, impelled by motives of compassion and ambition. End wall: the hostile forces; Typhoeus the giant, against whom even gods fought in vain; his daughters, the three Gorgons, who symbolise lust and lechery, intemperance and gnawing care. The longings and wishes of mankind fly over their heads. Second long wall: the yearning for happiness is assuaged in poetry. The arts lead us to the ideal realm in which we all can find pure joy, pure happiness, pure love. Choir of angels from Paradise. 'Joy, lovely spark of heaven's fire, this embrace for all the world.'"8 For a long time, Klimt had been seeking an answer to the ultimate questions of human existence. In the three University paintings, a negative answer had emerged: philosophy, medicine and jurisprudence were found wanting; resignation and melancholy were expressed in consequence. Now, however, Klimt had found the way to a utopian vision on a grand scale, which was shared by the other Secessionists: the salvation of mankind through the unique power of art and of love. Yet his frieze met with embattled rejection. He was criticised for being bloodless and rigid. The figures were considered repellent. The three Gorgons, allegorising a lack of chastity, purity and temperance, caused a particularly vehement outcry, since this part of the frieze was strewn with male and female genitalia, spermatozoa and ovules. Most visitors were repelled by this, though a few were drawn to it; financially, the exhibition was a disaster. One possible explanation for public reaction to the frieze may lie in the enhanced independence of form, line and ornamentation; in achieving this, Klimt was taking a decisive step towards Modernism. This sovereignty means that form is no longer subordinate to content; rather, it develops a life of its own, with its own content. It was difficult for the public to grasp the optimistic, utopian import of the frieze, in which the final embrace signifies the redemption of man by woman. Instead, people tended to see only what was immediately obvious, such as the ugliness of some of the female figures. In his study of Klimt's "Beethoven", Jean-Paul Bouillon argued that there was no real liberation in the sexuality thus unveiled. "On the contrary, the goal he reaches is a double nightmare: that of the castrating woman, whose sword is no longer the symbolic one of Judith I ( 1901) but her own sex; and that of the lechery of woman, whose arousal of pleasure, being self-directed (see Lust and many of Klimt's erotic drawings), threatens man. The first appears in the central panel in the shape of three Gorgons... (see p. 41); the same three figures appear in Jurisprudence (see p. 23), with their victim, where they show very clearly what lies in store for the voyeur disguised as viewer. The second forms part of the symmetrical group beside Typhea and further on, somewhat more fully, in Gnawing Care, which includes an allusion to the syphilis which Klimt is known to have particularly feared... The child-woman with her perverse, polymorphic sexuality, whose portrait Freud drew in his 'Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality' (1905), is all the more disquieting because of her self-sufficiency: there is no place for man in this central panel." Man is singularly absent in most of Klimt's work, his rare appearances serving only to heighten the impact of woman. In turn-of-the-century Vienna, man was evidently threatened from all sides, and was more or less excluded from what was a woman's world dominated by woman. The narcissistic world of lesbian love, depicted in the flowing streams of Water Serpents I (see p. 46 right) and Water Serpents H (see p. 47), exemplifies the terrifying dream of a female-dominated universe. Even the Beethoven hero at the end of the frieze, in "This embrace for all the world", finds himself perilously situated, naked, without armour. In spite of his athlete's body, he is, as Jean-Paul Bouillon points out, held prisoner by the woman's arms, which embrace him and hold down his head. Nothing remains of the triumphant Theseus of the Secession poster. The hero tums his back on the castrating Furies; his stance is that of the helpless old man in Jurisprudence. In him we see the ambivalence of sexuality as punishment and fulfilment (C.E. Schorske). It is the return of the hero to his mother's womb, the end of his journey to a womb he should never have left, the last embrace, signifying also a celli's Spring except the little garland of flowers in the hair. Once again, the painting was far too naturalistic and direct to be received by Klimt's contemporaries without causing a shock; inevitably they found it obscene. For a long time it remained in penitential obscurity in the private collection of Fritz W~irndorfer, where it was enclosed by two folding shutters like an altar, which emphasised its sacral character. Not until 1909 was the picture liberated, for an exhibition. In 1902, Auguste Rodin visited the Beethoven Exhibition and congratulated Klimt on his "so tragic and so divine" frieze. The French sculptor had been exhibiting his work in Vienna since 1882, and was well known there. The