There are several cities in the world, I have seen, where the ratio of museum to population is ooh la lah. I have yet to visit Mexico City, but certainly New York, London, Washington DC, Rome and Paris would have to be on the list. And yet one forgets wonderful Vienna. On one side of the street sits the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the other side the MuseumsQuartier. This is one U-bahn stop. Within the MuseumsQuartier is the Kuntshalle Wien, a more experimental museum (a classier PS1); the Mumok, the contemporary and modern museum and the wonderful Leopold.
A nobody, me, writes two museums to be allowed to photograph the collection. The Belvedere turned me down flat (although offers to sell me photographs). On the other hand, the Leopold sent me this email:
from: Anna S
Sent: Monday, March 26, 2012 5:48 AM
Cc: Klaus P
Subject: RE: Antw: Wtrlt: Application for a permit
Dear Mr. S
thank you for the information of your arrival. We are happy about your interest and like to offer you entrance. The desk personal is informed of your coming and an agreement to photograph, as well as press information will be prepared for you, please ask for it.
Yoúll have the golden opportunity to see two great painters at the same time at the Leopold Museum, cause we show a big exhibition to Egon Schiele and an other one to Gustav Klimt!
I wish you a pleasant journey and we are looking forward to your visit.
I cannot say why Klimt is not even more wildly popular than he is. He is the most famous painter out of Austria. His enormous output and scope, his themes which are precursors to Expressionism, his technique, are all to be marveled at. His landscapes are amazing. Beyond technique, they were far ahead of the later part of the twentieth century, where surface became everything. What he was experimenting with broadly, became specific to painters such as those 1950s Dubuffet, the surface creators such as Manzoni and many American post-Modernists. His use of gold leaf, is curious and goes way beyond decorative. All of these things should be considered, and the fact that between Klimt, Schiele and Wagner, there was a blooming of talent which could not foresee the fall of the Empire. And shockingly, the end of all three giants, as the curtain fell on the geniuses of Jugenstil.
The show sets up immediately a context for the exhibit, and the importance of the Jungenstil movement in pre-WWI Vienna. The work of precursors and those contemporary to Klimt, including a large section of Moser’s work.
Portrait of Maria (Ria) Munk on her Deathbed, 1912, Private Collection, Courtesy Richard Nagy LTD, London
I believe part of the reason for Klimt not being as well recognized, is that so much of his work is centered in Vienna. This is an example of the kind of beautiful image that Klimt creates. I had never seen even reproductions of this work, but it shows how eclectic is his style is. Here, the human face is so well realized in a beautiful portrait.
Death and Life, 1910/15, Leopold Museum, Vienna, Inv. 630, plus detail (right).
For those affectionados of classic Klimt, there is Tod und Leben (Death and Love), where the overhead image of compressed figures has a certain kindness and a sensibility that the joys of life are part of a fleeting world. This kind of work predates the much darker work of Kollwitz. Those acid skin tones already shows Klimt in line and slightly ahead of the Fauvres.
A Morning by the Pond, 1899, Leopold Museum, Vienna, Inv. 2007
On the other hand, the square format he had developed for his landscapes eventually moves from Impressionistic to something more akin to van Gogh’s late work, but with Klimt’s stylistic traits.
One of the late landsape, Apple Tree I, 1912, Private collection
A few years ago, I had the pleasure to go to the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. There I came in contact with very late works of van Gogh, some often not in popular publication and not very well documented. I realized that had he lived his work was taking on a new turn. Younger new artists, Raphael, van Gogh and Schiele would have evolved further had they lived. We see the enormous variety Bellini, Titian, Rubens, Monet, Renoir, Picasso and O’Keeffe evolved with the passing of age. Within this exhibit, Klimt grows and changes. The final landscapes, for me, sadden me because within a few more years I believe he would have impacted art even more. His use of surface points to post-Modernism’s obsession with surface, but he still keeps the delicacy of color he has learned from Pointillism.
Klimt is a gem which shines bright in Vienna. Vienna, itself, is not considered a must-see-stopover when touring Europe. I spent two visits in my Great grandma’s delightful city. This spirit of the Secession, of Wagner, of Klimt and Schiele are alive as ever. Klimt: Up Close and Personal will be shown until the 27th of August and it is a terrific show. GO!!! And even if you read this, or I post it to late, it is a wonderful museum and worth every euro, —GO!!!
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Tags: Gustav Klimt's Apple Tree I, Gustav Klimt's Death and Life, Gustav Klimt's Garden Landscape with Rounded Mountaintop (Parsonage Garden), Gustav Klimt's Morning by the Pond, Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Maria (Ria) Munk on her Deathbed, Jugenstil, Klimt: Up Close and Personal, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Leopold Museum, MuseumsQuartier, Richard Nagy