Hated but Loved: Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt is probably best known for his painting of The Kiss, created in 1907-8.

He was an Austrian painter who created art during the Art Nouveau movement. His work was created Symbolic. His friends accepted his style, design, and work, but many authoritative figures did not. Having been commissioned to create paintings for the Great Hall of the University of Vienna, Klimt created the Medicine, Philosophy, and Jurisprudence panels.

The first painting Klimt completed was Philosophy. Oddly enough, in March 1900, Klimt presented this work to the 7th Vienna Secession and won a gold medal in Paris. This possibly may have been a motive to continue on with his design and work, since other countries admired his work. Klimt explained the work saying: “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” (klimt.com).

Klimt, Philosophy

The second painting was Medicine. Klimt presented this work at the 10th Vienna Succession Exhibition in March 1901. On the right side, there are figures floating in this “river of bodies” with death being represented as a skeleton. On the left is a woman attached to a fetus and attached to the river of bodies. On the bottom right, a figure references the Roman goddess Hygiela who was one of the daughters of the god of medicine. She was known for good health, cleanliness, and hygiene. She has a Aesculapian snake around her arm and a cup of Lethe (from the river of Hades that made people forget their past).

Klimt, Composition for Medicine

The third painting, Jurisprudence, law, was presented as the 18th Vienna Succession in November 1903 (so many exhibitions!). The center presents a man who is confused; he is surrounded by allegories and personifications of Truth, Justice, and Law. It is stated that the woman are shown “as the Eumenides, punishing the condemned man with an octopus’s deadly embrace.”

Klimt, Jurisprudence

Both the school and Klimt received harsh criticism for his work. These works were considered pornographic and highly inappropriate. Personally, I think his style, work, and design appear more creepy than inappropriate, since the figures and layout of the artpiece fit (oddly) well into their topics. Yet, this piece took Klimt seven years to make (1900-7). Imagine working seven years on something only to be severely criticized. Afterwards, Klimt decided to stop creating commissions for the public and explored his own ideas in art.

Feature Image from widewalls.ch

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