artists' feelings were mutual. Klimt had already expressed his admiration in borrowing the two despairing figures from Rodin's "Gates of Hell" for Philosophy, placing them head in hand at the bottom of the column of mankind. The Three Ages of Woman (see p. 48 left) again drew on Rodin for inspiration, this time on Celle quifut la belle Heaulmibre ("She who was once the beautiful wife of the helmet-maker", see p. 48 right). Like Hope, to which it is closely related, this painting evokes humanity, destiny, the ages, and the central role of woman, but also cosmic eternity and the fusion of the sexes. The language is rich in biological ornamentation, including motifs of penetration and penetrability. Microcosm and macrocosm merge in richly allusive mosaics and a flood of colours. Faced with a society in which death and sexuality were regarded as elements of chaos and therefore inadmissible, Klimt seemed from this time on to be destined more than ever to be engaged in an arduous, feverish, turbulent and fearful quest, in search of answers to the ultimate questions of human existence. According to Georges Bataille, authentic art is inevitably promethean. Klimt's whole work is informed by symbols of human revolt against the tyranny of matter, by a striving towards the true and the ideal. Was not the reign of justice instituted by Zeus himself, in extending grace and forgiveness to Prometheus? Lacking the magnanimity of Zeus, Vienna could not pardon Klimt. He fell from favour with officialdom, and received no further public commission. Within the Secession itself, the negative public response to the Beethoven Frieze caused conflict between Klimt's supporters and his critics. Surrounded by loyal friends such as Carl Moll, Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser and Otto Wagner, Gustav Klimt chose to leave the Secession, which never recovered from this loss; its great days were over. "Ver Sacrum" had to cease publication. Klimt felt the need to withdraw from the public arena. The central theme of his work continued to be the life cycle, involving procreation, pregnancy and birth, but also disease, fear of old age, and death. His setbacks lessened his attentiveness to social problems and rendered him indifferent to politics. The spiritual quest concemed him as much as ever; from a blend of occultism and oriental religions, he evolved a philosophy centred on the perennial questions of life. Eros and Thanatos were always the source of his inspiration, even though, from this time on, they usually appear in the guise of two simple and fundamental themes, flowers and women. These themes offered him the greatest opportunity to give a certain permanence to all that can be grasped in passing: an ephemeral sensual joy, the ecstasy of life. Foremost among these pictures were the portraits of "wives and maidens" which gave Klimt financial independence, such as the Portrait of Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein (see p. 49), which her father commissioned on the eve of her marriage to Stonborough. One cannot help wondering whether the lovely Margaret posed for Klimt in the nude, before he clothed her in the long wedding dress in the style of Whistler or Khnopff, and gently laid the elaborately embroidered floral stole in matching tones of white around her. Margaret was a strong, very avantgarde personality, a friend of Freud and a member of Vienna's intellectual and cultural 61ite. The sister of Wittgenstein, the ascetic philosopher, she was undaunted by any sort of game. Nor did she lack a sense of humour, shown by the fact that she positioned the portrait in the centre of her "logically conceived house", entirely white and consisting solely of cubes, that her brother had designed for her in the spirit of Adolf Loos, in opposition to the "scourge of ornamentation". There is nothing accidental about Klimt's frequent choice of a square canvas, especially for his landscape paintings. This format, which he had first chosen for Pallas Athene, made it possible for the subject to have an appearance of repose, to be bathed in an atmosphere of peace, as Klimt put it, to become part of the totality of the universe which was so important to him. Malevich was pursuing similar aims with his White Square on White Background, which for him was a cosmic symbol on a higher level than the Christian cross. For Klimt, as for Monet in his last active phase, the remarkable property of the square was that it could be developed in any direction without the need for central reference. Monet's water lilies take up the entire picture and could extend beyond it, and in a similar way Klimt's landscape motifs are sections of the universe. Unlike the French Impressionists, however, Klimt is not interested in meteorology and changing light: what interests him is the partial representation of a great mystic whole. This is evident from the first in the astonishing pictures of water which he began to paint in 1898 on Lake Attersee, where he was to spend his summer vacations at the invitation of the F16ge family. It becomes even more apparent in his forest pictures. The method he uses in Pear