Browsing through the digital images of 331 paintings of the Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) that are stored in the big database at wahooart.com is a real pleasure.
It’s a bonus also that we can have that enjoyment anytime online at the web site, then order one or two to be printed as canvas prints, or hand-painted replicas, from the site to hang on our walls at home.
Part of this visual pleasure is to be able to leisurely stroll back in time to the streets of Vienna at the turn of the 20th century and to share the Viennese fascination with the new vogue of Art Nouveau.
During 1890–1910 the rage was on for this international philosophy, style of art, architecture and especially the decorative arts, after Czech artist Alphonse Mucha designed a poster with Art Nouveau design that appeared in the streets of Paris in 1895.
Artists fully grabbed the chance to react against the tired academic art of the 19th century and went back to the natural forms of flowers, plants and curved lines to make distinctive and very attractive decorative designs.
Gustav Klimt spent an eccentric and at times controversial life, researching and applying this design approach to produce a huge body of work that is still very much in demand.
For him going back to natural forms was also to glorify the eroticism of female body which was obviously the favorite subject in his work.
This painting Allegory of sculpture, shows clearly Klimt’s life-long adoration of the female form that he was in the process of flattening onto the same even plane as the decorative background, turning into another lovely body into just another design shape, in the same way as happened in the Japanese prints that inspired European Art Nouveau artists.
Born in Baumgarten near Vienna in Austria, Klimt struggled with poverty while studying architectural painting at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts until 1883. He began work painting interior murals and ceilings in large public buildings, such as the murals of the Burgtheater in Vienna.
This revealing photo of the archetypal Bohemian artist shows the man on his quest for earthly sensual pleasures of sight and sex.
While Klimt lived with his life partner Emilie Flöge, and fathered no fewer than 14 children, he also enjoyed a very active sexual life with other women, keping his affairs discreet and avoided scandals.
He was well-known for working at home, wearing only sandals and a long robe with nothing underneath. His life was simple and reclusive, focused on his painting and family, and he avoided society and other artists.
Klimt kept no diary and wrote only a little to Flöge about his visions.
“I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am in other people, above all women.
“There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night... Whoever wants to know something about me... ought to look carefully at my pictures."
Some locals called him Waldschrat (Forest Demon) for the intensity of his approach to his art.
From 1897 to 1908, Klimt was a founding member and president of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession) that promoted unconventional young artists and brought good foreign art to Vienna. The group had no manifesto and encouraged all artistic styles.
Klimt died in the influenza epidemic in Vienna in 1918.
This painting Peces dorados shows well the two inspirations in Klimt’s life that was a continual celebration of both the sensuality of women and the sensual decorative forms. The mosaic patterns and gold-leaf technique were also inspired by Byzantine art of old.
Klimt’s liberating approach to portray female eroticism for himself and others to indulge in created controversy which one suspects that Klimt enjoyed.
A commission for three paintings on ceiling of the Great Hall at the University of Vienna, entitled Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence, met with public outcry for being too radical and pornographic, and the paintings were not in the end displayed on the ceiling. That was the last public commission accepted by the artist. Retreating Nazi soldiers destroyed the paintings in May 1945.
Some erotic drawings were shown to the public at Gallerie Miethke in 1910 and the International Exhibition of Prints and Drawings in Vienna in 1913 that again met with controversy and critical hostility. The drawings depicted erotic scenes of nude women masturbating alone or embracing other women.
Unlike many other famous artists, Klimt's fame brought patrons to his door during his life time. Rich collectors are still flocking to the auction houses to buy his work.
His painting Adele Bloch-Bauer I sold for a record $135 million in 2006. Other works have been sold at some of the highest prices recorded for individual works of art. His Landhaus am Attersee fetched $29.1 million and other paintings soon overtook that in prices paid by collectors.
The Adele Bloch-Bauer I was bought by Neue Galerie New York, beating the previous record for Picasso's Boy with a Pipe (1905) that sold for $104 million in 2004 which was then the highest price ever paid for a painting.
Christie's auction house sold the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II for $88 million in 2006, The Apple Tree I (ca. 1912) for $33 million, Birch Forest (1903) for $40.3 million, and Houses in Unterach on Lake Atter (1916) for $31 million. The total sale for five paintings netted over $327 million. Last year another Attersee painting fetched $40.4 million at Sotheby's auction.
Looking at The maiden, one can easily share Gustav Klimt’s pleasing vision. The decorative and sensual mélange of a composition invites our thoughts and imagination to enter and to become a part of it.
Imagine a large and excellent canvas print of this image, that you have ordered online from wahooart.com, gracing your study or bedroom in your home. You also did not have to complete for it at the auction houses for the pleasure.