Klimt 150th anniversary
Starting over again
A lot of water has flowed down the Danube since Gustav Klimt’s death in 1918. And a lot has been going on in 2012 as well. While the first exhibitions to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Klimt’s birth have already ended, others are only just beginning. The most important is the anniversary exhibition at the Belvedere, but the Künstlerhaus also has a smaller and very different exhibition that will delight the painter’s fans.
While visitors to the Belvedere can wander from one masterpiece to the next, the Künstlerhaus does not have a single one. This is deliberate, as the exhibition is called “Without Klimt” and shows the painter’s relationship to the museum itself on the basis of photos, documents and letters. This relationship began in 1891 when Klimt joined the Genossenschaft der bildenden Künstler Wiens [Society of Visual Artists of Vienna] and ended with his resignation and the establishment of the Secession. In between the Künstlerhaus was Klimt’s artistic home, explains Künstlerhaus president Joachim Lothar Gartner, one that is all too often misread as the oldfashioned opposite of Klimt’s future point of reference. For Gartner this description is oversimplified. The exhibition, which deals not only with Klimt’s resignation but also the role of women in the Künstlerhaus and Klimt’s later reception, is designed to refute the image that still adheres to the museum. It shows that this contrast – old and young, conservative and modern – is ingenuous. “A lot of things were running in parallel, like they do today,” says Gartner.
Klimt and womenThere are three other exhibitions about Klimt at the moment. The Theatre Museum has an exhibition until October on the painting “Nuda Veritas”, while the Leopold Museum is showing “Klimt – up close and personal” until August (see Five times Klimt). It features some 400 picture postcards that Klimt wrote during his life. Visitors will not find the long love letters that he wrote to his dear friend and soul mate Emilie Flöge. These were completely unknown until recently, but Belvedere director Agnes Husslein-Arco used her influence to bring them to the Belvedere for the anniversary exhibition “150 Years Gustav Klimt Jubilee Exhibition”. Most visitors will find it difficult to decipher the letters, however, because in contrast to his painting style, his handwriting was practically illegible.
The letters are included in the part of the exhibition devoted to women – of whom there was no shortage during Klimt’s life. His love letters to Emilie Flöge end abruptly in 1899, no doubt because he was about to become a father twice over – from two different women – and had also fallen in love with the young Alma Schindler, the future Alma Mahler Werfel.
It is not only Klimt’s portraits of women – including the femmes fatales “Judith” and “Salome”, or “The Kiss”, the Belvedere’s most famous painting – that have become classics of art history. His landscapes also demonstrate the enormous skill of this past genius.
Landscapes and friendsThe later representative of the Vienna Jugendstil won his spurs as a history painter. Together with Ernst Matsch and his brother Ernst Klimt, who died young, he established the Künstlercompanie, which was responsible, amongst other things, for works in the Burgtheater and Kunsthistorisches Museum. Pictures by former colleagues Matsch and Klimt (brother) can also be admired in the exhibition, along with a small but choice selection of works by Schiele, which decorate the walls of this outstanding exhibition.
Ready for the futureAmong the 120 objects are also two donations by art collector Peter Parzer that have never been shown before. Another exhibit to be seen for the first time is the portrait of a bearded man, which has been known hitherto only as a black-and-white reproduction. A call by a private collector to the Belvedere meant that this picture is now on public show again today – just one of several small sensations in this anniversary year, as Klimt expert Christian Weingartner, curator of the exhibition and deputy director of the Belvedere, said at the opening. He added that contrary to what some might think an anniversary year of this type is not the culmination of the years of research into Klimt but the beginning.
The Belvedere certainly seems to be looking towards the future. For the first time at an exhibition in a national museum there is an iPad app providing not only audio commentaries but also video clips and a Gustav Klimt world map guiding users to Klimt hotspots – from the Belvedere to his grave in the Central Cemetery, the resting place of an artist who continues to occupy and fascinate researchers and art lovers today.
Jubilee Exhibition 150 Years Klimt
13 July 2012 to 6 January 2013
Prinz Eugen-Strasse 27
Tel.: +43 1 795 57 0
Opening hours: daily 10.00 to 18.00, Wed 10.00 to 21.00 (until 26 September)
Without Klimt – Klimt and the Künstlerhaus
6 July to 2 September 2012
Tel.: +43 1 587966321
Opening hours: daily 10.00 to 18.00, Thu 10.00 to 20.00
Admission: €8.50/reduced €6,50