Tree (see p. 52) is reminiscent of Neo-Impressionist pointillism, and it establishes a rhythm which could continue for ever; the manner in which trees, and leaves are painted creates a sense of matter extending to infinity. Farm Garden with Sunflowers (see p. 53) or Farm Garden (see p. 50) make one think in terms of an "imprint" of a section of landscape, of textile surfaces printed with luxuriant vegetation, quite different from van Gogh's interpretation of the sunflower opening like an eye and blazing like fire. Yet both artists want to capture the ineffable, to apprehend that which escapes us... For van Gogh, the sunflower symbolises a blinding sun, ultimately a cause of death or insanity. For Klimt, it has a mystical aura, dwelt on by Ludwig Hevesi: "Klimt planted a simple sunflower in the flowering medley, and it stands there like a fairy in love, its grey-green skirts flowing downwards in shimmering passion. The sunflower's face, so dark and mysterious within its gleaming gold circlet, has a mystical, indeed a cosmic, significance for the artist. Does not an eclipse of the sun look just like that?TM In Klimt's last great mural work, the Stoclet Frieze (1905-1909), the life cycle is presented once again, but in a more serene way than in the Beethoven Frieze. While Adolphe Stoclet, the Belgian industrialist, was living with his wife Suzanne Stevens in Vienna, he gave the contract for a new house in Brussels to the Vienna Workshop, to Josef Hoffmann and Gustav Klimt. "The commission", explains Hoffmann, "was to use architecture and new motifs to replace old styles, and to find the right form and minimum proportions for maximum utility with the greatest precision possible.'''~ The Secessionists' principles foresaw interaction between the arts, thus between architecture, painting and sculpture. "The painter will be called upon to decorate the interior. He will no longer be obliged to paint figuratively, but will be able to express his ideas directly in shapes and colours without recourse to narrative details.'"' Le Corbusier and his co-worker L6ger had similar ideas: "Let us take the picture out onto the street, comrades, so that all can profit from it." The devotees of Purism had the same aims as the Secessionists. The Purists saw in a bare wall a "dead surface", whereas a coloured wall became a "living surface". A coloured surface may "either serve as decorative accompaniment or destroy the wall" (L6ger): the living-space which the "constructors' painter" describes as an "inhabitable square" can be transformed into an "elastic square", so that a yellow wall "vanishes" (is destroyed), while other walls, depending on the choice of colours, may either "move forward" or "retreat"... To conclude: "Colour is a powerful active force: it can destroy a wall, it can adorn it, it can make it move forward or back, it can create this new space... The attainment of perfect beauty in an equilibrium of new plastic forces.., is what modern architecture must seek to achieve" (L~ger). Josef Hoffmann sees the ornamental potential in walls, rather than seeing walls merely as large surfaces. In his view one shared by the Vienna Workshop ornamentation must be conceived in symbiosis with architecture; hence his collaboration with Klimt. His Palais Stoclet (see p. 55 top) is constructed of large "inhabitable cubes" with white marble revetment, its contours emphasised by angular strips of copper along the edges. Klimt, for his part, created an ornamental three-part mosaic frieze of marble inlaid with gold, enamel and semi-precious stones. This collaboration between art and architecture is a watershed in art history. Comparable notions would become the creed of the Bauhaus and the In Klimt's last great mural work, the Stoclet Frieze (1905-1909), the life cycle is presented once again, but in a more serene way than in the Beethoven Frieze. While Adolphe Stoclet, the Belgian industrialist, was living with his wife Suzanne Stevens in Vienna, he gave the contract for a new house in Brussels to the Vienna Workshop, to Josef Hoffmann and Gustav Klimt. "The commission", explains Hoffmann, "was to use architecture and new motifs to replace old styles, and to find the right form and minimum proportions for maximum utility with the greatest precision possible.'''~ The Secessionists' principles foresaw interaction between the arts, thus between architecture, painting and sculpture. "The painter will be called upon to decorate the interior. He will no longer be obliged to paint figuratively, but will be able to express his ideas directly in shapes and colours without recourse to narrative details.'"' Le Corbusier and his co-worker L6ger had similar ideas: "Let us take the picture out onto the street, comrades, so that all can profit from it." The devotees of Purism had the same aims as the Secessionists. The Purists saw in a bare wall a "dead surface", whereas a coloured wall became a "living surface". A coloured surface may "either serve as decorative accompaniment or destroy the wall" (L6ger): the living-space which the "constructors' painter" describes as an "inhabitable square" can be transformed into