Whoever wants to know something about me – as an artist which alone is significant – they should look attentively at my pictures and there seek to recognise what I am and what I want.
Whether you are an art historian or skim the surface on the topic of modern art icons, there is a fat chance you have seen Klimt’s “The Kiss” at least once or twice. In my opinion, he captures a moment of ethereal beauty, exaggerates the intensity of the scene, and constructs his own aura of reverie. His use of authentic gold fragments and intricate ornamentation on murals once attracted philanthropists from every corner in Central Europe. As well as aesthetic, Sir. Gustav imbedded larger themes into his craft, weaving in symbols such as time, insanity, sexuality, vice, and the creation (and death) of man via paint and oil.
Klimt, though highly controversial at that time period, attracted a handful of protégés and models alike who wanted to be included in his artistic stature. One of these people was Fritza Riedler. In this portrait he constructed of her, you can see how design is everywhere. However, the piece of furniture upon which she is seated is popping with shell-like shapes. According to her outfit, the woman he portrayed in the picture is of a high class ranking and thus, I began to view the decorated shapes as eyes instead- whether or not Klimt intended to hint that as symbolic. As an aristocrat of the pre-World War I era, criticism and judgement must have been placed onto her from other socialites and women of the time. It was a harsh society, in which you could easily be shunned from a social circle if a scandal happened to be leaked.
An example of an allegorical scenario from Klimt is “Tod und Leben”, or “Death and Life”. A human octet of various colors and expressions, ranging from euphoria to anguish, are engulfed in waves of flower yet a figure of Death-a hallowed corpse decked in indigo crucifixes-lingers on the left with a sinister grin of eager delight. The face of the top-left is female and displays utter madness as she (literally) looks into the face of Death with her back turned away from the rest of the other life forms. This may allude to how our lives on Earth, at whatever stage, is limited. We all shall die and eventually be reaped from our comfortable, close proximity with one another.
One half of “Beethoven Frieze” references to Greek mythology yet includes attendees who act as masks for much deeper meanings. The monster Typhon is shown at the center of the mural as a hairy beast with nude yet distorted specters by his side. These are the symbols of insanity, plague, lust, etc. hinted at by the frail bodies and expressions that borderline demonic. A flamboyantly pregnant lady stands firmly to the side and studies the chaos with interest. She has her hair pinned up to a bun, an indication of maternal authority, despite everyone else in the image having hair that falls freely past their shoulders. This signifies how she is a giver of life or possibly even God. With the mountains and streams of the Earth also came great horrors such as plague and disorder. Likewise, maybe it is that the characters of this portrait all came from the fruit of the woman’s womb and in reflection, she gazes upon what has sprung from her creation.