Gustav Klimt, Head Study for the Reclining Girl for the Theater of Shakespeare, 1887
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Gustav Klimt and in celebration several art museums in Vienna are having special Klimt exhibitions. I was fortunate to be able to see 2 of the exhibits while in Vienna last week; The Painter Gustav Klimt at the Belvedere art museum and Gustav Klimt The Drawings at the Albertina. I went to see the Belvedere exhibit first but if I were to see the exhibits again I would view the Albertina show first as it consists of many of his preliminary drawings for his paintings at the Belvedere. In the start of his career, Klimt studied as an architectural painter receiving numerous commissions and specializing in interior decoration, especially for theaters and worked on these projects along with his brother and a friend. Many of Klimt's figure and head sketches for the theater paintings are on view at the museum, and as an artist who loves to draw with a pencil, I found these early works so inspiring. Each is beautifully rendered and he has captured the essence of his subjects so well in these small sketches, one can feel the emotion or personality of his subjects. In later years Klimt began drawing the female body more loosely as perquisites for his paintings. These drawings are worked with more fluid line and less shading and detail than his earlier works. This is also the period when Klimt's drawings of women took on a very erotic nature. What I really enjoyed seeing was how well he thought out each of the many figure sketches for each painting, Klimt worked out things like facial expressions, position and composition in his sketches for each painting.
The Albertina as it is mainly a museum that exhibits works on paper; drawings, watercolors and prints which are a delight to see. I won't detail all of the exhibits except for the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist exhibit featuring paintings, pastels, drawings and watercolors of so many well known artists, the description read the artists painted and drew sketchily and preferred light and brilliant colors. Monet preferred pastel for his small plein air sketches, Pissaro often worked in gouache and Degas' pastel work was wonderful also.
In the Belvedere galleries, the exhibit is of Vienna in the succession years, 1880-1914 and Klimt's paintings are exhibited with several of his contemporaries Schiele and Kokoschka as well as works of French Impressionism and the Vienna Biedermeier era. All wonderful galleries of work but I enjoyed seeing the Klimt paintings the most especially his golden phase, in which he is most well known, he influenced by Japanese art, Byzantine Mosaics and medieval paintings. In his portrait works, he delicately rendered his subjects flesh with beautiful pink and green tones while surrounding them with gold leaf and a design-like colorful quality. Viewing these paintings up close was a delight for me.
The remainder of the Belvedere is also not to be missed, I especially enjoyed the Realism and Impressionism exhibit and the Modern Art - Interwar Period exhibit. And there are several other exhibits in which I unfortunately had to just glimpse because I spent so much time at the others!