an "elastic square", so that a yellow wall "vanishes" (is destroyed), while other walls, depending on the choice of colours, may either "move forward" or "retreat"... To conclude: "Colour is a powerful active force: it can destroy a wall, it can adorn it, it can make it move forward or back, it can create this new space... The attainment of perfect beauty in an equilibrium of new plastic forces.., is what modern architecture must seek to achieve" (L~ger). Josef Hoffmann sees the ornamental potential in walls, rather than seeing walls merely as large surfaces. In his view one shared by the Vienna Workshop ornamentation must be conceived in symbiosis with architecture; hence his collaboration with Klimt. His Palais Stoclet (see p. 55 top) is constructed of large "inhabitable cubes" with white marble revetment, its contours emphasised by angular strips of copper along the edges. Klimt, for his part, created an ornamental three-part mosaic frieze of marble inlaid with gold, enamel and semi-precious stones. This collaboration between art and architecture is a watershed in art history. Comparable notions would become the creed of the Bauhaus and the In Klimt's last great mural work, the Stoclet Frieze (1905-1909), the life cycle is presented once again, but in a more serene way than in the Beethoven Frieze. While Adolphe Stoclet, the Belgian industrialist, was living with his wife Suzanne Stevens in Vienna, he gave the contract for a new house in Brussels to the Vienna Workshop, to Josef Hoffmann and Gustav Klimt. "The commission", explains Hoffmann, "was to use architecture and new motifs to replace old styles, and to find the right form and minimum proportions for maximum utility with the greatest precision possible.'''~ The Secessionists' principles foresaw interaction between the arts, thus between architecture, painting and sculpture. "The painter will be called upon to decorate the interior. He will no longer be obliged to paint figuratively, but will be able to express his ideas directly in shapes and colours without recourse to narrative details.'"' Le Corbusier and his co-worker L6ger had similar ideas: "Let us take the picture out onto the street, comrades, so that all can profit from it." The devotees of Purism had the same aims as the Secessionists. The Purists saw in a bare wall a "dead surface", whereas a coloured wall became a "living surface". A coloured surface may "either serve as decorative accompaniment or destroy the wall" (L6ger): the living-space which the "constructors' painter" describes as an "inhabitable square" can be transformed into an "elastic square", so that a yellow wall "vanishes" (is destroyed), while other walls, depending on the choice of colours, may either "move forward" or "retreat"... To conclude: "Colour is a powerful active force: it can destroy a wall, it can adorn it, it can make it move forward or back, it can create this new space... The attainment of perfect beauty in an equilibrium of new plastic forces.., is what modern architecture must seek to achieve" (L~ger). Josef Hoffmann sees the ornamental potential in walls, rather than seeing walls merely as large surfaces. In his view one shared by the Vienna Workshop ornamentation must be conceived in symbiosis with architecture; hence his collaboration with Klimt. His Palais Stoclet (see p. 55 top) is constructed of large "inhabitable cubes" with white marble revetment, its contours emphasised by angular strips of copper along the edges. Klimt, for his part, created an ornamental three-part mosaic frieze of marble inlaid with gold, enamel and semi-precious stones. This collaboration between art and architecture is a watershed in art history. Comparable notions would become the creed of the Bauhaus and the Russian Constructivists in the 1920s. The latter, however, like Le Corbusier and L6ger, wanted their work to be accessible to all mankind, whereas Hoffmann and Klimt were only able to realise their ideals in the service of a wealthy patron, thereby serving, in a sense, the taste of an 6lite. The nine panels of Klimt's frieze contain abstract motifs (see the decorative panel reproduced on p. 54), stylized ones (Tree of Life, see p. 58) and figured ones (Fulfilment, see p. 56; Expectation, see p. 56). In this work more than in any other, Klimt displays his mastery of mosaic. He had learnt the technique at the School of Applied Art, and rediscovered it later when he travelled to Ravenna. It was the Wiener Werkst~itten above all that attached particular importance to the technique at the time, giving it a new lease of life. The Stoclets were great collectors, interested first and foremost in Indian and Buddhist art, of which they possessed many pieces. Klimt wanted to take their passion for the Orient into account and began to create the right setting for his patrons and their treasures, so he studied Oriental art without delay. His designs included some elements reminiscent of the exotic world of the Far East, and some reminiscent of the Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna, the Byzantine spirals acquiring an exotic luxuriance, a biological and ornamental eloquence. The tree of life is the central motif of the frieze. According to the Apocalypse, the tree brings redemption to the heathen; it is a symbol of the Golden Age, used by Matisse it a little later in his famous chapel at Vence. For Klimt, it is a symbol in which all the motifs important to him are united, from flower to woman, from the death of vegetation to the rebirth of the seasons. Trees and women intermingle in paradise, in a magical world in which people dance and love one another, in which women become trees like Matisse's women metamorphosed into plane trees grow and spread through the whole of nature. With the tree of life and the tree of knowledge, one is indeed in the Garden of Eden. The girl dancing under one of the trees represents Expectation (see p. 56). The couple embracing beneath the other tree represents Fulfilment (see p. 56). And, of course, death too is present, as might be expected in Klimt's or Freud's version of the normal life-cycle, to be observed in the form of the birds of prey sitting in the tree of life (see p.58). The embracing lovers, still antagonists in the Beethoven Frieze, have been replaced in the Stoclet Frieze by a tranquil symbol of domestic happiness, fulfilment and joie de vivre. A further development of the same motif is found a little later in Klimt's famous Kiss (see p. 63), which represents the culmination of his "golden period"; it became the emblem of the Secession. This version is an even clearer symbol of the reconciliation and union of the sexes. Klimt'sKiss has been compared, with a certain irony, to the Mona Lisa, both pictures owing some of their fascination to a complexity of meaning. Some observers see a new development in Klimt's ability as seen in this work to paint the union of the sexes, whereas up to this point he had painted above all the battle between them. Others, in contrast, see no change in Klimt's attitude, regarding this picture as describing in a more subtle way precisely that impossibility of fulfilment arising from the tensions between man and woman. Do the contrasting elements of ornamentation based on squares for the man and circles for the woman complement each another, or is there antagonism between them? Do these two people not keep at a certain distance from each another, in spite of their embrace, as if there were in fact no relationship between them? It is at least clear that it is the man who dominates and takes the initiative in the act of the kiss. The woman offers no resistance, yet her hands are tense and her toes grip the rock --in voluptuous pleasure or in anger? Klimt knows the ambivalence of the relationship between the perennial figures of Adam and Eve: he was himself the model for his Adam, and he holds his beloved, Emilie F1fge, in his arms. However close or distant the embrace, the sexual impact of the portrayal is defused by the garments that clothe the figures. The strikingly virtuoso juxtaposition of colours is reminiscent of Eastern Mediterranean illuminated manuscripts. Loving luxuriant d6cor as he does, Klimt looks at this intimate scene as if through a kaleidoscope. The profusion of gold and lavish materials gives the picture a breathtaking aura that made it possible for the Kiss not only to escape censorship, but even to be greeted with public enthusiasm and to win the acclaim of the puritanical bourgeoisie. This time Klimt's "coup" was so successful that his contribution to modem European art was finally recognised. The painting was purchased for the Austrian nation even before the Kunstschau of 1908, where The Kiss had been exhibited, was over. Klimt's masterpiece notwithstanding, this exhibition was the swan song of Vienna aestheticism. Strangely enough, Klimt's rehabilitation took place at the very moment of the Secession's demise. He was even asked to give the address at the opening of this great exhibition in honour of the Emperor Franz Josef's diamond jubilee. He took the opportunity to affirm his fundamental conviction, unchanged by the evolution of his work, that "no area of human life is so insignificant or trivial that it cannot offer scope for artistic endeavour.., the humblest thing, executed to perfection, serves to increase the beauty of this earth, and progress in culture can be grounded only in the ever more progressive permeation of the whole of life with artistic purpose.TM Two further pictures by Klimt were exhibited in the Kunstschau, the allegories Hope II (see p. 45 fight) and Danae (see p. 64), and in these pictures Klimt's message again was milder than before. Just as the multicoloured ornamental motifs adorning his nudes made them more acceptable, so also the symbolic motifs in the second version of Hope alleviated the shockingly aggressive nudity of the earlier version (see p. 44). Like the Kiss and the Three Ages of Woman, Hope H is conceived of as an icon, in which the vitality of colour permits a less bitter interpretation of the theme. However, it is not safe to take Klimt's milder tone as an indication that he had changed his philosophy he was simply showing a less confrontational side of himself. Is there any more beautiful portrayal of the ecstasy of love than his Danae (see p. 64)? After Zeus had "visited" Danae in the form of a shower of gold, she bore a son, Perseus. For this portrayal Klimt chose the by no means immaculate moment of conception. A stream of gold pieces mingled with golden spermatazoa pours down between the magnificent thighs of the sleeping beauty. In a certain sense this is a case of rape, since one may assume that the passive heroine knows nothing of what is happening. Moreover, the unconscious erotic experience of the sleeping Danae makes us, as witnesses of the scene, at once voyeurs and accomplices -just like the Viennese public at the time. From this mystery of female sexuality there emanates a powerful and direct eroticism, which is magnified by the close-up enlargement of the voluptuous body. The model herself resembles Klimt's preferred red-head femmes fatales, transformed at times into pin-up girls, whom we have seen emerging as naiads, as nymphs, even as the hostile powers in the Beethoven Frieze. But more than ever we see woman as the bearer of life's mystery, and the central focus of interest for Klimt the man and Klimt the painter. His insatiable curiosity compels him constantly to portray woman from every angle in every situation, even as lesbian in Water Serpents (see p. 46 right and p. 47). The myth of Danae is simply a pretext, allowing Klimt to represent woman's ecstasy of love, as he himself had perhaps experienced it. At this time he also painted a Judith H (see p.29) or Salome, if one so wills at a safe distance from the legend that had brought him such trouble with Judith I (see p. 28 right). Yet the question still remains whether this is a Judith who has used her powers of seduction to lure Holofemes into a deadly trap, or a Salome who demands the head of the Baptist because he has refused to succumb to her charms. The undulation of body and dress is suggestive of the dance; at the same time, what we see here is a lady from the decadent society of Vienna who has fallen prey to passion. She looks like a brightly feathered bird about to tear apart and devour her favourite prey man yet caught in her golden cage, from which there is no escape. One has the same impression of a bird in a golden cage when one looks at the paintings of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (see p. 62) and Fritza Riedlet (see p. 61). Do not these two great ladies of Viennese society look as if they are fearful, or at least frustrated, prisoners of their social stratum and their wealth? They bear a strong resemblance to the portraits of women by Velasquez which Klimt had seen in Vienna. Those women too seem to be oppressed by a weighty heritage, the sad reality of life and the decline of Spain, comparable in some ways to the decline of the Austrian Empire in Klimt's day. Like Velasquez, however, Klimt is able to create the illusion of life to the full. In another way, he resembles Ingres or Matisse, namely in his ability to set before us in these portraits "the secret object of desire". Eroticism is brought into the open, fantasies break the bounds of convention. Dress becomes one with the body, fabric merges with flesh. Shoulders and arms reflect fantasy actualised in ornamentation, the fall of a gown echoes a crease in the skin. The gown itself was perhaps painted onto the naked body and could disappear in a trice, ceding to triumphant nudity... All these portraits tend towards the highest level of graphic expression and towards sensuality, all the more refined in that the women are seemingly or truly unaware of the erotic desire they arouse. Temptresses they may be, but unconscionsly so. They seem gentle, submissive creatures, who think as little as possible and like to stretch out on a sofa. What could be more alluring? The same atmosphere prevails in Ingres' Madame Moitessier (1856) and in Matisse's La Dame en bleu (1937) as in Klimt's Portrait ofAdele Bloch-Bauer I (1907). But Klimt's eroticism is perverse. Though his models may have something of the priestess in them, d6cor and clothing do not share this quality. What is the significance of all those watching eyes in the d6cor of Fritza Riedler's chair and Adele Bloch-Bauer's dress, or of the ambivalent variations on fantasy ornaments and expanses of colour, or of the decorative motifs laden with turbulent and compulsive erotic symbols, or of the contrast between the realistic, fine draughtsmanship of the immobile faces and hands and the eroticism of decorative frenzy? Ludwig Hevesi, art critic and passionate champion of Klimt's work, says: "Klimt's ornamentation is the figurative expression of primal matter, which is always, without end, in a state of flux, turning and twisting in spirals, entangling itself, a whirlpool that takes on every shape, zebra stripes flashing like lightning, tongues of flame darting forwards, vine tendrils, smoothly linked chains, flowing veils, tender nets.TM The ornamentation in Klimt's work grew more and more sumptuous. There may be an extraneous reason for this superabundance. His friend and companion, Emilie F16ge, ran a fashion house in Vienna, and he designed most of the materials she used; these designs contributed in no small measure to the success she achieved with her models among the wealthy ladies of Vienna. In the photograph that shows her with Klimt (see p. 59), she is wearing a garment designed by him, with the chequered pattern and black-and-white stripes so popular with the Secessionists. Such decorative attributes are used to enhance the monumental dignity of the industrialists' or magnates' wives depicted in the portraits, often sitting like goddesses on their thrones. The magnificent "imperial" gold heightens the majestic appearance of these ladies. A contemporary critic writes in connexion with the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer of an "idol in a golden shrine", an expression that calls to mind the portrayal of the Empress Theodora which Klimt had seen among the mosaics in San Vitale. The recurring element of gold has various meanings in Klimt's oeuvre. In the early works, it underlines the sacral, magical quality of certain objects, such as the cithara of the priestess of Apollo in Music H or the helmet and weapons in Pallas Athene. If, later, he clothed his femmesfatales in gold as in Judith, in Goldfish or in Jurisprudence this strengthened their suggestive power. But even during his "golden phase", Klimt would only let gold dominate in pictures which treat of man's destiny. These work belong to a distinctive genre, that of "life's enigmas". Klimt's "golden phase", which might well also be regarded as his "golden age", begins with the Portrait ofFritza Riedler of 1906 (see p. 61), and culminates in the Portrait ofAdele Bloch-Bauer I of 1907 (see p. 62). Klimt doubtless realised the danger of superabundant ornamentation for him as a painter on beholding the scale of his use of gold and gilding in the decoration of this picture, both in the luxuriant background and in the lady's exquisite dress. Nevertheless, these gilt-edged ladies are among the most significant pictures within his oeuvre of turn-of-the-century women, torn between the conservative tradition to which they were obliged to conform and an incipient awareness of emancipation. At the very moment of personal triumph, Klimt began to have doubts. The Secession, the ideal of harmony among artists, had turned out to be a utopian notion. The concept seemed to him to have grown old, however often it might be revived. Klimt found himself isolated, no longer a leader whom others followed. He confided to Bertha Zuckerkandl: "The young no longer understand me. They go elsewhere. I don't even know whether they appreciate my work any more. It's a bit early for that to happen to me, but it happens to every artist. The young will always want to take everything that's already there by storm, and pull it down. I shan't get angry with them over it.TM The reality was that for these young artists Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka he was nothing less than a god. But what is known as the "truth" of a work of art is subject to change. The extravagantly ornamented world of Klimt's pictures is positively optimistic and conciliatory, compared with the ruptured world of Schiele, which is closer to the "laboratory of the apocalypse", as pre-1914 Vienna was termed. Schiele and Kokoschka, the Pre-Expressionists, shared not only their veneration of Klimt but also a stronger premonition than he felt of the final destruction and catastrophe that was to come. It was now their turn to exert an influence on their idol. If Klimt's influence on Schiele had been decisive in the years around 1910, the influence was now reversed, as was the case with Manet in his old age and the young Monet. This becomes apparent in one of Klimt's late pictures, Leda (see p. 65 below), clearly based on an earlier composition by Schiele. This example shows the convergence and the creative rivalry between these painters, who were of paramount importance in Viennese art at the time. The beginning of Expressionism coincided with the end of Klimt's "golden phase"; he had come to recognise that gold led to rigid stylisation, rendering all subtlety of psychological expression impossible. The range of expression displayed by the likes of Edvard Munch, Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse at the Exhibition of 1909 was overwhelming. This, he felt, was the direction that his future work must take. Before the year was out he travelled to Paris, where he discovered the works of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the Fauves. These encounters spurred him on and ultimately made possible the magic synthesis of the kaleidoscopic works of his late period once more, Klimt had proved himself capable of change. The golden or Byzantine style and splendid d6cor had often made the person seem insignificant in contrast. Klimt resolved to lighten the ornamentation and d6cor and to find new ways forward by returning to the rich store of attractive motifs that he had at his disposal. Pictures like Lady with Hat and Feather Boa (see p. 68) and Black Feather Hat (see p. 69) are the first to show a radical change of direction one, however, which was soon to give way to something else. Familiar with the latest fashions in haute couture through his association with Emilie F16ge's salon, Klimt made use of fashionable coiffures, make-up and accessories in order to transform his femmes fatales into less threatening creatures; they display their extravagant hats and enormous if playful muffs with simulated modesty. The great works of Klimt's last phase are revealed in portraits like that of M~ida Primavesi (see p. 66), a girl in whom we see the new feminine principle in Klimt's art, namely the blending of woman and floral ornament. "The anatomy of the models becomes ornamentation, and ornamentation becomes anatomyTM (Alessandra Comini). The culmination of this new style is to be found in The Dancer (see p. 72). For further means of lessening the density of decoration, Klimt turned to the woodcuts and books on Japanese art in his collection. Like Monet or van Gogh, indeed like all artists and intellectuals of the time, Klimt was fascinated by Japanese woodcuts, which he had encountered in 1873 at the World Exhibition in Vienna. He collected woodcuts and other Nipponese objects, and his draughtsmanship owed a great deal to them, especially in the composition of the kaleidoscopic paintings, drawn as it were from a bird's-eye view. He had used Japanese models for the tree of life in Fulfilment, and for the flowers and birds in the Stoclet Frieze. Their influence also seems to have encouraged him to fill to profusion the background of his portraits with oriental decorative motifs, as in The Dancer (see p. 72), the Portrait of Baroness Elisabeth Bachojbn-Echt (see p. 80 right), or the Portrait efFriederike Maria Beer (see p. 81 left). One cannot help comparing these portraits of women with earlier paintings by Monet or van Gogh. Monet's La Japonaise of 1876 (see p. 81 below right), a portrait of his wife, Camille, with kimono and fan, is complete with Japanese-style ddcor, walls and floor strewn with fans of different colours. Van Gogh's Le Pbre Tanguy of 1887 (see p. 81 above right) shows the art-dealer amidst Hiroshige woodcuts which fill the entire background of the picture. Klimt's new-style works met with undiluted public acclaim. The underlay of floral motifs in his portraits appealed directly to the unconscious, and he became fashionable once more. The nouveaux riches vied with one another to obtain a portrait of one of their womenfolk signed by Klimt, while Vienna's beautiful ladies dreamt of being granted immortality by the master's hand... The themes of these portraits are still Eros and the life cycle, but without their unpleasant aspects. Woman may still be a sex symbol, but apparently a much more innocent and more straightforwardly charming one than thefemmefatale or the vamp. Whether it be Adele Bloch-Bauer II (see p. 77), Eugenia Primavesi (see p. 78 right), Baroness Elisabeth Bachofen-Echt (see p. 80 right), or Friederike Maria Beer (see p.81 left), all these women, these modern idols, have something in common: they seem to be waiting, rather like large dolls, for someone to take them out of their boxes and play with them... Is not this mood of waiting or anticipation, discernible ever since the Girl from Tanagra (see p. 8), just one variation of the inescapable theme that runs right through Klimt's work, namely Eros and the cycle of life? One version of it was perceptible in the expectant nude of Hope I (see p. 44 right), and its continuation persists in the new portraits of women who are waiting for something... The imagination of the artist is focused no longer on physical union, but rather on the expectation that precedes it. Perhaps this new-found serenity is rooted in Klimt's own awareness of aging and closeness to death. But before the moment came when he chose to depict nothing more than moments of intense pleasure or miraculous beauty and youth, he took up the theme of Death and Life (see p. 70), on which Munch and Schiele were also working, one last time. Joseph Roth describes this atmosphere in "The Capuchin Crypt": "It may be that in the hidden depths of our souls those certainties that men call premonitions were sleeping, above all the certainty that the old Emperor was dying with every day that he continued to live, and with him the monarchy, not so much our fatherland as our empire, something greater, more extensive, more exalted than a fatherland. Out of our heavy hearts there came light-hearted jokes; out of our feeling that we were condemned to death there came foolish pleasure in every affirmation of life, in attending balls, in drinking new wine, in girls, in food, in excursions, in follies of every kind, in senseless escapades, in suicidal irony..."'~ The young girl, whether in Death and Life or in The Virgin (see p. 71 ), seems to express the words of Sissy, Elisabeth of Austria: "The thought of death is purifying; it has the same effect as a gardener has, pulling the weeds out of his garden. But this garden always wants to be alone, and it becomes angry when curious people look over its walls. In the same way, I hide my lace behind my parasol and my fan so that the thought of death can take effect in me peacefully."